What are Karastan Rugs – an interview with Sam Presnell

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Original Karastan Panel

What Are Karastan Rugs?

Karastan is a brand name of rug that is widely popular across the nation. Learn more about Karastan rugs and how this unique brand of rug can give your home a unique look and feel that is all your own.

John Maher: Welcome to The Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an Oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m John Maher I’m here with the owner of The Rug Galley, Sam Presnell. Hi Sam.

Bravado Turan Black

Karastan Rugs Defined

John: Sam, today our topic is what are Karastan rugs? Maybe you could define a little bit about what a Karastan rug is, is that a brand name?

Sam: Yes, Karastan is actually a brand name. It’s interesting when you ask me that question. I just know what it is and I don’t ever think about somebody out there not knowing what Karastan is. To me it’s the most recognized brand as far as rugs go in the industry. I don’t think there’s any other company that comes into play when people think about rugs and they hear the word Karastan.

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I think maybe it’s an older generation thing because of all the advertisement that Karastan did to promote their brand. They have been very effective at promoting, they’re in basically every major department store. If you went into a department store, they would be playing up that brand as part of their brand as well. Today, if you’re especially a player, whether carpet or rugs, you are one of the lucky chosen few. Believe me, it’s not an easy task to become a Karastan dealer, you just don’t say, “Hey, I want to be a Karastan dealer,” and bam, here you are a Karastan dealer. You’ve got to earn it and believe me, it took me 10 years to be privileged enough to carry the brand.

Antique Legends Emperor’s Hunt

They’re very finicky about whom they pick as far as promoting their brand and they want to make sure they’re a certain quality and character as well as good pay masters as far as their bills. They’re very complex, but Karastan is a rug that’s made here in the U.S. I think a lot of people don’t realize that we actually still make rugs in the U.S. Most of the rugs, they are probably imported, but we’re seeing more and more production here in the U.S. But Karastan was actually invented or whatever you want to call it, founded by Edward Fields, which a lot of people know that name, if you’re from Chicago, that’s a very famous department store after him as well.

Axminster Loom – Courtesy of Karastan

 

Back in the ‘20s he decided he wanted to make an Oriental rug by machine that would be cost effective but would have the look and feel, intrinsic style sense of a true Oriental rug. He decided to do it in a little place in North Carolina, which is outside of Greensboro by about an hour. In fact, it is still the plant today with the original eight looms that he put in back in 1928. It’s been around a long, long time, not quite I guess almost 90 years at this point. But they are truly, in my opinion, the best rug in the universe.

John: That’s interesting. I think maybe some of the confusion with the name comes from the fact that with especially Oriental type rugs, there’s all these different names for the different styles of rugs. I think maybe Karastan gets lumped into that for people who aren’t in the know and don’t understand that it’s a brand name.

Sam: Yes, when I first started this business 40 something years ago, if you had ‘stan’ on the end of the name of any product, that was pretty much an Oriental rug company, but also everybody had the same thing at the end. You’d have a name like Kurdistan, people are like, “Well, Kurdistan, Karastan, they sound a lot alike.” Actually Kurdistan’s a little bit older than Karastan. It’s like they stole the name but ‘stan’ was part of the finish on everybody’s line.

I’m not sure how that started, I should do a little more background on that, but it was just a classic way. A lot of the times the Persian rugs, the names that you hear about are from the cities in Iran or Turkey, or where they came from and traded from. That’s how the names came about and there’s lots of ‘stans’ for some reason. I think it might mean “village” I don’t know what it means, but it could be.

How Karastan Rugs Are Different from Other Types of Rugs

John: Yes, so what makes Karastan rugs different from other types of rugs?

Sam: Well I think the big thing about Karastan is the amount of quality, they have what they call an axminster loom but it’s a very archaic axminster loom, they built and developed themselves. Nobody else has a loom like them, there’s a lot of axminster looms out there, but they don’t just have that look and feel of a Karastan. Karastan has more of an authentic look to it.

When you put a Karastan axminster against somebody else’s axminster, you’ll see that difference. It’s very hard to explain that in an audio presentation. I wish I had some pictures to show you that in real life. But it is just a better looking rug with the finish, it’s the wool they use, it’s also the amount of color that they put into it. Some of the rugs that Karastan put out, a very few of them, but some of them have 47 colors in it.

