Q&A: Nader Bolour on rugs

Nader Bolour
Jul 26, 2018

Nader Bolour is the owner of the high end rug gallery Doris Leslie Blau, which sells rugs at its New York city shop, in showrooms around the world and online. The company was founded in 1965 and Bolour bought it in 1997. It specializes in antique rugs and vintage carpets sourced globally, as well as newer rugs and designer collections. Bolour is an expert on Oriental rugs, vintage creations, modern area rugs and custom designed rugs.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 15 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Nader Bolour is an expert on rugs and rug care. He is the owner of the high end rug gallery Doris Leslie Blau, which sells rugs at its New York city shop, in showrooms around the world and online. The company was founded in 1965 and Bolour bought it in 1997. It specializes in antique rugs and vintage carpets sourced globally, as well as newer rugs and designer collections. Ask Nader all your questions about rugs and rug care.

Hi everyone! So happy to be here. 

In the early 80's I worked for a British clothing company named Jaeger and we had a store on 57th and Madison. Ms. Blau was a frequent client and always was such a lovely person! Can you recommend a natural fiber rug for my daughter's Brooklyn apt that would not be too costly?

So nice to hear about your experiences with Ms. Blau. She's certainly leaves an impression on everyone she meets. I'll make sure to pass along your note. 

Jute or hemp rugs are the best casual fibers and have a Brooklyn vibe. 

Type of vacuum, how often to clean etc.

Depends on the amount of traffic in the room. The BISSEL rug sweeper from Bed, Bath & Beyond  is my favorite. 

 

What type of rug material do you recommend for a nursery that will stand up to stains and - hopefully - last for years, growing with the child?

Un-dyed, organic wool carpets are the best for nurseries -- comfy, cozy, and resilient.

Reversible flat weaves like this one work great -- and they're easy to care for and can last throughout your child's life. 

Is it a big problem if sofa legs or coffee table legs smush down the fibers of my living room area rug? it definitely leaves little indents. It's a new rug so I can't be sure if the fibers will bounce back or if they won't when i move furniture and if that means it will look terrible if i reposition things or eventually want to sell it. it's a good quality rug, so i'm hoping it can withstand this type of use. do you have tips on caring for it or preventing indents, if necessary?

As long as it's a good quality rug, you shouldn't have any problems whatsoever. 

I have a mostly cream-colored flatweave rug that was not inexpensive. I applied a scotchguard to try to make it easier to clean spills since it's in a high-traffic area. But lately the cream has dulled to a light grey and stains are not coming out. What is the best way to clean a flatweave - would this benefit from a professional rug cleaner?

Absolutely. We always recommend using a professional. Starting to clean a rug yourself opens up a can of worms. 

My SO and I have a long-standing disagreement about the proper way to vacuum the oriental rugs in our home. (If it matters, we have a 5-year-old Kenmore Elite canister vacuum.) I prefer to use the rug attachment with the beater bar set at highest level. My SO claims this harms the rugs and insists that we use the attachment meant for hard flooring. I find this does not remove the pet hair from the rugs as well as the rug attachment. Please weigh in!

You should listen to your better half! 

Hi there~ I have 2 oriental rugs that were in my grandmother's home and may well have been in her mother's home prior to that (so potentially over 100 years old.) I may consider selling 1 or both, as I attempt to downsize and simplify. One has predominant colors such as pink/mauve, turquoise. (Well worn/loved;-) ) The colors in the other one are still bright...red, emerald green, yellow, royal blue geometric shapes with black background in center area and lighter background with similar colors and shapes around the edges. Does not appear to have ever had a 'pile'. I believe both rugs may have been hand knotted, as they do not seem to have identical, symmetrical designs on opposite edges. Is there an easy way to have these appraised? Can they be appraised through email with photographs? What type of credentials should I look for in an appraiser? Thank you!

We don't do appraisals, but I'd be happy to look at the carpets for you if you send me an email with images of each -- front and back. 

 

We are about to have a Karastan wool carpet installed. It's a trellis pattern (Bonaire II). After we purchased it, we received the Karastan month rebate card with a letter suggesting we use the $300 to purchase a soft clean vacuum. The dealer never mentioned needing a special vacuum and we already have 2 Dysons (pet hair types so lots of suction). We feel a little blindsided and do not wish to purchase another vacuum but are we foolish not to do so?

I am not as familiar with Karastan carpets as we only deal with hand-made rugs. That said, I would think the vacuum cleaner you have is sufficient. 

Elisabeth Leamy recently did a story about the new policies on importing Persian rugs. Read it here.

