Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Textiliphilia Antiquus

My name is Lisa Borgnes Giramonti and I am a vintage textile addict.
(Stack of rugs from Rugs and Art)

My latest obsession is a shop in Beverly Hills called Rugs and Art (436 S. Robertson, 310-247-1176) that I've been visiting with increasing frequency for about two years now.* Wally, the genial owner, and his son Sammy always indulge my candy shop cravings and assist me in unrolling as many gorgeous antique carpets as my heart desires (even if they know I'm not buying). They understand I need my "fix."

Their stock ranges from priceless centuries-old Aubusson tapestries (the kind you'd find hanging in a Belgian castle designed by Axel Vervoordt) to smaller antique rugs that are perfect for adding a little history to your foyer or dining room, and at prices that compare favorably with big box stores (I'm not kidding).

During my recent art show, Wally was kind enough to lend me a rug for the installation in the center of the gallery.

After the show came down, the rug had successfully burrowed its way into my heart. It currently graces my "forever-a-work-in-progress" bedroom.

To me, old rugs are a colorful narrative that link the handmade past to the hi-tech present. Literal pieces of history, they give a room a vibrant heart and add texture, color and drama to any space. I have an especial fondness for threadbare ones that have seen better days: their condition makes me long to know the tales behind the worn patches and ghostly footsteps and worn patches.

Since that's impossible, when I look at a rug, I weave a backstory for it...

Did it live in the dining room of a 19th century Danish sea captain? Is it in such pristine condition because he was away 8 months of the year and they rarely held dinner parties?
(Painting by Carl Holsoe)

Did it come from the study of a widowed English vicar? Is one particular area of the rug more worn because his faithful cocker spaniel sat patiently by his feet as he toiled away on his never-to-be-published memoirs?
(Edward Bawden, "Life in an English Village", 1949)

Was the rug part of a royal household? Did future kings romp and play upon it with childish abandon beneath the disapproving images of their forbears?
(Johan Zoffany, "George, Prince of Wales, and Frederick,
later Duke of York", c. 1764-65)

The masterfully photographed book "In Rooms" features quite a few swoonworthy spaces with tattered heirloom carpets that make you ache to sit down on a kilim-covered sofa, crack open a leather-bound copy of Boswell's "Life of Johnson" and sip a wee dram of amontillado sherry.
(Villa Malplaquet photographed by Derry Moore)

It's pure heresy to follow a monumental photo like the one above with an image of my little Hollywood dining room, but in its own very small way, I think my aged-to-perfection rug lends my 1935 house an eminence that belies its relatively youthful age.

Sadly, despite my love for rugs, I am completely clueless when it comes to identifying them by category, name or driving by Rugs and Art the other day, I decided to go in and make Wally tell me the names of some of my favorite styles.

Ready? Some of you probably know the names of them already; if so, award yourself 50 points and go watch "The Real Housewives" reunion. Everybody else, read and be enlightened.

*Note: I took very close-up photos of the rugs to give you a sense of their vibrancy and detail. Obviously, they are much more subtle when viewed from farther away.

This type of triangular geometric pattern identifies the rug as a Turkish kilim. Now you know, now I know.
(Detail, Turkish kilim, 1930's, Rugs and Art)

In Annie Kelly's new book "Rooms to Inspire in the City", master decorator Peter Dunham uses a kilim in his dining room. There's no arguing with that seal of approval.
(Photo by Tim Street-Porter)

Here's another one that caught my eye: can everybody say "Konya kilim"? If you ask me, those dense patterns make it virtually stainproof -- perfect for a high-traffic area.
(Konya Turkish kilim, 19th century, Rugs and Art)

This next one is a Caucasian Chi Chi carpet. (Did anybody get that correct?)
(Caucasian Chi Chi rug, 19th century, Rugs and Art)

This next little rug is actually a Turkish grain sack from the 1930's. The fact that someone would so exhaustively embroider a bag used for daily transport is incredible to me. It's about 3' x 5' and would make a perfect bath mat for a sleek woodsy-modern bathroom.
(Turkish embroidered sack, 1930's, Rugs and Art)

This rug is also a Caucasian. I'm not normally a pink person, but this rug transcends its hue, evoking the wistful palette of sunset, twilight and the gloaming.
(Caucasian rug, 19th century, Rugs and Art)

In a wonderful bit of serendipity, I found a photo from one of my design files which shows a rug almost exactly like the Caucasian above. Subtly elegant and seriously gorgeous, no?
(Room design by Tim Clarke. Photographer unknown.
If you know, email me.)

