When Houstonian Kazem Khonsari immigrated from Iran to Texas, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that Americans too have an appreciation for Persian art and Persian rugs.
Throughout his career as an engineer, he would attend rug auctions and add to his collection. After retiring, he fell in love with the Central Texas town of Bastrop—he says the landscape reminds him of his native city Shiraz—and along with his daughters Saba and Naseem opened Lost Pines Art Gallery, a passion project that's filled with rugs—mostly from Iran, though styles from Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan are represented as well, along with bronze art from Texas artists and home accessories like candles, journals and more.
Houstonia caught up with Saba Khonsari for a little advice on how to pick a great rug that will work for your style and your life.
Houstonia: What's the biggest misconception people have about decorating with rugs?
I would say that they're inaccessible. People think of Persian rugs and think of Downton Abbey or super wealth— in Iran, everyone has a rug. It might be a loose weave or not that intricate but they're great and they're sturdy. It's definitely pricier than a jute rug but we have rugs from a couple hundred up to about $15,000.
I compare Persian carpets to wine, it's a good metaphor because every wine is going to be coming from a different region and the price will vary based on the age, and one region might be more expensive than another.
Persian rugs have been seen as a pretty traditional element, but now I'm seeing them in more modern spaces. What are your suggestions for how to make the right rug work for any decor?
My sister and I both believe in building a room from the ground up. Even if you're not working with a blank slate, picking a carpet that you just really love, I would say start with that. If you love it, it's going to work with what you have in the room. They are really timeless. If you have a really great pair of jeans or blazer, that's what a Persian rug is.
Since we've had our Persian rugs in our living room at my house we've painted the walls and replaced the leather couch with a mid-century modern fabric couch and the carpet still works, even though the room is completely different.
Since you carry rugs from several different regions, can you tell me a little about the differences between them?
My sister is really the expert, but some of the basic things include how rugs from the more nomadic regions, they're called gelim or kilim—it's a thinner weave versus a stacked carpet—they sometimes remind people of Southwestern themes. Rugs from Isfahan are more intricate florals with silk. I find that people are really attracted to the style of one specific reason usually, like I'm always drawn to rugs from Tabriz which are very colorful and elaborate.
What are some qualities people should look for when shopping?
I would say to look for a hand-knotted rug—it's like how a pair of hand-stitched boots is better than machine-made. You can check to see if it's hand-knotted: It's not going to have perfect edges, and when you flip it over on the other side the knots won't be perfectly symmetrical. That goes back to handmade being higher quality and more unique.
We also encourage people to consider the room, and what are the needs for the room and what style would work. I have a dog and a toddler, and in my dining room the rug has richer colors and tighter patterns, so when life happens the imperfections blend in easier. A beautiful, neutral rug, maybe that's not the place to put it, it might be better in a bedroom.
How do you know what size to pick?
The general rule is you want it big enough to be touching at least some of your furniture, but there are ways around that. I've seen people layer them and have two or three rugs, so the bigger ones fit that criteria and then there can be a smaller one that's on its own.
We also offer the option to try the carpet out in your space, we suggest maybe trying a couple in your space because it's different. Something you loved in the store doesn't always work. You want to see it and walk on it and make sure you love every aspect of it.