We are soon to move into our newly-remodeled, large Chevy Chase house with lots of rooms. We will need lots of rugs, and we only have a few since we're moving from a small Georgetown townhouse. We would like to find high quality rugs that will be appropriate for our family with small children (and, potentially, a dog). What materials would you advise? Do you have any advice for where to find rugs, how to select them, and what approach to take in deciding what we need where? We're overwhelmed and don't know where to begin! Thanks!

When outfitting an entire home, we recommend wool rugs, especially because it keeps the price down. 

We recommend only dealers who have been in business for at least ten years with a defined reputation. 

I'd love to invite you to visit our gallery in D.C. at the Design Center. Ask for Madeline Mitchel and she'll help with everything you need.  

Hi--do you believe there is a benefit to always having a rug? I have hardwood floors and identify greatly with the whole minimalist movement. I've been struggling with the decision to buy or not buy a rug. On one hand, I think rugs can look great. On the other hand, it does stop the eye a bit (I have an open floor plan row home) and it is also one more thing for me to maintain. The last thing is that I have a dog who sheds and is still getting acclimated (we just adopted him about a month ago so he will go to the bathroom in the house when we leave). Do you think it's worth it to still have a rug or are there times where you might say having a rug isn't always meant to be in a home?

I always say there should be at least one rug in one of your main rooms. A rug imparts soul into a space and the right rug can still serve - and maybe even enhance - a minimalist setting. 

That said, there is nothing wrong with beautiful, old wood floors.

HF4858

How did Mrs. Blau learn so much about carpets? Is she still around?

Great question! 

She learned from her ex-husband who was an immigrant from Romania. When she started her own company in 1965, she was the first American woman rug dealer in the US. 

Doris's whole thing when she started the company was finding the unique antique Persian/oriental that weren't just the typical reds and blues that were popular in Europe -- she saw the American customer looking for a different, more muted, aesthetic and set off on a mission to find it. She traveled the world to cultivate what is now the largest and rarest collection of antique, vintage, oriental and European rugs -- plus an extensive collection of modern rugs. 

She's still an important part of the DLB family and is much respected by the design community. 

Hi: Are you finding that clients are seeking pure wool or synthetic fibers in rugs that you are selling.

We try not to sell synthetic fibers, but barely hear any requests for it.

I love Benjamin Moore's decorator's white and want to paint my whole house that color. However, the cost is pretty expensive ($72 per can), which is not realistic considering I want to paint quite a bit of square footage. I'm thinking of going with Behr's Ultra Pure White, but I'm a bit worried as I feel like Behr's has more of a creamy/yellow undertone rather than the grey-ish undertone of the Decorator's White. Is there something else (like a Sherwin Williams paint) that I should be going with to match the decorator's white, that also isn't $72 per can?

Personally, I would go with the color you love by Decorators White - it is the tried and true color that so many professionals choose. Paint is not that expensive in the long run. Otherwise throwing this out to our chatters for other ideas.

I have a too small rug in the middle of my my den (ie it doesn't reach all the furniture. It's a pattern with brown, tan and red. I want to put a larger rug under it to pull the room together. What do you recommend?

The most popular recipe for layering rugs is starting with a neutral rug as the foundation and topping it with a colorful patterned rug. Sisal and sea grass will make the best base. Jutes are usually softer than sea grass and more stain resistant than sisals. They are all rather cheap so choose the biggest size so that it will fit the whole seating area.

We did a whole blog post dedicated to layering rugs -- it's one of our favorite ways to change up a space! You can read more here.

It seems antique rugs are out of fashion would you agree? and, if so, for how much longer?

Unusual, great antique rugs are not out of fashion. They have a timeless quality that can compliment the more modern settings which today's designers have opted to work with. A great designer can create stunning rooms with antique and vintage rugs. 

Hi Jura - I live vicariously through your chats as I love well designed spaces but have no gift for creating them myself. My challenge is that I need to furnish a new office for my consulting business. It’s one (spacious) room, and I’ll be starting from scratch. Do you have suggestions for finding a designer to help with both the plan and shopping list? I’m happy to do the ordering/installation myself to lower cost, but looking for help identifying a cohesive group of furniture/art/rugs at a mix of price points from Room and Board to Target. Thanks so much for your work each week! The home and food sections are what keep me subscribing to the Post!

First, thanks so much for your continued support of our newspaper! And thanks for following the chats too. Finding a designer is a rather personal decision. Going to Houzz is a good idea as well as Googling designers in our area and looking at their websites. We used to the the DC Design House where you could go see designers work but alas that has now closed its doors. There are lots of designers out there - who would be happy to help you. There are also services such as Homepolish and Decor Aid you might look at. Good luck!