Red rugs aren't for everyone, but they have a passion and a vitality that is inescapable.
(William Merritt Chase, "The Studio")

This red rug is called a Verne kilim. Love that fish pattern.
(Turkish kilim Verne, 19th century, Rugs and Art)

I had to take a photo of Wally's stacks and stacks of rainbow-hued, museum-quality suzanis, ripe for the picking.
(Suzanis, Rugs and Art)

One of my favorite stacks to look through is his remnants pile. This is where you go if you want to recover a chair or make a gorgeous pillow or cushion.
(Remnants pile, Rugs and Art)

Here, Wally upholstered this chair with a vintage kilim remnant.
(Upholstered chair, Rugs and Art)

I love this one, too. Kilim, you say? You would be correct.
(Turkish pillow kilim, 1920's-1930's, Rugs and Art)

And this oversized pillow made from an old Turkeman rug says, "Do you have any idea how comfortable I am?"
(Pillow made from 1930's Turkaman rug, Rugs and Art)

Here's another photo I found from an old Elle Decor. The combination of rugs, vintage textiles, books and that lovely oil portrait adds up to a room that's steeped in the past but still feels relevant today.
(Photograph by William Waldron; thank you, Style Court!)

Just two more pictures and then I promise I'll let you get on with your day...

Look at Rudolf Nureyev in this photo. Would you just look at that man? Swaddled in exoticism like a Middle Eastern potentate. Oh, that I could drape textiles like that around me and go to lunch at my neighborhood bistro and not be deemed a freak. I think the only places you can still get away with sartorial eccentricity like that are the Far and Middle East. (Note to self: book flight to India/Mongolia/Kazakhstan stat.)
(Photograph by David Seidner; via here)

And his bedroom. Enough said.
(Photograph by David Seidner; via here)

Okay, now go forth with visions of vivid hues and tribal patterns and faraway destinations and colorful adventures in your heads and see the world today through that rose-colored lens. Peace be with you.

*If you do happen to stop by Rugs and Art, mention this blog and Wally will be happy to give you a special discount.


pve design said...

If you come this way, I must take you to a spot, to feed your addiction. Aiding and abetting is my good fortune and the pleasure would be two-fold.

Meg said...

This is my favorite post you've ever done. I am also a textile/rug addict. Absolute addict. I love your rug in your bedroom, gorgeous! I also love that Caucasus rug w/ the pinks, usually the ones w/ the pinks are Russian rugs called Karabaghs. I like them with pinks/blacks. Any geometric tribal rug are my favorite! Gorgeous! Next time I'm in LA I am visiting Wally for sure!

Style Court said...

Lisa, the rug is just perfect in its new home.

If this helps, the December 2006 Elle Decor featured Provincetown painter John Dowd's 19th-century Cape Cod cottage. William Waldron photographed it. And the other room with tub is a Tim Clarke design.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Poor Wally. If I lived in LA, I would just move in with him. What an amazing collection!!

And I've always loved that photograph of Nureyev. His toes absolutely fascinate me.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

PVE: Deal. Done. xx

Meg: Wow, thank you for that huge compliment. Wally's store doesn't disappoint. xx

Style Court: YOU are too much! I love that you know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING! xxx

Pamela Terry and Edward: Hadn't noticed the toes. Will check them out now...! xx

Ivanhoe Books - Art And Design said...

Thanks for this wonderful tip. A visit to the store is on my list of to-do's!

DM said...

note to self, cont.:

book ticket for HH as well. stat. stat.

although, when I went to egypt I too swathed myself in textiles and still got raised eyebrows behind burqa. but two is better than one!

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

What a FABULOUS post! It was exactly what I needed at the end of today.

Really, really wonderful.

A Textile Whore myself...

So Lovely said...

Are the suzanis reasonably priced? I must stop by and look as I have a horrible addiction to collecting them.

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

lord-You had to have that rug and it is gorgeous-this rug had to be in the cozy English cottage. I need to sign that pledge-but I don't want to. Oh and I love the David Seidner image. I just get crazy in places like this- I remember nothing name-a rug's or my own! pgt

24 Corners said...

Thank you professor Lisa... although I have to say I failed the test...I'm a newby to the rug world and have just this past week started my learning & discovering actually, so once again, as usual...your post is right up my ally!

There could not have been a better or more perfect tutorial to help me go forth into textile/rug land! You rock! xxoo

Anonymous said...

I have always been a textile addict, but it never included rugs. That might have changed after reading your post. Love the stacks. Yummy colors.

donna baker said...

Oh that chair covered in an old kilim. Think I'll go to Istanbul.

Chedva @Rooms and Words said...

Great post. I love the personality old rugs lend to a room, and I too make up stories about my vintage and second hand furniture.

Barbara Wells Sarudy said...

The associations you conjure up for your beautiful little rug are exactly what the best of man's art can do for each of us. Thank you. Barbara

Laurie Powers said...

What a fantastic post - linens and fabrics are a passion of mine as well. Thank you for the tip on Wally's store, although I think I'd be afraid to go in there...

A Super Dilettante said...

May I say what a delightful post this is? There is not a bad picture I love them all. But when it comes to Rudolf Nureyev, I worship him and his style (he is on my proud wall on my blog)! I remember seeing his house in Paris in the book "Rooms" photographed hy Derry Moore and it's so sumptuous more than words can describe. As far as his elegance is so polished and it's almost alienating. And as far as his style is concerned, there is no one who can imitate his innate artistic vision and creativity.

home before dark said...

