Keith E. Miller, ASID, Miller Interior Design, Seattle WA, March 2014

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This is an expanded version of an article that appeared in print in the March 2014 issue of Rug News andDesign Magazine.

Do you have a favorite source for buying your rugs?  Why?

Manley 2 Living Room 1For a bit of background, my first exposure to the vast possibilities in floor covering of this nature came from a field trip to Chicago’s Merchandise Mart (http://www.merchandisemart.com/) when I was in school.  Edward Fields (http://edwardfields.com/) had a showroom there presenting his luxurious goods, and one of his attendants revealed to us stunning hand painted designs. He explained the process and broadened our minds.  I can’t forget the thrill of adventure discovering customization, imagining all that could be uniquely expressed through this medium.  I was next introduced to Fiber Arts as an artistic expression through the magnificent works of renowned artisans like Maya Romanoff (http://www.mayaromanoff.com/) and Jack Lenor Larsen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Lenor_Larsen).  Relocating to Seattle early in my profession graduated my awareness from these fine artists onto a study of The NorthWest School, an art movement in the Puget Sound area that peaked in the 1930s & 40s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_School_(art)).  The blending of the natural environment with ethereal concepts inherent in this movement synchronized with the way I enjoy expressing beauty through design.  Working with delightfully discriminating clients who treasure life at home as a practical, functioning art installation allows me the freedom to bless them with a visceral beauty that supports and even celebrates their true identity and purpose.

For designing and specifying area rugs in particular, I use a variety of sources based on the values that suit each client.  The best Seattle-based showrooms include Driscoll Robbins (http://driscollrobbins.com/), Pande Cameron (http://pande-cameron.com/), and Andonian Rugs (http://www.andonianrugs.com/), while national and international vendors like Tufenkian (http://www.tufenkiancarpets.com/), Fabrica’s hand crafted rug department (http://www.fabricarugs.com/HCR.html), and Modern Nature Design (http://www.modernnaturedesign.com/) provide quality products with customization capabilities.

Do you have any favorite style or fiber of area rug?

As described above, my personal taste leans toward luxuriously complex compositions based on abstractions from nature.  My preferences, however, are secondary to those of my client.  One might like what I like, or favor an exotic Morroccan (http://nazmiyalantiquerugs.com/antique-rugs/moroccan-rugs-vintage-carpets/).  I’ve been working for years with an engaging client who loves the English Tudor style (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tudor_architecture) and the romantic undulations of classic French Aubusson rugs (http://nazmiyalantiquerugs.com/antique-rugs/aubusson/).

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For safety and ease of transition for people of any ability, I prefer to design area rugs with no more than 1/4” pile height.  Also, the tighter the knotting, the more structurally stable the rug will be.  It won’t come as a surprise to hear I prefer either 100% wool or a subtle blend of mostly wool with accents in silk.  As much as I’d love to specify 100% silk rugs, because -wow!- are they gorgeous, silk rugs simply can’t hold up to the task under foot or exposed to light and spilling.  I steer clear of synthetic fibers unless the manufacturer can prove to me their commitment to a waste-free, VOC-free closed-loop manufacturing process from substance extraction to disposal/recycling.

At what point in the design process do you choose the rug?

It’s common to start with the rug, but that’s not always my rule.  I start with my client relationship.  Discovering who they are and what they value informs the design aesthetic I create with each one of them.  Sometimes favorite heirloom furnishings or finds from travels take precedence.  Often it’s the art collection already acquired that dictates the general design direction.  Whatever the starting point, the rug isn’t too far down the list of design priorities.  With so much capacity for rug customization, though, something like a new acquisition or a stunning upholstery textile discovered after the design is under way can shift what needs to be presented on the floor, be it the main statement with bold expressions or the backdrop for other contributing elements.  Timing is the key.  Depending on the vendor, quality and level of customization, the order process can consume several weeks to several months – even up to a year or more in some cases, so determining the date of completion often aids in eliminating many of the options available.

What feature/features in the rug is most important to you?

Structural integrity and design.  When I can count on a product holding up over time and use, my next priority is to see to it I’m working with a respectable team of players from the sales representative to the craftspeople qualified to achieve the goals we’ve set for my client.

How often do you purchase a custom rug and why?

As often as possible!  People hire me because they want something unique to them.  The custom area rug can contribute such a vital statement.  That said, there are so many fantastic designs readily available I can find beautiful and unique selections on hand for many of my projects.

Do you have any suggestions for your dealers?

Keep striving to represent commodities that are GreenGuard (http://www.greenguard.org/en/index.aspx) or Cradle-to-Cradle certified (http://www.c2ccertified.org/).  Every year more and more of us are demanding products that demonstrate safe and responsible manufacturing processes that support communities and our laborers’ health safety and welfare.

Want to see more? Go to millerinteriordesign.com

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Dasha Morgan, Editor of Rug News and Design, freelance writer and editor in a number of publications, has a design degree from Chamberlyne Jr. College, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in English and European History.