Wed, 03/21/2012 - 3:11pm

Kristen is the only woman in sight at the unveiling of a new shipment of Afghani rugs, but the dealers who’ve met her know she’s just as determined as they are to snatch up the finest pieces. She can haul a room-sized carpet just as well as they can, and she’s not exactly fretting broken fingernails.   


As rug after rug is revealed, the seven dealers in attendance begin queuing favorites in their heads, taking one another’s taste into account, trying to gauge tenacity, all while maintaining a façade of politesse. The event has the palpable intensity of a high-stakes poker game. Many took cross-country red-eyes to get there in time. As Kristen converses with one dealer, her ears and eyes are on the others, waiting for someone to leak a preference or a tidbit of strategy. She’s also trying to preserve mental pictures of the now-buried early favorites.     


After all the bales have been unfurled, it’s time to draw the numbers that will determine the selection order. Kristen grabs 4 and soon realizes that she has similar taste to the dealers who drew numbers 1 through 3. She begins to rearrange the queue of rugs in her head. It’s a delicate balance of what will sell, what she loves, and what, realistically, she’ll be able to take given that those ahead of her will be vying for the same. It’s a small shipment, about 100 rugs total, and the Round Robin-style selection process takes about three hours. 


Despite her less than desirable position, Kristen landed some terrific pieces, including luxurious silver ikats made from bamboo cotton and silk and beautiful room sized gabbehs. She also returned with what will be our last batch of kilim ottomans. If you’ve been eyeing the selection in our window, be sure to secure your favorite as soon as possible. These guys sell fast.     


-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Wed, 03/14/2012 - 11:25am

If you thought they looked good on your floor, just wait ‘til you slip one over your shoulder. Kilims just got portable at O’Bannon in the form of four exquisite flat-weave handbags. With a geometry typical of traditional kilim designs, our new handbags will add a chic tribal flair to any outfit. 


They’re not the first kilim purses we’ve ever found, but they are by far the finest. Embellishments like leather straps, handsome brass toggles, and heavy-duty lining, distinguish ours from other Oriental flat-weave bags. They retail at $150. 


Equipped with zip pouches for cell phones, each bag will also accommodate sizable wallets, sunglasses, keys, and other smaller personal items. Because of their structured flat-weave exterior, the purses maintain their shape even when they’re almost empty, so you’ll avoid that saggy look that often afflicts leather bags. 


Not so keen on purses? You can look forward to the arrival of kilim clogs, which incorporate traditional Oriental flat-weave patterns into the comfort of sturdy slip-on shoes.

-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Tue, 03/06/2012 - 8:08pm

When I met Drew Fields, I almost instantly had the sense that I was going to learn something obscure from him. As a telecommunications lobbyist, audiophile, and art lover, he’s quite an eclectic soul. While we strolled around the shop, he explained how optical fiber and copper cable carry information differently, as well as the emotional impact of the Rothko room at the Phillips Collection. Thanks to Drew, I now know what dark fiber is. He also had the most creative answer to “what’s your favorite color” that I’ve ever heard: the electric bluish-purple that illuminates the subway. Though Las Vegas is his least favorite American city, he speaks fondly of the giant neon crown that hangs in the entryway of his Highland Park home, where he lives with his wife, Teri, and their new baby, Georgia. 


Describe the style of your décor.


The house itself is part Victorian, part arts and crafts, and part gothic revival. We have a big Turkish carpet in the living room, some vintage love seats with contemporary tables, a few gabbehs and a mix of modern art. There’s a lot going on. 


Who are your favorite modern artists?


Warhol and Rothko.


Do you see any similarities between these guys’ work and your taste in carpets?


Our gabbehs definitely remind me of Rothko. There’s a softness to both of them. None of our carpets remind me of Warhol, but they definitely work against each other really well. We have a lavender Big Electric Chair, which is obviously very stark but also kind of shimmers. It creates a good tension with older things. If you have too many contemporary things in a room it can get a little sterile.


What’s your favorite rug in the shop and what draws you to it?


(The Gabbeh pictured left.) It’s whimsical yet very calming. It’s got a sedate center, but the little diamonds are fun, which creates nice tension. 


Where do you see this fitting in your house?


This would go on one of our stairway landings. There’s a stained glass window there and it’s very hard to find a rug that’s interesting that doesn’t create a sort of overwhelming chaos. This is simple enough to do that, but yet it’s not boring.


What’s your favorite decorative object and what draws you to it?


