In the past 10 years, a boho-chic look that blends eclectic global influences, both old and new, has taken hold as the prevailing aesthetic. Every purveyor from Anthropologie to Wayfair, Target to ABC Carpet and Homes is hawking rugs inspired by vintage styles of Morocco and the Middle East. Threadbare Mid-Century rugs have found new life as overdyed floor coverings. Kilim is tossed around as a term for machine-loomed products with polyester threads. In the midst of this flooded market, it can be hard to uncover real quality.
In 2016, Joanna Mahserdjian decided to carve out a niche for rugs of true antiquity and authentic provenance with Upstate Rug Supply. In high school, she started flexing her nascent design muscles by painting her bedroom walls with bold colors and stripes, hanging butterfly netting, and sourcing vintage wall art from the local flea market. In college, a series of art history classes were the breadcrumbs that led her into the realm of antique rug collecting. She started out buying for herself and soon was scouting for friends and family. “I got to know a couple people in the business and really saw that I had an eye for it,” she says. “I decided to take the leap and go out and do it on my own. I started out of my dining room with a capsule collection and a website.”
She traveled all over the US hand-selecting rugs from dealers, buying from private collectors, and bidding in estate auctions, all the while growing a virtual following. Looking to up her game and provide a physical outlet for people to have a tactile interaction with the rugs, last year she teamed up with two local antique dealers to create a curated storefront called the Shop at 557 Warren Street in Hudson.
Mahserdjian’s rugs are complemented by vintage wares from Ida’s Eye and the Modern Exchange. “There’s furniture, lighting, art, rugs—it gives the Shop a really layered feel,” she says. Aside from the aesthetic harmony of the mixed inventory, the shared space works functionally for the business owners. “It’s kind of like a co-op in that we don’t all have to be there every day,” Mahserdjian says. “Two of us have young kids, so we’re able to support one another in that.”
Mahserdjian specializes in hand-loomed Persian and Caucasian rugs, which includes pieces from present-day Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey. To a collector’s eye, the colors, motifs, and techniques used in weaving shift considerably after the 1920s. “Because of the cultural tradition that is associated with them, and the fact that they are over 100 years old, these are the rugs that are naturally dyed,” she explains. “They’re from a time before rugs were woven for Western taste and for exporting. They were woven for collectors and for people in their tribes and their country. The quality is really different.”
To an aficionado like Mahserdjian, the appeal is in the individuality of each rug. “Each one is different because the weavers had artistic license,” she explains. “They would include different tribal elements, or they would have their own personal design for each of the flowers.” She sources the rugs from within the US, handpicking from a vast network of auction houses, professionals, and individuals.
With COVID restrictions on travel, sourcing proved more difficult in the past year. “I’m always hunting and always buying. But I’ve had to be creative,” Mahserdjian says. “I’ve had to look all over, spread my net a little bit wider.” On the other hand, with so many people shacked up at home, not to mention the surge of city transplants furnishing new houses, business has been booming. “It’s been keeping the shop really busy. It’s been fun,” she says.
You can browse the selection of over 300 rugs online, set up a virtual consultation, or visit the Warren Street brick-and-mortar to get the full experience. “Customers who have been following me on Instagram will come into the Shop and touch and feel the rugs,” Mahserdjian says. “It’s been great. And Hudson has been so welcoming. We have so many customers that pop in just to see what’s new.”
The Shop is open Thursday through Sunday.
557 Warren Street, Hudson