Inspired by your story on ordering couches online ... we did this about a year ago. While the couch itself is fine, it turns out the fabric is not. We thought we were getting a warm oatmeal but it's much lighter in person (even after looking at swatches) and it shows EVERY stain, even spilled water! I have a general idea of the couch I want, but I'm stuck on a fabric and color. We have two (soon to be three) kids, so maybe something with a slipcover? Our living room is painted BM Manchester Tan, with white trim/mantel and dark stained oak floors. It gets plenty of light. I just can't think of a good color fabric--something to match the tan? A contrast? I'll take suggestions for a coordinating rug, too! Thanks!

I'm sorry, but it's hard for me to make a recommendation without seeing the fabrics. We have a way to search on our site by color which could help give you some inspiration. 

Our family downsized and the living room carpet, a 12' x 17' +/- Tabriz cleaned, packaged and appraised by a certified appraiser. It's valued at $8K per the appraiser. We have tried to list it at consignment carpet sellers, including the one featured on Antiques Road Show. I thought it would at least merit a reply via their online form but after several attempts I gave up. I contacted another appraiser but they are some distance away and I haven't gotten around to shipping it. It's in a bag which is made of a heavy material that looks like Kevlar. Is this method of storage ok for a big longer? I don't want the rug damaged by either its own weight or other possible hazards.

Yes. Your rug should be fine in this method of storage.

How much space do you recommend leaving between a rug and a wall. For example, what size rug would you recommend for a room that's 16 x 20?

For large rooms such as that, we recommend about 2 feet on each side between the wall and the carpet. 

You should be looking for a 12' x 16' ft rug, but it won't hurt if it's a little bigger. 

When I bought a kilim for my living room the dealer said to use an old-fashioned manual floor sweeper, NOT a vacuum cleaner. Is this not the standard recommendation?

Yes, this is the standard and smart recommendation.

We have an area rug that was somehow stretched on one part of one side and no longer lies flat (man-made rug). Not only is the edge humped up, but even when we try to "hide" that area under furniture, the hump runs nearly to the opposite side. Is there anything we can do to fix it or are we just stuck with this uneven, trip hazard of a rug?

My recommendation would be to send it to a professional rug cleaner who can stretch it for you.

My new condo has wall-to-wall beige carpet. On a long hallway I put an oriental-style runner over it, and it looks great. However, the runner shifts & I have to reposition it often. What would stop this without damaging either carpet? I tried a length of non-skid cabinet shelf liner--didn't work. I just bought a box of "rug gripper" tape (tacky on both sides) but have not yet used it; it is 6" x 25', and would be on both long edges of the 12' runner. Should I use the rug gripper, or is there a better way?

I think the rug gripper sounds like a good idea. 

This may not be possible but I find I can shift the chairs, tables or sofa just an inch every so often. That gives the rug a chance to bounce back in those spots without major furniture rearrangement. All you need to do is shift just enough to reposition the pressure point.

This sounds like a good plan!

I have a friend who puts his old rugs on his driveway and washes them there with soap and a hose and then dries them in the sun. There are not museum quality rugs, but they are nice ones. Do you think that is a good idea?

I think as long as the rug can be 100% dried in real time (meaning a lot of sun and low humidity), this should be fine. The danger comes when it hasn't been soaked sufficiently and the soap or shampoo stays in the fibers of the rug for an extended time while the rug is wet. This will damage a rug tremendously. 

Rug gripper works great on wood floors. We bought some at Home Depot for small rugs in the living room. The only problem is that if you have to pull the carpets up to clean the floor under them, the tape is really hard to pull off the floor. If you get tape that has light adhesive, it will not work in a short period of time. A few times I had to take a steak knife to the tape. So use gripper tape very sparingly & only cut very small squares out. One square on the ends in the middle works for my 2'x3' carpets.

Thanks for your sharing your experience!

How to distinguish the Persian knot from Turkish? Can I see the difference with the naked eye?

This is not something just anyone would be able to tell from just looking. It requires years of experience of trading in different rugs to be able to identify the origin. 

What is the best method to display?

If you want to hang it like a tapestry, put it on a pole. 

Do you have any experience with "washable" rugs, such as the ones sold by Ruggable? These claim that you can put them in the washing machine at home to clean. I am looking for something practical for a baby nursery/child's room, but am skeptical of the washing-machine claims, which seems too good to be true. Any recommendations? Thanks!

I've never heard of rugs by Ruggable, nor do I know about washable rugs. Usually things that seem too good to be true, are! Good luck!

This was so informative and so much great information about buying rugs and caring for them. Thanks a lot Nader. Great to have a real expert on the chat. Next week: We will be featuring our annual beach house article, a very cool Rehoboth Beach place  that is the home of designer Shawn Evans of PFour and his husband Joe Petrone. Check out Shawn on my chat next week and send in some questions. Meanwhile, make the most of the last weekend of July!

It's been a pleasure responding to all your questions! I wish everyone the best of luck in their rug purchasing, cleaning and layering. 

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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