(Wooden sculpture pictured left.) It kind of looks like a coffee mug off balance. It’s put together in this ingenious way that is sort of fun and whimsical and sculptural. We have a big extended mantle piece in the living room with something similar on it. I would probably put it up there. 


-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Tue, 02/21/2012 - 10:51pm

May we present to you 112 squares that know how to party. With lively color choices and an exuberant spirit, the weaver of this groovy gabbeh has transformed a serious, mathematical form into an energetic pattern ripe with symbols of fecundity. The slight unevenness of the lines gives movement to an otherwise static shape: these are squares that know how to dance. 


It takes great skill to combine this many colors and achieve a result that does not feel busy, especially given the added presence of symbols. Many of the squares house the mother goddess symbol (the four capped lines), which represents bounty and fertility. Others host diamond-shaped amulets that echo these themes.   


The wool used to weave this rug once belonged to a fat tailed sheep. Because of its high lanolin content, it takes dyes quite well and has the luminescence of silk and a rich softness that feels delicious underfoot. 


It measures 3.08 x 5.07’ and retails at $1350. You’ll want to pick it up in time for your next party. It’s hard to look at this rug for any length of time and not feel like shakin’ it.   

-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 9:59pm

What at first looks like a spider web becomes the veins of leaves, then tributaries, then netting, and maybe eventually, something beyond the realm of the physical; say tension or connectedness. Herein lies the beauty of Robin Gray’s designs: the elegant forms that populate her carpets are almost infinitely mutable, echoing dozens of different objects, life forms and moods.  


Five of her fantastic pieces are now available at O’Bannon. 


Kristen selected four rugs from Gray’s Nuevo collection, including the three grey beauties pictured at top left. This trio is a perfect example of the fluidity of minimalism. Last week Kristen had been playing piano concertos at the shop, and saw in the frenetic movement of the “Overshot” design (left), two invisible hands laboring at piano keys. Having recently immersed myself in a book about evolution, I immediately thought of the surprising intricacy of single-celled organisms upon seeing “Lacework” (right). It’s exciting to own a rug like this because your perception of it will shift continually depending on what you’re reading, listening to, or thinking about.  


The “Dragonfly” rug (also from the Nuevo collection) is the sort of piece around which rooms are built. With its arresting palate and intriguing lines, it could easily become the starting point for a redecorating project.


Gray finds inspiration working in her garden, so it’s no surprise that many of her designs reflect the growing habits of plants. In the coral runner pictured at the bottom, Gray has harnessed the argumentative energy of weeds and translated it into an elegance that is almost musical. 


You can view more of Gray’s designs here:


Kristen also has a catalogue at the shop, and can order any Robin Gray carpet that strikes you.


-Andrea O. Bullard 



Posted By Kristen

Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:58pm

The Mystery Man (a vendor who shall remain nameless) paid us a visit last month, and on his cart of mystery wares, we found some chic wooden baskets with black metal trim. Four painted Chinese characters add a flourish to each of the sides. What do these characters mean? Like the origin of the pieces themselves, this remains a mystery, at least to us, as we can’t read Chinese. We do know that the baskets were originally used for grain storage. We also know they’ll look handsome adjoining an end table or chest, or resting atop a buffet in the dining room.  


They stand 8” high and retail at $65.

-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Wed, 02/01/2012 - 1:38pm

Whenever Jane Rockwell drives through Pittsburgh, she can’t help but think of H.L. Mencken’s essay “The Libido for the Ugly,” in which the satirist describes the city as “dreadfully hideous” and “intolerably bleak.” Not that she doesn’t love it here. The grit of its industrial past is part of what gives Pittsburgh its distinct flavor, and Jane much prefers the time-seasoned to the flashy-and-new. Raised in Philadelphia in a neighborhood where “everyone’s father did the same thing,” she did not experience industrial America nor ethnic diversity until she moved to Pittsburgh as a young woman. “I got drunk on it,” she says. She now resides in Massachusetts, but still travels to the Steel City to visit Kristen. 


Jane and I talked at length about our favorite books, the beauty of old churches, and our mutual disdain for television, but did manage to return to the topic of her decorative affinities from time to time.


Describe the style of your decor.


There is nothing in my house that doesn’t have meaning. It’s a collection of what it takes to have a comfortable life. It’s a home I talk to. I like things, mellow, seasoned. I’d rather live in a tar paper shack than a brand new mansion. 


How does your taste in clothes relate to your taste in carpets?


I’m very picky. I’m definitely passionate about color. I couldn’t live without color and light. I’m a visual person. I can’t help it. I like looking. 


What is your favorite piece you’ve purchased from O’Bannon?


