Pro­file

The World’s Best Rugs Un­der One Roof

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY DANA MIR­MAN

Rugs adorn nearly ev­ery inch of the 6,500- square- foot Naples rug em­po­rium known as De­sign­ers ’ ’ Rug Cen­ter, a South­west Florida home- dé­cor des­ti­na­tion for more than 20 years. A fa­vorite source for many of the top in­te­rior de­sign­ers in the re­gion, the show­room of­fers gor­geous de­signs of ev­ery size, shape and color imag­in­able, rep­re­sent­ing a ta­pes­try of the finest rugs the world has to of­fer.

Chris Smith, a ge­nial, gray- haired gen­tle­man, founded De­sign­ers’ Rug Cen­ter and op­er­ates the store with his wife, Laura Swan­son. An avid marathoner who ex­udes en­ergy, Smith is a for­mer school teacher who con­nected with the owner of a chain of rug stores in his na­tive South Africa and be­came cap­ti­vated by the busi­ness. “I started at the bot­tom,” says Smith. “I un­loaded trucks, un­wrapped rugs and

CHRIS SMITH TALKS WITH PRIDE ABOUT DE­SIGN­ERS’ RUG CEN­TER’S DE­VO­TION TO CUS­TOMER SER­VICE, ES­PE­CIALLY BY CRE­AT­ING CUS­TOM RUGS TO SUIT ANY SIZE, SHAPE OR STYLE.

learned the busi­ness.” When Smith heard of an op­por­tu­nity to open a store in Tampa, he up­rooted his fam­ily, in­clud­ing three young daugh­ters, and moved from South Africa to Florida.

The Tampa lo­ca­tion didn’t work out, but Smith soon found a home for his rug store and his fam­ily in Naples. “I sold the store in Tampa and opened De­sign­ers’ Rug Cen­ter in 1993,” he ex­plains. The store was first sit­u­ated be­hind An­dre’s Steak House be­fore mov­ing to its cur­rent home near Fifth Av­enue South.

De­sign­ers’ Rug Cen­ter has a large wallto- wall depart­ment and sells hard­wood floor­ing, but the core of the busi­ness is, as the name sug­gests, of­fer­ing the finest rugs avail­able, pri­mar­ily to pro­fes­sional de­sign­ers. “About 80 per­cent of our busi­ness is in­te­rior de­sign­ers,” says Smith. “It’s called De­sign­ers’ Rug Cen­ter for a rea­son, but we are also very wel­com­ing of re­tail cus­tomers.”

Smith trav­els the globe to source his in­ven­tory. “We have many one- of- a- kind rugs,” he says. Smith’s fa­vorite sources in­clude In­dia, Turkey and Nepal. While he has trav­eled ex­ten­sively in the Pe­shawar re­gion on the bor­der of Pak­istan and Afghanistan, to­day, due to re­gional in­sta­bil­ity, he im­ports through his con­tacts. Smith ex­plains that Nepal pro­duces some of the world’s best rugs made of Hi­malayan wool, a distinc­tion owed to the re­gion’s al­ti­tude. “The higher the sheep graze, the higher the amount of lano­lin in the sheep’s wool, the bet­ter the rug,” says Smith.

Smith talks with pride about De­sign­ers’ Rug Cen­ter’s de­vo­tion to cus­tomer ser­vice,

A FA­VORITE SOURCE FOR MANY OF THE TOP IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGN­ERS IN THE RE­GION, THE SHOW­ROOM OF­FERS GOR­GEOUS DE­SIGNS OF EV­ERY SIZE, SHAPE AND COLOR IMAG­IN­ABLE, REP­RE­SENT­ING A TA­PES­TRY OF THE FINEST RUGS THE WORLD HAS TO OF­FER.

es­pe­cially by cre­at­ing cus­tom rugs to suit any size, shape or style. “If you see a rug here that you love, but you want it in a dif­fer­ent color, we can make it for you,” says Smith.

The cus­tom- de­sign ser­vice goes much far­ther, and the cus­tomers’ wishes and i mag­i­na­tion are the l i mit. “We of­fer cus­tom- made Ti­betan and Nepalese rugs,” says Smith, ex­plain­ing that a rug can be spe­cial- or­dered to be hand­made abroad by ex­pert ar­ti­sans. Most cus­tom rugs can be com­pleted i n three to four months, says Smith, cit­ing as an ex­am­ple an es­pe­cially elab­o­rate cus­tom or­der that was hand- knot­ted in 2010, re­sult­ing in a mas­sive 19 x 38- foot wool and silk Nepalese rug in a bold, one- of- akind jewel- toned pat­tern.

Adding to the cus­tom ex­pe­ri­ence is the fact that Smith’s wife, Laura Swan­son, is an artist who can cre­ate orig­i­nal de­signs. “I ma­jored in art and cur­rently work as an artist in wa­ter color and oil and acrylic,” says the pe­tite brunette. “I can cre­ate de­signs for cus­tom rugs.”

Af­ter over t wo decades in the busi­ness, Smith says his fa­vorite part of his job is the people. “I’ve met so many i nter­est­ing people over 20 years in the busi­ness. I can count on the fin­gers on one hand the people I haven’t en­joyed work­ing with.”

De­sign­ers’ Rug Cen­ter owner Chris Smith is de­voted to cus­tomer ser­vice ( top); these rugs are like works of art you can dis­play on your floor ( bot­tom).

The show­room at De­signer’s Rug Cen­ter dis­plays rugs in seem­ingly ev­ery color and de­sign imag­in­able.

Smith’s wife, artist Laura Swan­son ( shown here with some of her work), can cre­ate de­signs for cus­tom rugs.

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