Jul 21, 2014

Some are chaput kilims of surprising intensity. Others are nubby patchworks of vintage wool carpets that have been custom overdyed in neutrals or vibrant hues.

Over the last few years, star designers in search of remarkable floor coverings have been scooping up one-of-a-kind vintage rugs from the Nomadic Trading Company. Some are chaput (rag) or hemp kilims of surprising intensity; others are nubby patchworks of wool carpets between 20 and 100 years old that have been custom over-dyed in colors ranging from washed-out neutrals through deep reds and blues to vibrant lime greens and fuchsias. They’re all as tough and practical as they are beautiful.

Based in Durham, North Carolina, Nomadic Trading was founded by a mellow Turkish-American named Demir Williford. In 2009, he launched, with two partners in Istanbul, what Williford calls “The Reclaimed Project,” which involves recycling antique rugs sourced in Turkey.

Williford’s team acquires the old carpets from homes and secondhand stores, mainly in central Anatolia, an epicenter of carpet making since at least the 15th century. The handmade wool carpets and the kilims they find are bundled off to the firm’s factory in Oushak, 100 miles south of Istanbul. There, the vintage carpets are chemically stripped of their original colors, leaving only the traditional designs behind. The kilims are left whole, but the carpets are used to make larger patchworks—they’re cut up, pieced together, sewn, and overdyed using Swiss-made chromium pigments. “Natural dyes don’t adhere as well,” Williford says.

All production is handled in Turkey, which pleases Williford. But what excites him most is “the recycling. To me, that’s incredibly impressive, especially for Turkey,” where little is recycled. Williford is living out his passion, but to do so he leads the life of a modern nomad, spending more than two months of the year in Turkey brainstorming new ideas with his partners and another four months on the road, taking his carpets to U.S. trade shows ranging from the trendsetting International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City—his most frequent destination—to the enormous Round Top Antiques Fair in what he calls “the middle of nowhere” between Houston and Austin, Texas.

Clients who can’t make it to a fair or to the company’s warehouse in Durham can view carpets on Nomadic Trading’s website. They can choose from what’s available or order—by phone or e-mail—a custom patchwork carpet, deciding on the size and the shape and selecting one of 45 overdye colors that Williford offers. Either way, clients get something unforgettable: gorgeous, one-of-a-kind rugs and carpets that last forever. –◆–X

Written by Carol Reed

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