Weave a little magic with the right carpet

How Hassan's Carpets, one of Singapore's oldest carpet stores, maintains heirloom carpets

SINGAPORE - There is something Aladdin-esque about the cavernous showroom of Hassan's Carpets.

Stepping into the shop is like entering a cave dreamt up by the Middle Eastern storyteller Scheherazade in her One Thousand And One Nights.

There are definitely more than 1,001 carpets in the shop in Tan Boon Liat Building off Outram Road. Although none are "magic carpets", the owners of the shop, Mr Suliman Hamid and his daughter Dania Hassan, say many do fly - at least figuratively - off the shelves.

"Hassan's Carpets has the most extensive collection of Oriental carpets from Central Asia," claims Mr Suliman, 72.

The shop was opened in the 1930s along Orchard Road by his late grandfather Khawaja Abdul Hamid, himself a descendant of a long line of carpet merchants.

The antique and traditional carpets at Hassan's, says Mr Suliman, are handmade by artisans using classical knotting techniques from village workshop looms in Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, India and countries around the Caucasus Mountains. Carpet-making traditions in these places date back centuries.

"Our hand-knotted carpets feature floral and geometric tribal designs, and are made using silk or wool which have been coloured only with vegetable dyes," he adds, referring to the time-honoured practice of dyeing silk and wool threads with natural pigments found in saffron from the crocus flower, berries and walnut husks.

The shop has, in the last five years, expanded its hand-knotted carpet collection to include contemporary and abstract designs to cater to a younger clientele.

Ms Dania says: "Our traditional bestsellers are the classic florals and nomadic tribal pieces. But in the last five years, we have also been selling contemporary pieces as home owners like a mix of styles in different parts of their homes."

The 33-year-old says the ratio of demand for Hassan's classic to contemporary carpets is 50:50.

An antique Persian carpet from the Iranian city of Isfahan from the 1920s can cost around $10,000, while a traditional-style Persian piece from the village of Shahsavan made around two years ago can cost about $1,500.

"Traditional carpets such as Persians and Turkomans have a special presence which not only match most interiors, but also form a focal point in interior spaces," she says.


A Persian carpet from Qum City, made from wool on cotton warp and weft foundation. PHOTO: HASSAN'S CARPETS

This view is echoed by interior designer Herry Tan, 27, of Parenthesis Studio, a home-grown firm specialising in residential and commercial projects.

"A carpet helps to anchor a space," he says. "It softly demarcates areas without creating visual distractions or blocking views. It makes the furniture on it feel 'grounded'. When combined with the right furniture, it can create a complete look and soften the space."

While stunning, handwoven and artisanal carpets, besides costing a penny, also require maintenance.

Hassan's runs a carpet clinic which cleans carpets, repairs torn or damaged ones and rejuvenate old weather-worn tassels and fringes.

Carpet-cleaning prices largely depend on whether it is an antique carpet or a contemporary rug and generally start at $4 a square foot for a thorough wash, including pickup and delivery.

Ms Dania says the carpets are thoroughly cleaned using a hypoallergenic dusting machine to "beat" the dust and micro-debris out of the fabric. This process revives the colours without the use of harsh cleaning chemicals. The carpet is then brushed with soapy water and dried in the sun.

There are, of course, more affordable carpets which are also easier to care for. These come in a range of synthetic fibres which are either low pile or flat; or high pile with more volume, and which can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner.

They are available from retailers including IT and furniture chain Harvey Norman or carpet specialists such as Finn Avenue. Prices range from about $400 to $3,000.

However, some home owners prefer to avoid carpets altogether. These pieces, they say, are dust traps and difficult to keep clean with young children in the home.

But Ms Visha Nelson, the Singapore-born founder of The Cinnamon Room, hopes to change their minds with her range of contemporary carpets.

Displayed in her Holland Village showroom are contemporary rugs, handmade using high-grade, ethically sourced ox or cow hide. Durable and easy to maintain, they feature vibrant hues, bold geometrics and metallic accents.

"This aversion to carpets from people I spoke to over the years made me venture into designing rugs using ethically sourced hides as they are a low-pile material that is super-easy to clean. Even stains from red wine can be easily wiped off," says the former capital markets lawyer, who has two children.

The 49-year-old, who worked in London, Hong Kong and New York before returning to Singapore six years ago, adds: "

I realised there was a real gap in the market in Singapore for affordable home decor, especially good quality carpets, when I was trying to furnish my home. From there, the business was born in 2014."

She received the Gold Award for Best Carpet and Rug Store in Singapore for the past two years in lifestyle guide Expat Living's Readers' Choice Awards.

One of her bestsellers are hide rugs that have metallic and laser-etched designs, and which retail from $1,050 to about $2,950.

