A trip to the source makes for great adventure, but don_t expect any real steals Several years ago, when I was looking for Oriental carpets to furnish my three-story Brooklyn (N.Y.) brownstone, a friend took me to a merchant he knew in upstate New York. I bought three gorgeous rugs, all of them made in India.
More recently my husband Ken and I decided we needed four more rugs for the house: one for our bedroom, one for the living room, and one each for the two staircase landings. This time, however, we were planning a family vacation to India and thought it would be fun to buy at the source. In December we traveled to north-central India, a major rug-production center. Our challenge was to find rugs of higher quality and lower price than we could get in New York. To see how we fared, I lined up a carpet expert back home to evaluate my finds when we returned.
We began our hunt in the city of Jaipur, where Nand Kishore Chaudhary , owner of Jaipur Carpets (email@example.com), relies on a network of weavers in villages throughout the state of Rajasthan to produce the rugs he sells, mostly for export. Designs are computer-generated versions of classical patterns, in the reds, blues, greens, and golds that appeal to Western tastes. We tracked Chaudhary down through a photo credit in the book Indian Carpets, by AshaRani Mathur, which we bought in a hotel gift shop. (After two rug authorities I had consulted in the U.S. refused to share their sources, I decided to scout out places once I got to India.) Chaudhary offered the perfect solution to our quest for runners to fit two irregularly shaped staircase landings: custom-made rugs, one a classic Jaipur design with flowers and medallions and the other in what looks like an American Arts and Crafts style.
COMING TO TERMS
Prices, based on the tightness of the weave, were $15 per square foot for the first rug, which had 140 knots per inch, and $10 per square foot for the second, which had 81 knots per inch. The total tab, to cover approximately 64 square feet of floor, was $937. The rugs would take about five months to weave. (Although the knot counts were relatively low, we were sold on the rugs_ good-quality wool, which is durable enough for high-traffic areas, and the fact they were well-priced for nonstandard sizes.)
Although bargaining is part of the Indian culture, Chaudhary wouldn_t budge on price. Still, he agreed to terms that were more important to us: payment by credit card, no charge until the rugs arrived in the Atlanta store his daughter runs, free shipping, and the right to return the rugs to Atlanta for any reason (at our expense) for a full refund.
When we later shopped for rugs in Delhi, I compared the prices at Jaipur Carpets with those at Obeetee, a store our hotel recommended. The price for similar custom-made runners was three times as much as we paid. The lesson: Don_t automatically go to places your hotel sends you.