Everything You Need To Know About Hunting For Antique Rugs, With District Loom

March 19th, 2020
Location  •   Connecticut

With so much going on this week, and with both Matt and I working from home – you could say my time online and at home has skyrocketed. Now while most of us are practicing social distancing, it’s more important than ever to reach out in support of local businesses in whatever means you can. Whether you can purchasing a gift card, share a business you love on social media or make a purchase – small business owners are so essential to not only our economy but also our communities. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Heather Cade one of the owners of District Loom, a antique rug company I follow religiously; and with so many of us spending SO much time at home, I think now is the perfect opportunity to put those finishing touches on our homes whilst supporting small businesses.

Personally, I knew I always wanted to fill my home with antique rugs! Not only are they a sustainable way to shop, but they are also just so unique, so hardy and overall provide that extra touch of coziness a new rug, just lacks. While I had my eyes on several rugs from District Loom, I was especially excited when Heather announced the launch of their Heirloom Collection. The timeless styles and patterns featured in their Heirloom Collection are very on-brand for us New Englanders – so much that I was able to snag a coupon code for anyone interested – use code THECOASTALCONFIDENCE15 for 15% off your purchase with District Loom until Sunday!

Overall, I am beyond impressed with everything Heather and Brett have accomplished with District Loom – from launching in 2018 to partnering with Anthropologie in 2020 – this duo continues to source quintessential rugs and helping consumers bring hand-knotted rugs into their home at a more affordable cost! I could go on and on about my admiration and obsession with District Loom, but without further ado, Heather is going to share everything you need to know about finding & caring for antique rugs and her journey with District Loom.

Introduce District Loom & Where to Follow You: 

I was born and raised on Cape Cod, MA and moved away after graduating high school to head off to college. I attended Clemson University in SC where I received my BSN in Nursing and then moved to my husband, Brett’s hometown in upstate NY where I attend FNP school! 

We ethically source the best selection of on-trend vintage Turkish and Persian rugs for the design-minded client from all over the globe. In December 2018, we set out on a mission to source sustainable, vintage rugs after two years of tossing out machine-made rugs that failed to withstand high traffic areas and pet accidents in our home! After over a year of trial and error in the world of rug importing, we developed trusted international trade relations that assure fair pricing and the highest quality craftsmanship. The majority of our rugs are found in Istanbul Turkey, but we have also sourced pieces as far away as Switzerland and Japan!  We never neglect our back yard either, and always scour estate sale listings and Facebook marketplace for local gems.   

You can follow along on Instagram @districtloom and be sure to check our website every Thursday at 8 pm ET for new rugs! I believe our behind the scenes content and offering of rugs at all price points is what makes us different!

How did you get into selling vintage rugs online: how long have you been in business? Where did your unique idea come about? Tell us briefly about how you came to be!

Since a very young age, I had an obsessive eye for detail – specifically in home interiors. I noticed that well-designed spaces transformed my mood and experience within a room. At my relentless request, my supportive mother allowed me to entirely redecorate my childhood bedroom every single year! Picture it: bed veils, sponge paint, stenciling and even a red oriental rug in my 9th-grade bedroom re-do (maybe that is when the rug roots started!)

After high school, attending interior design school was my plan, but my loving parents encouraged me to pursue my other strength, science, for what seemed to be a more practical career choice. I now work full time as an otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) nurse practitioner. 

My interest in design never left me though, and my passion re-surfaced years later when my husband, Brett, and I were decorating our first home. We found ourselves with two new puppies to house-train and quickly realized we were unable to effectively clean any of the machine-made rugs in our home. (Resulting in us throwing out 4 rugs in just 2 years!) We were so disappointed in the lack of durability and poor quality of these vintage replicas that are widely available to the US consumer. We were also saddened to know the plastic backing and fibers in these rugs ended up in a landfill, contributing to the global waste crisis our world is facing. 

