As you wander along Berlin’s fashionable Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse, a neon sign emblazoned “Rug Star” catches your eye. Inside, large Persian rugs with fluorescent embroidery festoon the walls, while piles of pastel geometric designs sit next to others featuring fantastical oversized insects and flowers.
At the heart of this vibrant operation is textile designer Jürgen Dahlmanns. He first came across the art of carpet weaving in 1991 in Nepal. “I was a student making my way down the Annapurna mountains, when I spotted a traditional Tibetan sitting mat. I offered its farmer-owner $100 for it and took it home on the plane.”
Dahlmanns didn’t know it then, but a seed had been sown that would later see him abandon a successful career in architecture to launch Rug Star in 2002. “I began collecting rugs as a hobby and soon realised there was a huge disparity between old, traditional carpets that are bold and full of life and the new, drab-looking ones being made for the western market. I decided to get involved.”
Today he employs 1,600 people across four workshops in Jaipur and Nepal and prides himself on his company’s ethical stance. He has designed more than 10,000 rugs, all categorised into collections such as the brightly geometric Nail Supreme (Natura Morte, €2,100 per sq m), the paint-splatter-inspired Splash (Number 4, €1,350 per sq m) and Love Stories with colourful, punchy slogans such as “Life is Good” (from €1,350 per sq m).
Dahlmanns’ customers vary greatly, from musicians looking for an aesthetic way to improve the acoustics of a room, to Saudi princes in search of the finest craftsmanship – more than 3,000 man hours go into making each rug.
As well as unique design, he offers two types of rug: Persian and Tibetan. “The Persian carpets have a higher silk content and are therefore more expensive [from €1,450 per sq m compared to €1,200 for a Tibetan], while the Tibetan ones are very dense, as traditionally they had to be able to withstand the cold mountain air.”
To achieve that density, there are many different fibres in one knot, making it easier to express movement, a signature of Dahlmanns’ designs. In contrast, the Persian rugs have only one fibre in each knot so interest has to be created in other ways, such as bleaching to dampen an initially bright design before adding contrasting threads on top, as in the Belle Epoque range (from €1,950 per sq m).
As a collector, Dahlmanns is obsessed with quality and longevity. “These carpets will last from 150 to 200 years and will become more beautiful with time.” Scale is also important to the former architect and a typical Rug Star carpet (from €10,000) measures 3m x 2.5m. You can go even bigger, though – one client ordered a rug of 7m x 11m at a cost of €140,000.
Dahlmanns believes the humble rug is still riding a fashion comeback, which he accredits to its ability to inject instant warmth and ambience into a room. The only downside, he says, is that “one is never enough”.