My favorite is an odd shape. It’s square. It has bold colors, but enough black to set them off.  It has those smoldering colors I love. Very Mother Russia [with its] flaming oranges and reds.


What is your favorite carpet in the shop right now?


[Pictured at left center.] It’s not like other carpets. It has a highly developed pattern. It’s busy, but the patterns all work together. The colors are bright, but not sharp. It’s a mellow rug.


What is your favorite decorative object?


The antique garden gate at the top of the stairs. I am partial for gates. Strolling through a garden gate is the very threshold to enter home or garden, to leave the din of the world for peace and quiet.  When I noticed the weathered gate in Kristen's shop, its decorative shabbiness appealed even more to me than any shiny new gate.


-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Thu, 01/26/2012 - 5:41pm

Feng Shui gurus urge us to bring plants into our homes during winter months to increase the flow of positive life energy during a season symbolic of decay. As much as we love sprightly little ferns, we encourage you to invest in more permanent and low-maintenance reminders of spring: flowers that dwell in silk and wool.


Many of the rugs in our Tibetan collection have as much color and variety as an established garden in full bloom. Check out the topmost photograph. The lively blue blossoms of this 6x9 rug will help you combat the gloom that accompanies sunless weeks. Even the Tibetan rugs that don’t incorporate literal flowers seem to breathe with life. The spirals of the second pictured carpet, for example, curl like the tendrils of creeping ivy.  


Here is the best part: All are now 50% off. This is an amazing deal. A collection of exquisite rugs that originally retailed at $3700-$1200 are now just $1850-$600. Sizes range from 6x9 to 5x7 to 4x6.


If you’re not convinced that your home requires a rug from this collection, we urge you to remember that while a fern is temporary, a Tibetan carpet is forever. 

-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Tue, 01/24/2012 - 9:12pm

There are at least two illusions at work within the design of this unusual Caucasian beauty. It borrows its central motif, the double bird, from traditional utilitarian pieces, which collectors value for the intentional randomness of their designs. (See bottom left for an example.)  


The double birds seem to obey a pattern, though try as you might, you’ll never find one. This is the weaver’s first trick. She achieves the appearance of order through asymmetrical balance and a pleasing mix of warms and cools, but the logic of her color choices remains a mystery. 


Her second trick concerns the outermost birds. They are cut off by the parameters of the field, creating the illusion that the design repeats infinitely or moves on continuous loop via ticker tape. Either way, we’ve the sense that this is a frozen moment taken from something much more vast and complicated. 


Fun, right? Who knows what other magic you’ll discover once you’ve taken this rug home with you. It measures 3.01’ x 3.08’ and retails at $1075.00.

-Andrea O. Bullard


Posted By Kristen

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 11:23am

If you’ve done one of our don’ts, don’t worry: we still love you. Just think of this list as a series of gentle reminders: what not to do before during and after making a purchase. Finding the perfect rug should be a delightful and rewarding undertaking for everyone involved, but there are a few things that get in the way of an optimal experience…. 


Neglecting to take measurements


Finding the perfect rug begins long before you walk through the shop door. Prior to visiting, grab a tape measurer and a friend and settle on a minimum and maximum rug size. Record measurements on an index card, in your iPhone, wherever.


Saying “I’ll know it when I See It”


Kristen wants nothing more than to help you find the perfect rug and nothing less than to unroll every single one in the shop for someone without a vision. Know the basic elements of what you want when you walk through the door. Be able to describe the room where the carpet will go. Have a list of colors you think would jive with the existing décor. And don’t be afraid to tell Kristen what you don’t want. “Specific is terrific,” she says.


Trekking mud across the carpets


After closing the door, look down at your shoes. Are they soiled with street soot? If yes, kindly wipe them on one of the designated mats at the front of the store. You have two to choose from. Either one will do.  


Putting a pale carpet in the dining room


Consider the average Thanksgiving Day feast: cranberry sauce, red wine, gravy…. slightly intoxicated relatives enthusiastically gesticulating. Uncle Ed finishes a hilarious story with a wild flourish, toppling his glass, spilling wine onto your beautiful cream-colored carpet. Are you cringing a little? If you eat in your dining room, you should be. Find something dark, bold and beautiful instead. If, on the other hand, you use the dining room for show, by all means, seek out those savory yellows, creams and tans.   


Using an Oriental rug as a bathmat


That is what terrycloth is for. Continual water exposure may eventually lead to mold growth, dry rot, and unsightly stains. Find a bathmat that can handle the moisture and an occasional spin in the washing machine.  



-Andrea O. Bullard




Posted By Kristen

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