Our disappointment in the quality and new-found awareness of the amount of waste in the machine-made rug industry was the catalyst to apply our research skills (honed through years of nursing and grad school!) and head down the rabbit hole of vintage rug hunting. Once we started searching for vintage rugs for our home, we found out the rug shopping experience was antiquated, scarce, and expensive. After a few not so pleasant trips to local rug shops with high-pressure sales and cost-prohibitive pricing, we realized the in-store consumer experience and inventory was sub-par to say the least. This motivated us to provide a more approachable, affordable, and edited inventory of on-trend pieces to design minded homeowners and interior designers!

Were there any challenges when you first started District Loom? Specifically when sourcing rugs, building contacts, and branding?

Aside from learning how to create a website and start a business, finding trusted trade relationships was indeed a challenge! The language barrier, time difference made communication tough! But, I would say the biggest learning curve was how to recognize a unique, quality piece! Branding still is an ongoing challenge as we take pride in offering rugs at all price points ranging from $135 up to $5,800 (our most valuable piece thus far).  WIth this variation in pricing, comes different clientele and therefore marketing strategies.  

When Sourcing Rugs: Are there specific elements your team looks for? Share what draws you to a rug and what makes it the right fit for your customer base.

I personally select each piece that comes to our shop.  My strategy is pretty simple, if it makes my heart skip a beat, I buy it! I am drawn to evenly worn, hand knotted pieces with a unique motif or color palette but do my best to include neutrals and commonly requested styles like Turkish Oushak runners too! We often include opportunity for feedback in our IG stories and really feed off of our customer’s requests as well! 

Our readers are antiquers – If they came across a rug and weren’t sure about the authenticity, what should they look for?

Flip it over to make sure the knots are showing on the backside. There should never be a plastic backing.  The color of the dye in the pile should extend the depth of the pile length as well!

Do you have a favorite rug? What’s your personal style when it comes to incorporating rugs into your own home/workplace? 

I gravitate towards worn, antique (100+) Heriz and Soumaks with blues! Currently in our home we have a 4×6’ blue antique caucasion at the foot of our bed, a 135 year old blue and pink Antique soumak in our living room and a navy and blue antique hamadan in our kitchen!  

From sourcing products to shipping logistics and social media a lot goes District Loom. I know you run this business with your husband, Brett. Do you work side-by-side or divide & conquer on tasks?

We divide and conquer! I work on social media planning, before work and during lunch at my day job.  Brett packages the rugs two nights a week and drops them at UPS during his lunch break from his day job.  (I work full time as an ENT Nurse Practitioner and Brett works for a custom cabinet/stair and rail company)

I was shocked when you announced that District Loom has an exclusive collection at one of my favorite stores, @anthropologie! Tell us how that came to fruition. 

As a long time Anthropologie shopper, I am already very familiar with their brand, style and aesthetic. Given our taste and customer base are so similar, I thought it would be a perfect fit to pitch a partnership. I reached out to their home department via email to pitch the idea of a District Loom boho-femme collection of one-of-a-kind rugs. It was the happiest day of my life when I heard the word “YES” to my suggested collaboration! (Like, happier than my nursing school graduation day kind of happy!) Although Brett voiced hesitations of how we could manage it all logistically,   I had no fears about the implications of scaling up because I knew IF it became too much to manage, we could always begin to hire help and outsource where possible. We have since hired a part-time assistant and continue to outsource creative direction and photography from local small businesses (wldwst creative studio and Angela Newton Roy Photography).

From your IG stories you guys are non-stop between working full time and running District Loom – how do you find the energy to do so much and still meet weekly rug launches?

Haha yes! It is a lot! I think the little victories fuel me with the adrenaline necessary to keep going! We both sleep very soundly after our busy days that’s for sure! We sometimes miss a weekly launch here and there! – We try our best to curate in bulk, time batch out stock photos, and schedule content to increase efficiency! We have also recently brought on a part-time assistant to help!

Finally what’s your favorite part about running District Loom

The connection we’ve made with customers, other small business owners and our international trade relationships. There is just something so special about bonding over something you are so passionate about and all relating in the love and appreciation for a well made textile and the impact it has on transforming a house into a home. 

aubreysig