Chad Stark’s Insider Rug Secrets!

Posted on May 1st, 2018

Selecting hand knotted rugs is one of the highlights of our job as interior designers! The beauty of a handmade rug is unparalleled, from the subtle variations in the knots to the way the light catches the silk fibers. Stark Carpet has been the leading purveyor of high quality, handmade rugs to the design trade for over 75 years. We turned to Chad Stark, Senior Vice President, to get the inside scoop on carpet care and trends!

What are the three most important features to look for when selecting hand knotted rugs?

The most important things to consider are one’s budget, the reputation of the dealer you are visiting, and the design environment/performance concerns to be considered.

Everyone appreciates the beauty and craft that goes into a hand knotted rug but not everyone wants to wait 7-9 months. Can you delve into the process and explain what goes into creating a rug? How many people work on an average hand knotted rug? 

Rug making is the single most collaborative of all the art forms.  This is one of the reasons why rug production is supported and encouraged in poorer countries. A single rug employs so many people! Let’s start with the sheep herders, the wool shearers, the wool spinners, the dyers, the designers and factory staff, of course do not forget the weavers, but also do not forget all the people that wash, clip and finish your carpet and last but not least the fine folks that pack and ship that carpet to you! We are easily in the hundreds of persons required to make a single carpet. It is Stark’s job to coordinate all of these people in order to deliver our custom orders on time to the most discriminating buyers in the world.

Most of our hand knotted products take between 3- 9 month to produce based on complexity of design and the knotted quality. For a 9×12 rug each weaver can cover about 3 feet in width so to produce a 9×12 rug we are engaging three weavers for an average of six months working 8 hours six days a week. In total we are talking about 3,744 man-hours to weave just one 9×12 carpet. If one calculates the man-hours of all the other processes mentioned previously one should arrive at the logical conclusion that hand knotted rugs equate artistically to one of the greatest values on the planet!

What steps does Stark take to ensure fair labor practices and to prevent child labor at your mills?

Stark buys directly from the manufacturers in the countries of origin who we know have fair labor practices and without child labor. We have full time field staff working everyday on-site with our manufacturers inspecting and managing our production orders. Upper management spends months each year overseas vetting and working with its manufacturers to improve the quality of our supply chain. We believe our day to day contact with our manufactures is the best way to secure the quality of the work environment for weavers and our product for our clients.

Cleaning and caring for your hand knotted rug is so important. Do you have any tips for keeping wool and silk rugs looking their best?

Suction of your rug is the best way to go for day-to-day maintenance. For red wine drinkers, I always recommend they keep white wine in the house. If one spills red wine on wool or silk,  the best thing is to blot up the red with a clean cloth and then saturate the area with white wine lightly blot and let dry. A little known secret is white removes red.  

Rug pads: Why do we need them?

Padding reduces friction, slippage and impact pressure on the weave structure of hand woven carpets. 

What’s new and exciting in the world of hand knotted carpets? Any trends, styles, or manufacturing techniques that you are especially excited about?

This is an ancient industry based on 4,000-year-old technology. Manufacturing is very much the same as it always has been. The advent of CAD has made a huge impact on the designs being made today. Such detailed abstract and non-repetitive designs were never possible prior to the millennium.

In your opinion why do you think hand knotted rugs are so much more beautiful than other types of rugs? 

It is very simple. Hand knotted rugs are a reflection of their makers. They are beautiful, diverse, imperfect and therefore individual. No two are ever exactly alike…the same as their makers.

A huge thank you to Chad for his valuable industry insights!

L.A.’s Most Instagram-Worthy Design Shops

Posted on April 25th, 2018

We headed to Los Angeles earlier this month on a whirlwind interior design sourcing trip and returned with plenty of inspiration and new finds! On our hunt for one-of-a-kind, vintage, and handmade furniture and accessories we discovered a few design boutiques that are definitely worth a visit.

Hammer and Spear // You’ll find a beautifully curated collection of bespoke and vintage furniture, local artwork, and statement lighting in this boutique located in the La Cienega Design Quarter. They also have a larger location across town with even more goodies to ogle.

Oz Shop // Every corner of this pop-up shop is filled with highly collectible vintage furniture, unique artwork, and handmade accessories. We wanted to take it all home! You can see their collection in person before the pop-up ends mid-May or shop their inventory online anytime.

Nickey Kehoe // If you love an eclectic, global vibe and appreciate handmade ceramics then Nickey Kehoe is your place! Designers Todd Nickey and Amy Kehoe also have a growing furniture collection which they feature in the shop.

