Positioning bold statements underfoot, luxury rug designers like Erik Lindstrom challenge the notion that all art is on the walls.
By Roger Grody
Interior designers are increasingly making statements with flooring, insisting that the most pedestrian of surfaces shouldn’t be an afterthought for artistic expression. Luxury flooring — whether French limestone salvaged from an old château or intricately inlaid wood — creates an impact from the bottom-up, and nothing shows more like art than a contemporary custom rug.
“Every room should start with the rug, which is really the foundation of any space” says Erik Lindstrom, whose Lindström Rugs is part of a contemporary rug movement that has captured the imagination of interior designers. “Aside from creating visual organization within a space, rugs play an integral part in my interiors work,” says Los Angeles-based designer Lisa Strong, who adds, “Rugs immediately feed your eyes with color, texture and pattern.” From Lindstrom’s perspective, furniture, lighting fixtures and art can look great individually, but without a rug to anchor the room, they appear to be floating in space. A rug, he says, unifies them and accentuates their respective personalities.
Lindström Rug’s flagship showroom in L.A. was originally an art gallery, which simply reinforces the proprietor’s vision of his products as art. The space still has the vibe of an exhibition space, with rugs hanging from whitewashed walls like giant murals and the live edges of an 18-foot maple table mirroring the organic approach to many of Erik Lindstrom’s designs. Lindström Rugs also maintains showrooms in Seattle and New York, with openings planned for Miami, Chicago and San Francisco.
With his creativity fueled by both organic and manmade forms, the geneses for Lindstrom’s designs are varied. Sharing an inspiration wall at the L.A. showroom are the 39-year-old designer’s eclectic tastes in art: Russian painter Joseph Levin, printmakers Erté and Shepard Fairey, and his uncle William Ingham, a leading Seattle artist. Lindstrom was born into a creative family — he grew up in an award-winning home designed by his architect father — and his own ambitions landed him in Italy, where he studied at the Florence Design Academy.
“A rug can be as bold and eye-catching as you want,” says Lindstrom, “or it can disappear and let the furniture and artwork do the talking.” According to the designer, contemporary rugs (particularly those with abstract or geometric designs) are currently trending among clients, not the Persian and Oriental rugs that long dominated the luxury market. Lindstrom sees practical benefits to contemporary styling, stating, “They have a more timeless quality and it’s easy to orchestrate furniture around them.
“Growing up in the Northwest, trees, mountains, rivers and ever-changing skies all resonate with me to this day,” says the designer, who named several rugs in his Habitat Collection after species of trees or clouds. “I look for the details or patterns within a tree that create interest for me, such as the veins in a leaf or the bark,” says Lindstrom, who tends to dismiss literal translations.
“Erik’s aesthetic roots come from the impassioned visual language of the Pacific Northwest, from its natural majesty to its ephemeral details,” says designer Strong, who suggests the vapors and condensation in his cloud-inspired “Nimbus” design are palpable. When the blues and grays in that rug are changed to amber and rust hues, Nimbus is transformed from ice to fire, demonstrating the versatility of a single design.
Two abstract rugs from Lindstrom’s Metropolitan Collection, inspired by urban environments, are titled “East Berlin” and “West Berlin.” Based on the designer’s photos of weatherworn concrete surfaces in the German capital, they have the muted, diffused lighting of an Impressionist painting. Because of that nuanced effect, these designs can complement both modern and traditional residential environments. Lindstrom also designs rugs for private jets, yachts and luxury hotels.
Custom-made to client specifications (e.g. fabric, knot count, color palette), the high-end products from Lindström Rugs typically range from $8,000 to $18,000 for a 9-foot by 12-foot rug hand-woven in Nepal. Progress photos are provided during the three- to five-month production process, which reassures anxious clients like Strong. “As a designer, I enjoy ‘happy accidents,’ but hate surprises,” she says.
On an artsy stretch of L.A.’s Melrose Avenue is the palatial stateside showroom of Mansour, a maker of museum-quality Persian rugs that relocated from Iran to London, where it counts the Royal Family among its clients. Changing tastes led to the establishment of
Mansour Modern, but owner Benjamin Soleimani reports that antiques are currently making a comeback. “They add an element of drama and history to contemporary and transitional interiors, and of course in period interiors they look perfectly at home,” he explains.
Ease of customization, however, favors contemporary designs, which unlike classic rugs can be sized to fit a particular space. Concurring with Erik Lindstrom, Soleimani states, “Contemporary rugs have a more simplified design and are often easier to use in an interior with many layers.” Currently fueling a strong market for luxury rugs, according to Soleimani, are large numbers of massive estates being built from Beverly Hills to Dubai, whose grand entryways demand dramatic statements underfoot.
“A first impression can be a lasting one,” says the fourth-generation rug maker.