Rue Magazine October 01 2013

Copy: Kat McEachern, Photography: Brian Robins

Rugs are a central design piece that can be the starting point for building an entire room. Even a neutral colored rug can add to the warmth and comfort of a space, while a dramatic rug can transform it entirely. Whether you are looking for high impact or quiet unity in your rug, Rebecca Lurie and Brian Robins from Kush Rugs can help you select the perfect piece.

Both worked their way up in the rug world, Brian as a rug washer and Rebecca as a ‘flipper/shipper,’ in industry parlance. They “fell in love with the unconventional nature of the rug business, and with the timelessness, permanence, and complex beauty of the product.” We visited their showroom in Portland to learn more.

You both worked your way through the rug industry, what inspired you to start a business together?
Brian: Rebecca has been travelling for nearly half her life. She first left home for a year in West Africa at age 20, and has since visited countless countries on multiple continents over the years. Rebecca’s interest is in culture and religion, and the art forms that serve the purpose of expressing both. Rugs fit naturally into her sense of what’s important and inspiring, and after so many years of negotiating the developing world on her own, the idea to start a business seemed obvious and far preferable to working for someone else. Oh, and she loves math.

Rebecca: Brian loves film and photography. Composition and color plays a large part in both mediums and is applicable to rugs and interior design. When designing rugs he is comfortable reworking classical motifs, but is most energized by riffing off modern design and pop culture. And he hates math…

Brian: We have very different taste and perspectives from one another. Our yin and yang balance out the gallery. If we both like a rug or design, we know it’s a winner!

Your showroom is so open and feels like a luxury bazaar. What was your inspiration?
We looked for a gallery that had a rustic, industrial feel and beautiful windows, and we put in a glass roll up garage door for summer. Rugs are always the center of attention here. It’s a treat dressing up the windows and seeing people press against the glass to see in. Our design concept was to make to space feel approachable. People drop in to say hello and then realize they have been hanging out for an hour. Mission accomplished!

There are so many styles of rugs- how to you define what fits into the “Kush look”?
We divide our rugs into 4 broad categories. Traditional, transitional, modern, and custom. Our focus is on ethically sourced, handmade rugs. They are mostly new, although there are a few vintage and antique beauties that we couldn’t pass up.

To find your handmade rugs, you must travel frequently to some very inspiring locations!
The best work trip, hands down, is Turkey. Istanbul is the most beautiful and romantic city in the world; Anatolia is wild, vast, and ancient, and the coast is pure Mediterranean paradise. Turkish food is unstoppable, the people enchanting, and the weaving tradition is inspired.

And our favorite place to relax? Astoria, Oregon. We live in the greatest state.

Nothing beats being home! Speaking of homes, what tips do you have for someone who is rug shopping- maybe for the first time?
Take time to educate your eye. Visit at least a couple shops so that you can see the many different types of rugs available. You need to learn what moves you, and what works for the space- and then you look for a rug that does both. Start a relationship with a gallery that will allow you take rugs home on a trial basis. Seeing rugs in their intended space as opposed to a gallery setting is illuminating. Like fashion, everyone has a strong opinion about rugs. Ultimately the right rug is an expression of personal style.