Casa Perfect // Casa Perfect is the latest venture of New York-based Design Showroom, The Future Perfect. Each room in this 3,000 square foot Beverly Hills residence is curated with pieces by today’s hottest design talents in contemporary furniture and lighting, including Bec Brittain and Lindsey Adelman. By appointment only.

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Elle Decor Features Our ‘Mad Men’ Orinda Ranch!

Posted on April 3rd, 2018

We are thrilled to share Elle Decor’s House Tour of one of our recent projects – a mid-century ranch remodel in the East Bay! Niche Interiors was tasked with reviving a classic 1950’s ranch home which fell victim to poor remodeling choices, including Doric columns in the living room (gasp)! Our goal was to create a modern take on a California ranch, infused with our client’s swanky ‘Mad Men’ aesthetic.

Since we all love the satisfaction in seeing major transformations we wanted to share the ‘Before’ photos of this special project! Looking at these photos we can almost forget the months of planning and construction details, or the hundreds of decisions made to get to the ‘After’.

The living room was in dire need of help – dated wall paneling, decorative columns, and a gaudy fireplace clashed with the clean-lined 1950’s architecture. We added custom walnut built-ins to flank the dramatic new slate fireplace.

The library received a dose of drama with black trim and crisp white paint. We removed the existing built-in bookcases which crowded the window and made the room feel smaller, instead opting for contemporary custom built-ins along the left wall. A pair of mustard velvet armchairs are grounded by a round navy rug.

Want to see more?? Check out the House Tour on Elle Decor or view more photos on our Projects Page!

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San Francisco Design Center Spotlight: HEWN

Posted on March 7th, 2018

We’re excited to kick off our new Showroom Spotlight series – highlighting the personalities and inspiration behind some of our favorite trade showrooms in the San Francisco Design Center! First up, Jeff Holt and Peter West, the savvy, stylish and gracious owners of HEWN in the Galleria. Let’s jump right in with our Q & A!

How do you decide to carry a certain brand/designer at your showroom? 

Is it fresh and exciting?  Something our customers will like and/or need?  Can they deliver as promised? We generally feature small, family owned and operated manufacturers. Dealing directly with the creators is very important to us.

What design trends have you seen on repeat that you’d love to leave behind?

Bamboo silk rugs do not wear well! Don’t do it. Soulless gray interiors that look like 3D renderings in photographs. Reclaimed wood used as wall covering.

What are you hoping to see more of in 2018?

Mixing styles – modern and traditional. More individuality, less Restoration Hardware and more Chairish…and great wallpapers.

Which HEWN furniture lines and products are you most excited about right now? 

Ted Boerner’s Hedge Series of casegoods and his Regatta sectional. Ted’s designs are so thoughtfully considered and all the details are expressed perfectly.

Woven Rugs. They are the next big thing in rug brands – super fresh and innovative designs and a commitment to customer service.  We love all their great textures especially the “Noah” rug (named for the owners young son) and their collection of limited edition artist-designed rugs, especially the Legacies rug by Gregory Siff.

Stacklab’s square cut burl table tops feature wood that is thousands of years old – they are breathtaking. It takes many weeks of pouring layers of resin in a vacuum chamber to achieve the final product. 

Give us your top tip for spotting quality in a furniture piece.

If quality is the most important factor in the piece of furniture you are seeking, don’t try to find it online. You can only see the depth of the finish, the quality of the joinery or the feel of the proportion by viewing the piece in real time in a showroom or store.

What do you love about the design community in San Francisco? 

It really is The Best.  It is filled with wonderful and creative people of all ages and backgrounds – our clients and customers often become friends.  There is a feeling that we are all in this together, it is collaborative and so creative. Just like this blog! 

A huge thank you to Jeff and Peter for sharing their insights. Be sure to stop by the HEWN showroom at 101 Henry Adams, Suite 480 to see their full range of collections.

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Modern Luxury Interiors: Greener Pastures

Posted on February 12th, 2018

We’re thrilled to see our Principal Designer Jennifer Jones’ eco-friendly home featured in the February issue of Modern Luxury Interiors magazine! Take a sneak peek at the highlights below…

While a formal design would have made sense with the home’s traditional style, Jones chose a more family-friendly approach. “I wanted it to feel sophisticated, not stuffy,” she says. So she mixed in vintage furniture and pieces with classic details—like the Cisco Home tufted sofa in the living room—and kept the look modern with new light fixtures, updated window treatments and graphic wallpaper. 

