This New Rug Collection Celebrates American Folk Art
Valley rug retailer David Adler presents a new collection inspired by folk art needlework samplers.
By John Roark| Photography by Mark Lipczynski
As interior designers—or anyone who has freshened a room by replacing a tired floorcovering—will attest, a well-chosen rug can define or redefine a space. Scottsdale retailer David Adler understands how a carpet’s form and function can transcend to fine art. For more than 40 years, he has been at the forefront of elevating the medium of floor textiles in the Valley through a carefully considered inventory that includes antiques as well as contemporary, oriental and traditional pieces from sources as far-flung as Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
Adler’s design sensibility was developed early on. At age 12, he landed a part-time job doing menial tasks at an auction house on the north side of Chicago, where he would work until graduating from high school.
“For years, I was sweeping up and cleaning bathrooms,” he recalls. “But I got engaged in the process and the inventory of artwork, rugs, paintings, silver and jewelry. I started to pay attention. It was like walking through the looking glass in the sense that it was a new world. Who knew that such extravagant things existed?”
With his employer as his mentor, Adler developed a refined understanding of quality. “I admired the guy I worked for,” he says. “He could make judgements and assessments that were unfathomable. We’d both look at the same painting, and he’d see things that never even occurred to me. All I would see was a bowl of fruit.”
After college, Adler returned to the Chicago auction house, further honing his eye for excellence and building relationships throughout the U.S. and beyond. Relocating to the Valley with his wife in 1973, he focused on the arena of fine rugs. “I really got into it. I wanted to know everything,” he says. “I made a lot of mistakes; I went backwards as often as I went forward. Luckily, I had a short learning curve and I’ve been very fortunate.”
To the uninitiated, the first visit to David E. Adler Fine Rugs can be a bit overwhelming, says showroom director Lainey Pizanis. “It can be intimidating because we have so much inventory. Customers might have an idea of what they want but can’t articulate it. So we’re like sleuths,” she says. “We begin by asking you a lot of questions. What room? What style? What is the architecture of your home? Do you have children and pets? What colors do you like to live with? Then we start looking and see what you respond to.”
Adler agrees. “We try to figure out what your taste is and show you rugs that suit that framework. While looking at many examples, frequently we will hear, ‘What about that one on the wall? Or that one we just passed. Let’s see that again.’ People’s tastes will evolve or change when they see something else that’s appealing.”
There is no real formula to follow when it comes to choosing floorcovering, Adler says. “We have placed antique rugs in hard-edged minimal environments and minimal rugs in grand Tuscan homes. The best advice I can give is to do your due diligence. Look around, ask questions, and buy the best that you can afford. When properly cared for, a good rug can last for generations.”
Adler’s passion for introducing new levels of artistry to the Valley can be seen in the Common Threads collection currently on display at his Scottsdale showroom. Created by the New York carpet house Kyle and Kath, the assortment was inspired by and based on works archived at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Kyle Clarkson spent two days perusing the museum’s international textiles. Ten pieces pulled from a drawer of needlepoint darning samplers caught his eye. “I immediately saw how the collection would come together in color, layout and texture,” he recalls. “By using the geometric shapes and the organic nature of the stitching on a large scale, I set out to create something that had never been done in the current rug industry.”
Clarkson and his business partner, rug designer Jan Kath, translated the elements of the small-scale stitchery by using colors, patterns and textures to reflect the needlepoint origins. A combination of natural linen fiber, undyed wool and nettle, which the original samplers were stitched on, gives the pieces texture. “The design patterns have a rich, organic feeling and are knotted in raised silk to reflect the fine silk thread in the stitch work,” says Clarkson.
Adler praises the line’s uniqueness. “These rugs are very cleverly constructed to look like needlework. They almost fool the eye like trompe l’oeil. It’s exciting to handle pieces that are unique, that nobody’s seen before, and to have the opportunity to present them in this market.”
ON THE CARPET
David Adler shares his insights on choosing the right rug for your home.
THERE ARE NO RULES
“The carpet is typically the single largest object in the room. Some people want it to subordinate to other elements of design and impart color and texture; others want it to be the centerpiece, to serve as a singular art object, or simply for acoustics. We have clients who collect rare rugs, and long after they’ve filled their floors and walls they’ll just admire them and enjoy the personal pride of ownership.”
GO FOR BESPOKE
“We’ve had many clients who have been interested in producing their own personalized artistic expression in woven art. To conjure a design
on a blank sheet of paper and see the result rolled out for the first time is a satisfying and unique experience. It’s not that costly, and the reward is terrific. Many interior designers will not only create a piece of furniture, they will also design a custom rug to go with it.”