Friday, October 8, 2010

Old Baluch, New Decor, Lawrence of Arabia and Homeland Security

The new antique Baluch rug in the old bedroom with the new paint.

I have wanted a couple of antique rugs for the bedroom I just painted, the one which uses the four-poster bed I found up in the rafters of the garage at my parents' home. Mom was a pack rat, bless her heart.

And since I am a firm believer in using your pocketbook to vote your principles, I decided I didn't want anything from Iran in the room, even though those rugs are often the loveliest. They are also the most expensive, as they have become the most chic. So thrift was a second motive for my search beyond Iran.

When the deep purple falls, over sleepy garden walls ... the first photo of the room was taken in the bright light of morning, this in the afternoon as the room takes on a different aspect.

My niece served in Afghanistan with the military and also in Uzbekistan with the Peace Corps (she's eclectic in her service) and thus, I decided on trying to find a vintage Silk Road rug for the room. A Silk Road rug would be one from what I call the Stans: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and the other Stans that were once part of the Soviet Union or their sphere of influence.

Somebody else had thought of this before I did, and has an Internet business importing vintage rugs from these parts of the world. You can still get them there for nothing and sell them at a tidy profit--all to the benefit of this impoverish part of the world as well as the importer and the shopper. They have a great web site at:, and they are based in Luxembourg. I perused their vintage and antique pieces and found one at a great price (under $1000 ) and decided to buy it as a test of how this might work. I used my USAA credit card and Pay-Pal so I could cancel the payment if the business was not legit.

The rug I ordered, took just a week to get here and it is gorgeous!

Made in about 1900, it is a red Baluch rug, probably made in Afghanistan. I have good company in my taste for this style, which I learned watching a show about T.E. Lawrence as I waited for my rug to arrive. T.E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, took part in a somewhat nasty raid on a Turkish train during his time with the Arab revolt and on September 24, 1917, wrote a friend about the adventure: "The Turks then nearly cut us off as we looted the train, and I lost some baggage and nearly myself. My loot was a superfine red Baluchi prayer-rug".

T.E. Lawrence's natural father was Sir Thomas Chapman, so perhaps I inherited this taste for red Eastern rugs via my DNA. Being connected to this crazy genius is one of my fantasies so please indulge me in this. (His grandfather was named William Chapman and so was my great grandfather.)

The rug was well depicted on the Internet site and is worn as I expected it would be, but well-made and beautiful. Rich of color, it seems to change depending upon the light that hits. it.

The old red Baluch, worn but lovely.

The only hang-up came when Fedex called from Memphis and said they had to email me a U.S. Customs form to fill out and sign as the rug's "importer." Turned out it was a form generated by the Department of Homeland Security. So now I'm on their tracking list as some kind of suspicious character with activities involving Muslim rugs and will probably pay for this with further hastles the next time I'm going shoeless through the security line. Thus we live with the aftermath of 9/11. ( "But officer, the rugs came to me via Luxembourg!")

But, it only held up the Baluch for about 24 hours and I was, frankly, surprised the thing actually got here at all, not to mention looking as beautiful as I had hoped. I'm not inclined to think that Al Gore invented the Internet. It couldn't possibly work this well if he had.

BTW: I got this idea from my friend Polly, who had a living room strewn with red, antique Persian rugs and they made her home look gorgeous, no matter how she arranged the furniture. I get all my best decorating ideas from stealing. Thank you Polly!

Gotta go. I'm going to order another Silk Road rug before the rest of you buy out the best ones.

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Anonymous said...

The room is absolutely lovely, seriously!!!
However, the wall color is too cold. Sorry, just my opinion.

Robin Chapman said...

You get to feel however you want, but the room isn't done yet. Why don't you wait until I have some pictures up, eh? And even then since you don't have to live in it, why not relax. I like it, and if you don't have the good taste to like it too, well its America and you get to be that way if you want!

Skywolf said...

I think the wide shot photo kind of washes out the color of the headboard wall. If one looks at the wall around the white sliding door, the color is actually quite warm. The rug is very nice…and a very courageous purchase.
Congratulations, an attractive room indeed.

Robin Chapman said...

Ah Skywolf, you are an anonymous person of first class taste. In the sunlight, the color, which is Behr's French Castle shows undertones of purple, pink and rose. It is anything but a flat gray, but I did want it to be neutral enough so I could get a couple of really strong Eastern rugs in there. This one is gorgeous, from 1910 Afghanistan. Thanks for your comments. The previous Anonymous was and has been very insistent that I paint the room yellow: but, chacun à son goût, as the Frenchie's say.

Laura said...

When I was pregnant with my first (1989) I was told that you should never paint a baby's room yellow ~ it's too stimulating and makes them cry.

I love yellow. My living room and dining room are a soft "haystack" yellow with burgundy and forest green accents.

But I will never paint a bedroom yellow.

I think your room looks amazing! I have a similar bed and I love the spread you've used on it.

Robin Chapman said...

Thank you Laura. I think when I get the rose-colored curtains up and some pictures on the walls the whole room will really "pop" as they say. I had a butter yellow kitchen once and I loved it, as it seemed like such a nice color to cook with. But not in the bedroom, I agree with you. However, each to his own ...