Jones brought in layers of texture to punch up the muted tones throughout the house. She added drama in the dining room with a striking hand-painted, banded-stripe Cole & Son wallpaper and vintage Moller chairs reupholstered in mossy green velvet by Romo Fabrics. The 10-foot custom, midcentury-inspired walnut table, a collaboration between Niche Interiors and Varian Design, is made from FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) wood with a nontoxic finish.

A color palette of cool neutrals, with pops of blues and greens, has a calming effect and achieves the cohesive (not “matchy”) look that Jones was after. Vibrant sea-green walls in the guest bedroom are toned down with ivory, gray and black accents.

Grab a copy or read the online version here!

Inside Look: Porter Teleo Wallpaper

Posted on February 6th, 2018

We’re excited to give you an inside look at Porter Teleo – a beautiful, graphic collection of handmade textiles and wall coverings. Porter Teleo is the brain child of abstract artist Kelly Porter and interior designer Bridgett Cochran, who blend fine art processes, such as wood blocking and painting with a refined design aesthetic.

Above: Tangled Pattern in a Dining Room designed by Elms Interior Design

Founded in 2004 and based in Kansas City, all wallpapers and fabrics are created locally by a team of artists who are classically trained in the fine arts field. Porter, an award winning painter whose artwork hangs in galleries and celebrity homes, and Cochran, a designer with an eye for detail, quickly found a common bond; they were looking to capture and create something totally new for the design world.

Above: Porter Teleo artist hand painting a napkin

Their collaboration has resulted in an innovative way of making wallpaper and fabric, relying on an intuitive creative process. We love that all of their creations are completely customizable, from the non-toxic, water-based ink color to the scale and orientation of their patterns.

Above: Kintsugi Pattern Wallpaper in a bedroom designed by Kelly Behun

Their Japanese papers have been made by the same family in a small mountain village for over 1300 years. The main source of water for the paper making process is a fresh water river that flows through the town providing abundant plant life for the pulp material.

Above: Ink Blot Pattern in a playroom designed by Renschler & Co. 

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Check out the entire collection here. Enjoy!

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Must-Know Bay Area Makers

Posted on January 9th, 2018

What better way to kick off the New Year than with some inspiring new creations from local Bay Area designers!  We curated a few of our favorite recent discoveries for handmade goods for the home – the perfect way to add style to your life and to support local designers. Win, win!

handmade ceramics bay area san francisco

Totem Ceramics // Berkeley 

Totem is a local pottery studio selling handcrafted ceramic dishware inspired by natural forms, simplicity, and traditional craft. We especially love the beautiful matte blue thistle mug and the crackle oatmeal bowl shown above. You can order from their online shop or through select San Francisco boutiques such as The Podolls and The Perish Trust.

san francisco textile designer

Jenny Pennywood // San Francisco 

Jenny Pennywood is a home textile line focused on created small batch, locally made, everyday products. Napkins, tea towels, and pillows are screen-printed in whimsical, painterly patterns using water-based inks in her Bayview studio. Shown above: See Sun for Jenny Pennywood Napkins in Midnight/Pebble + Dashes & Moons Tea Towel in Charcoal.

handmade fiber art oakland

West Perro // Oakland

West Perro is a collection of American Southwest-inspired hats, wall hangings, and jewelry. All pieces are handmade by artisan Jimmy Brower at his Oakland studio using cotton threads, leather cords, maple wood, and polymer clay. The simple graphic shapes and fresh color palettes of blush and black are very on trend. The Sonoran sunset wall hanging and Sabino Canyon Necklace (shown above) are two of our top picks.

Zelma Rose // Marin 

Zelma rose specializes in unique jewelry pieces made from natural fibers. She weaves every piece with hand-dyed cotton and hemp fibers at her studio in West Marin. Her designs can be found in partnerships with West Elm and Anthropologie and on her website. Our favorites are the Saguaro Fringe Necklaces and the Estero Handwoven Necklace in indigo.

handmade homewares oakland bay area

Melanie Abrantes Designs // Oakland

Melanie Abrantes Designs sells handcrafted goods made from natural cork and wood. She also offers woodworking kits and carving workshops at her Oakland studio. We love her geometric, Bauhaus-inspired coasters and trivets and her petite cork and wood candleholders (shown above).

