Lindsey Runyon Interviews Leela Silvadas Dominoski, Carpet Guru from Driscoll Robbins
Lindsey: What is the rug that we would most likely find you taking a nap on?
Leela: That’s a tough one! So many beautiful rugs come through here, my favorite is ever changing. I recently got a rug. (See image below) I love it so much and spend lots of time on it on the floor. It’s made with the softest wool and has fairly thick pile making it inviting to hang out on. The wool has lots of natural striation and shades of brown and gray, and is dyed over with orangey red dye from Madder Root, allowing the wool’s natural color to show through and lending unique texture and interest to the rug that I don’t ever get tired of looking at. It is a kind of Gabbeh, a Persian tribal rug made in southern Iran, inspired by Rothko’s paintings but made by a woman in her home using ancient weaving techniques. The tribal group that makes these rugs used to be nomadic, and they originally made their rugs as portable sleeping mats. So a natural choice for a nap.
Lindsey: There is a lot of interchange between the word “carpet” and the word “rug”. Like, you are Driscoll Robbins Fine Carpets, but wouldn’t the average person consider what you are selling as rugs? What do you see as the difference, if any?
Leela: Yes, these terms are fairly interchangeable, and most people do call them rugs. ‘Carpet’ sounds better in our showroom’s name, DR Fine Rugs just doesn’t have the same ring somehow. I associate ‘carpet’ more with wall to wall floor coverings.
Lindsey What is the gold-standard these days for the most eco-friendly, non-child- labor, fair-trade, sustainable materials, long-lasting rug possible?
Leela: Any rug company or dealer that is a member of GoodWeave, the international watchdog organization working to end child labor in handmade rugs, is on the forefront of the non-child labor movement. Rug manufacturers that care about this, like for instance, Lapchi, Tufenkian, Michaelian & Kohlberg, Kooches and Bespoke, also tend to want to support the communities that produce their products by helping to provide basic services like health care, housing, clean water, food, and schools. Many companies also work to protect the natural environment by doing things like replanting in areas that have been hurt by desertification, and using natural vegetable dyes made from plants grown sustainably for this purpose, keeping chemicals out of the water supply and workplace. Wool, especially when left in its natural state, unprocessed and with its protective oils intact, is the most durable and long lasting material available for making rugs. We’re also seeing a lot of other natural fibers used in rugs like hemp, cactus, linen, nettle and bamboo silk. These fibers have been sustainably produced and used for centuries in other textiles and have proven to be extremely durable. These materials lend texture and depth to a rug, and are often left un-dyed so they give the rug a natural, organic look that is becoming more popular.
Lindsey: Have you learned any words in Tibetan? (or what is the language they actually speak there?)
Leela: Most Tibetan rugs are made in Nepal these days, because so many Tibetan refugees have fled Chinese occupation and resettled there, so Nepali would be the language to learn. Unfortunately we don’t get to travel overseas to get most of our rugs, as our suppliers warehouse their rugs here in the states, so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to learn the languages at work. Our two showroom assistants, Kiran and Tek, are both from Nepal though and speak Nepali at work a lot so I might be picking up a little of their language by aural osmosis. One cool thing I’ve learned from the guys is using the suffix ‘ji’ after a person’s name to indicate respect.
Leela’s Persian Tribal rug.
Lindsey: How do you find your amazing rug flipper guys?
Leela: Our guys are so great! Kiran has been here for something like 8 years or more and came to the business via a now defunct company called Red Thread, the owner met Kiran in Katmandu and helped him move here to go to school. Seattle is lucky to have a large Nepali community, and through this community Kiran knew and introduced us to Tek. He and I started here around the same time almost 6 years ago. I think the guys are a great asset to the business. They’re knowledgeable and strong and great to work with. Our clients are often interested to hear that they’re from Nepal where many of our rugs are made and appreciate their unique perspective on the weaving culture there. I’ve definitely gained a bigger view of the culture and life behind the rugs we sell from our guys’ stories.
Lindsey: What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about purchasing a rug?
Leela: If possible, start with the rug and design the room around it. Decide if the rug is to be a focal point in the room with pattern and color, or more of a simple plane to hold furniture and allow other elements in the room to stand out. Either way, the rug is a piece of art in the room and you need to love it, it should evoke an emotional response. Don’t be afraid to mix styles, patterns and colors to reflect your own style, your house isn’t a showroom vignette.
Shop around looking at rugs in a range of styles and prices to educate yourself on what’s available. This will help you see the vast range of qualities available on the rug market and recognize a good value when you see
one, and to appreciate the value in a high quality hand made rug.
When you put a lot of thought and care into selecting a rug you love, you’re going to want it to last for decades, not to have to replace a worn out rug in a couple of years, so opt for something high quality and made with durable materials and in a style you can live with for a long time. Trendy patterns might be better saved for throw pillows or window coverings that can be easily replaced when you want a change.
Pick a color that looks good on you, you don’t want to look sallow or washed out when spending time on your rug. We sell a lot of red rugs, I think partially because they make people look good and also to battle the months of Seattle gray skies. The other color we sell a whole lot is gray, so go figure.