What a lively romp: secrets revealed, addictions accounted for, evidence of historical patterns weaving together a story of intrigue and art that continues to floor us. So glad the "exhibit" rug is now at home on your bedroom floor. A lovely remembrance of your show celebrating your own art of heart and threads.

Anonymous said...

With your love of books and rugs, Lisa, I have a very strong recommendation for you:

The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet

by Brian Murphy.

It is not a photo book but a deliciously well written quest for knowledge about rugs. Go to and look it up. You can read the first several pages of the book and you will be hooked.

Unknown said...

Nothing left to be desired! I love rugs and kelims as upholstery, cushions, pillows and carpets telling me of faraway places!
It is the caravan style and it's lovely!

Laura said...

I can't believe this...I have literally just returned from L.A. and have come across your post! Why oh why could it not have been a few days earlier?! I would most certainly have stopped in, the stores looks utterly enchanting. Your bedroom is looking lovely by the way.

Allegra said...

Hi Lisa! I am one of your devotees and check in daily. We share similar literary tastes--it is wonderful to have met a kindred soul. Thank you for your wonderful blog.

Suze Yalof Schwartz said...

Lisa: I'm having more than a moment with RN's bedroom - OMG - Dying!!!! Love, Suze

Courtney said...

OK maybe I didn't get a single quiz answer right, but if my love for color, textures and antique textiles are worth anything i would have scored an A+! I'm licking my screen right now trying to taste the gorgeousness of these rugs. Swoon!

Megan Taylor said...

Bloomsbury life entered my world a few nights ago when I began reading "To the Lighthouse." It makes me think of your celebratory blog, xo

Lexa said...

Your blog is amazing. I just get lost in it.

Susan's Snippets said...

Lisa -

Many, many years ago, my father picked from the curb a large, slightly tattered rug.

He had it cleaned and was able to sell the 100+ year old, hand knotted rug to a dealer for over $1,800 dollars.

At the time he saved it from the landfill, he had no idea that it was worth that much, he just had a sense that it was something that should be saved.

outside of the box he so braved

(ps - missing him much on this fathers day!)

Karena said...

Lisa this is the most wonderful post. I love textiles and the rugs are all so sumptuous and artistic. of course I adore your art as well!

Coutney is also quite the expert at textiles.

Art by Karena

Unknown said...

Fortunately there is a cure and that is continual posts about said
addiction so that we may all share
your appreciation for such beauty.

Emily said...

Well, put me on a plane and fly to me to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul NOW! Okay, I will settle for this shop the next time I am in LA.......twist my arm! Really, I will be writing it down!

modernhaus said...

Excellent post--"tattered antique rug" is on my list of things a home requires (along with musical instruments, buit-in bookcases, and a very large Peugeot pepper mill).
Please tell us about the rug you brought home from your's my favorite type of "Persian" rug but I wouldn't know what to call it!

Katie Rob said...

What a great addiction and thanks for sharing it! Some of the ones you listed I knew and some I didn't. My favorite: Caucasian Chi Chi (ok, so I just like the name). I love the rug you picked out! Also, I love the pinkish one in the bathroom. I have an old one that is so thin I didn't know what to do with it. Someone suggested hanging it on the wall, but I kind of like it stacked with my other textiles in the cabinet, especially after seeing the lovely pictures of Wally's store

Sarah Greenman said...

Wow. What an incredible post. You've really outdone yourself. Thank you so much!

Angie Muresan said...

What a fabulous collection Wally has! I love old rugs as well. When I was young my parents would go on searches of old rugs through the Middle East and Europe. They still have some of the rugs they bought. I can't wait until they pass them on to me.

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HercFamily said...

Hi Lisa, I too am a kilim addict.

My time in the USAF has given me the opportunity to snoop around in corners of the world I did not know existed (can you find Ouagadugu or Salalah?) and since I fly cargo aircraft that usually results in "junk coming home from abroad". Approximately 40% of my treasures survive first-contact with my wife. Thankfully the kilim-stack passed muster.

My favorite is a piece which was made in Kurdistan back when Saddam had all but wiped them off the map (they are doing much better since we fixed that).

My next favorite is one which almost looks like a tartan-plaid. I cant recall where it is from but I think it is Caucasian (not like gringos but like Russian). It serves as a blanket in our place.

I've used scraps to frame a mirror and have a ton of pillows made from both kilim and kilim-fabric camel bags. Most recently when I put up a screen in the den (for a projector) my wife frowned upon its look so a quick purchase from a connection in Turkey...bang I have a tent band covering up the screen. I love these things.

Your next addiction for Wally to supply...Mola from the Kuna indians. A habit I picked up in Panama (

Also if you have not picked up the bug for tent-bands and camel bags (make awesome pillows) you're not a true addict in the Keith Richard sense.

Lee Nicholson said...

LOVE this post and have called Sam at Rugs & Art... hoping to visit this weekend. ? how would you suggest sewing pieces together for a larger rug?

sarnaassociates said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

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