Ms Lorraine Lee recently bought a black, grey and white geometric hide rug from The Cinnamon Room, which added texture and contrast to the neutral colours of her apartment near Keppel Bay.

"I fell in love with it and picked my sofa with the rug in mind," says Ms Lee, 50, a general counsel and chief privacy officer at a multinational firm based in Singapore.

"Our living room opens out to a sea view and is bright and breezy. The subtle metallic feature catches the sunlight and shimmers like the sea outside. It really gives the living area a chic feel and works well to define the space."


9 carpets to buy


PHOTO: HASSAN'S CARPETS

1. This antique Persian carpet from the 1920s from the city of Isfahan, in central Iran, has a design depicting the Tree of Life, which symbolises longevity and prosperity.

Made using natural dyes, it is woven using a special wool called "kork", which in Persian means "soft and downy". The carpet is knotted on a warp (running vertically) and weft (running horizontally) foundation.

Price: $10,000 from Hassan's Carpets


PHOTO: FINN AVENUE

2. A machine-made carpet in the Gaspard range from Turkey, it has ombre tones in a modern yet organic design.

Price: From $1,190 from Finn Avenue


PHOTO: HASSAN'S CARPETS

3. Antique Persian carpet from Kashan, in central Iran, made during World War II.

Price: $8,500 from Hassan's Carpets


PHOTO: HASSAN'S CARPETS

4. Persian carpet from Shahsavan, a village in Hojr Rural District, in Kermanshah Province in north-west Iran. The "Birds of Paradise" design is made with wool and natural dyes and knotted on a warp and weft foundation.

Price: $1,500 from Hassan's Carpets


PHOTO: HARVEY NORMAN

5. The Laila range of carpets is a bestseller for Harvey Norman, thanks to its affordable prices and modern Scandinavian look. It is handwoven in India using a technique called "flat weaving".

Price: From $1,209 from Harvey Norman stores


PHOTO: THE CINNAMON ROOM

6. This metallic white-gold-silver diamond design contemporary hide rug is handmade by artisan craftsmen using traditional patchwork techniques and leather hides.

Price: $2,100 to $2,750 from The Cinnamon Room


PHOTO: THE CINNAMON ROOM

7. A grey laser-etched contemporary hide rug handmade by craftsmen.

Price: $2,100 to $2,750 from The Cinnamon Room


PHOTO: FINN AVENUE

8. This geometric machine-made rug in the Galileo range from Beijing in warm grey hues works as an ideal anchor in the living room.

Price: From $699 from Finn Avenue


PHOTO: HARVEY NORMAN

9. The Denali Sandstorm carpet is created using the flat weaving technique.

Price: From $1,699 from Harvey Norman stores


Experts' tips on how to transform a room with rugs or carpets


PHOTO: HABASSELET DESIGN

Ms Ho See Jia, 34, co-founder, Habasselet Design

The most important thing to consider is how a carpet will balance the existing space.

Good design hinges on a skilfully curated mix: the balance of colours, of light and dark areas, of "busy-ness" and quietness of detail.

For instance, an intricately patterned carpet in a toned-down, quiet space would add visual balance and function as a centrepiece while the same carpet may clash with other features in a busily decorated room.

Another important feature is the floor of a room, which often gets sidelined in design decisions and budgeting considerations. The floor has visual weight, anchoring and setting the mood of the space.

An area rug is a good way of changing the floor without doing extensive work. It can be surprising how just a small colourful rug, for example, can brighten up an otherwise dark and gloomy room.

In larger spaces, the right choice of carpet distinguishes separate functions such as the living space and the dining area, giving each its own special atmosphere.


PHOTO: FUSE CONCEPT

Mr Eddie Tay, 38, division director, Fuse Concept

A carpet in the living room, for instance, has a functional role in the overall design scheme because it reduces noise and provides a comfortable walking surface. Depending on the size, style and shape of the carpet, it can add to the overall ambience.

The right carpet in the living room will help separate the space into either smaller or larger portions, and make the floor look softer or warmer, depending on the carpet design.

While there is no shortage of carpets to choose from these days, it is important to make a decision based on functionality, budget, the preferred style and size of the carpet.


PHOTO: SYNC INTERIORS

Mr Eric Chua, 43, founder, Sync Interiors

Carpets play a significant role in interior spaces.

One of the almost immediate effects is that they give contrast to the colour scheme of furniture such as the sofa, coffee table or TV console.

To get the most out of shopping for a carpet, consider setting a budget first: Is it a low- or high-end carpet that is best suited to your room?

Also, consider the needs of children or pets. If necessary, opt for a low-maintenance rug if you do not have time to fuss over or take care of your carpet.

Lastly, look at the overall theme you want to project. This also creates an emotion in the design and reflects your personality in the living space.