There’s no other company in their right mind that’s going to string up 47 colors into a rug, it’s just unheard of. You get seven, eight and if you weave it sideways, you mix two colors together, you might get 12, 13, 14 colors, but you’re not going to get 47 colors into a rug. Karastan has a lot going on that nobody really wants to tackle and they are a brand that is of very high quality. Everybody in that mill knows that this is a quality product, they’re not trying to make it cheaper, they’re trying to make it the best that they can.

They have a lot of quality values in things that they do. They wash the rug, they chemically wash the rug after it’s made, nobody else does that. They just want that finish, that sparkle to be there. They do a lot of things extremely well but they’re really quality oriented, so that’s what I think differentiates them from the pack.

Where to Buy Karastan Rugs

John: Where can you get Karastan rugs? You mentioned that it’s exclusive in terms of who can be a dealer for Karastan.

Sam: Yes, you’ll see Karastan in every major city, they’re well distributed. In our little town here, we have about five or six different companies, some of the companies have multiple stores, but that’s about it in a city. They usually have a department store, sometimes you have two department stores carrying the brand, usually have a good quality furniture company that usually has the brand. Sometimes it might be in a big city like Boston, and a couple of people in the furniture business also have the brand. They do limit distribution, they have a couple of special players like rug dealers like The Rug Gallery out there as well.

Then there’s usually some carpet people as well, because Karastan has a carpet division which is also part of their brand. A lot of times the carpet people will also have – usually I think in our town we have three carpet guys. A lot of them have multiple stores but they all carry the brand as well. It’s not like it’s exclusive but it’s very selected.

Karastan Carpets

John: Do the carpet stores just carry the carpet line of the Karastan, the wall to wall carpets?

Sam: In our town I would say yes, but not in every town. There are some carpet guys who really get the rug thing and go after it in a big way, but in Cincinnati, we are not in that. They do have some sprinkling of rugs but it’s not really something that they’re really, I would say, aggressive about.

Floral Dreams

How to Display Karastan Rugs

John: How do people display Karastan rugs in their homes?

Sam: Well, I think for the most part, I think usually the big areas like a family room today, a dining area is also a big area as well, in the foyers in front of the door or something like that, it’s also a big space for them. They also make it in roll goods too, which basically means we can do it for staircases, hallways, things like that. We do a lot of business in that as well, so we can make it any size, any width basically we want by playing with it and [we are] able to install as well. They also make carpeting in some of their better designs as well so we can install it like carpeting as well.

Martinique Hazelnut

John: Now, you mentioned that Karastan has all of these different colors and they can have a number of different colors in their rugs, does that make it maybe easier for some people to match a Karastan rug to the colors that they have in their home?

Sam: Well, if you have 47 colors in a rug, John, you might have one of those colors in there.

John: Chances are.

Sam: As long as it’s balanced. In this rug it’s extremely well balanced. It’s interesting because they call it 717, the Panel Kirman. That rug has been in the line since 1928. It has been the number one rug for – I don’t know if it is today, but I think for like 50, 60 years or maybe 75 years, it was the number one selling rug of all the rugs they sell since the beginning of time. It’s very well balanced and it works with everything. It’s a chameleon, it really just has a nice balance of color, you usually see that it works with about every color you have.

John: All right, well, that’s really great information Sam, thanks again for speaking with me today.

Sam: You’re welcome John.

John: For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery and Oriental Rugs and Carpets, visit ruggallerycincy.com or call (513) 793-9505. Make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes and if you can take the time to give us a review on iTunes as well, we’d appreciate that. See you next time on The Rug Gallery.

 

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Sam Presnell owns and operates The Rug Gallery Cinncinnati Ohio. It started with one oriental rug purchased for personal use. That grew to a storefront in the University of Cincinnati area that was all of 750 sq. ft., which opened in 1972. Six years later they moved to Montgomery and a new 6,500 sq. ft. store. In 1992, Blue Ash beckoned and the current 21,000 sq. ft. showroom was born. Now the oriental rug gallery in Cincinnati is a beautiful place to come and explore all of the possibilities that they have to offer customers and their homes.

Sam began recording podcasts as a way of educating his customers and shares them through Itunes, at ruggallerycincy.com, and now Rug News Retail.