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5 Essential Books for Home Decorating Inspiration

Posted on December 6th, 2017

We were recently invited to Pinterest to meet the legendary Diane Keaton and hear all about the inspiration behind her new book, The House That Pinterest Built! What an incredible opportunity to meet such a force of nature  – she was even more charismatic and hilarious in person than I’d imagined. Diane’s new book chronicles the journey of designing her entire 8,000 square foot home using ideas she discovered on Pinterest. We thought it was such a perfect gift that we rounded up more of our favorite interior design books for the home decor lover on your holiday shopping list!

diane keaton's the house that pinterest built

THE HOUSE THAT PINTEREST BUILT by Diane Keaton

This book is filled with stunning interior design photos from Pinterest that inspired Diane’s incredible custom home in Brentwood, as well as images showing the finished product. The end result is an expansive home chock-full of exposed brick, rustic beams, industrial accents and classic black and white. Part photo essay and part diary about the necessities of a home, this is a beautiful visual read that the industrial-chic lover on your list will get lost in.

jean louis deniot interior design book

JEAN-LOUIS DENIOT INTERIORS by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Jean-Louis Deniot is known for his refined, classic interiors which effortlessly combine eras and styles. Highly regarded in his home country of France, he also has a gorgeous new furniture collection with Baker Furniture in the United States. This is a perfect book for the traditionalist on your list who appreciates classic architecture and luxe details!

christian liaigre designer book

MAISON CHRISTIAN LIAIGRE by Herbert Ypma

An oldie but a goodie! This collection of French designer Christian Liaigre’s best work (including photos of his own home) is a fabulous choice for the modern minimalist on your list. The gorgeous, detailed photographs of his international projects showcase his signature blend of natural materials, modern forms, and impeccable proportion and scale. Liaigre’s spaces are calm and refined with a deep connection to the tradition of each location.

windsor smith interior design book

HOMEFRONT: DESIGN FOR MODERN LIVING by Windsor Smith

With a bonus forward written by Gwyneth Paltrow, this book is an ode to the beautiful work of Los Angeles designer Windsor Smith. Smith has a wide range of styles in her projects, but consistently integrates elegance and glamour in her client’s homes, often with a whimsical, unexpected twist.

art house coffee table book

ART HOUSE by Alisa Carroll

Art House provides a look into the five houses that collector Chara Schreyer and her long time designer Gary Hutton have created to showcase six hundred priceless contemporary art pieces from Schreyer’s personal collection. An exploration of a life devoted to living with art and to designing homes that honor it, this book is an inspiration for art and design lovers alike.

Top Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality

Posted on October 26th, 2017

Indoor plants are enjoying a major design moment right now, but did you know they can also drastically improve your indoor air quality? In the late 1980’s NASA conducted a Clean Air Study to find the most effective indoor plants for filtering harmful toxins and pollutants from their space stations.

The study found that certain plants are effective at removing benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air — chemicals that have been linked to health effects such as headaches, nausea and eye irritation. Read on for 5 houseplants that will clean the air and add a dose of style to your healthy home!

Dracaena Marginata 

Dracaena are common foliage plants that come in over 40 varieties. Known to filter benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene. Perfect for modern spaces with filtered sunlight. (May be harmful to pets if eaten).

Boston Fern

Ferns are a great way to add softness and greenery to your small space – we especially love grouping a few together on a bookshelf or console. They prefer indirect sunlight and regular waterings. Known to remove formaldehyde and xylene from the air.

Variegated Snake Plant

This sculptural, hardy plant is low maintenance and easy to care for. Known to remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene from the air.

Peace Lily

This plant takes the prize for biggest workhorse – the Peace Lily has been proven to filter out all 5 harmful chemicals from the air! Place peace lilies in a shady spot and keep the soil moist without overwatering.

Spider Plant

One of the easiest houseplants to grow, the spider plant loves bright, indirect sunlight. Known to filter formaldehyde and xylene.

Ready to start on your eco-friendly interior design project? Contact us today to get started! 

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Niche Celebrates 10 Years in Business!

Posted on September 21st, 2017

It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since our first client project – turning a dated North Beach condo into a modern bachelor pad. We’ve grown from a solo operation to a small but mighty team of four and expanded from serving San Francisco proper to include the Peninsula, Wine Country, and the East Bay. A huge thank you to our wonderful clients, past and present, who have trusted us with their homes throughout the years. We couldn’t be more grateful to do what we love every day!

Niche’s First Official Project from 2007 (Above)

Industry friends joined us to celebrate at the Anchor Distillery Penthouse last week! Craft cocktails, city views, and a caricature artist turned out to be a winning combination. Take a peek at the photo highlights from the festivities below…

Lynn, Anna, and Jen from team Niche (Left) // City Views from the Anchor Penthouse (Right)

Caricatures by Sharon T. were a hit!

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