The World’s Best Rugs Under One Roof
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.