Five Questions: Gary Shafran Owner of L&M Custom Carpets and Rugs

Gary Shafran, owner of L&M Custom Carpets and Rugs, on the advantages of being a one-man operation.

Text by Robert Kiener Photography by Laura Moss

1. You’ve been called a boutique carpet and rug business. Why?
My competitors are all large companies that work with a traditional business model. They have expenses such as showrooms, rent, utilities, teams of employees in sales, marketing, customer service, importing, warehousing, and shipping. My business model is quite different. I have none of that. There are no layers of management. My showroom is my SUV. I carry hundreds of samples and pom [thread colors] boxes for my clients. We sell to the trade only; I made a commitment to the design community that no one would ever see my product when they walked into a store. Our carpets and rugs are manufactured primarily in India and Nepal, where I have highly skilled operations managers who monitor all production, quality, shipping, and sourcing issues. I work with six plants in India and two in Nepal, and each plant has a specialty, a certain construction they are known for. They’re also all certified with the Care & Fair organization to not use child labor.

2. How does your order process work?
A designer chooses the pattern, the construction, and the colors from our more than 600 available colors, or they can provide their own design. A computer rendering is provided at no charge within forty-eight hours, followed by a strike-off sample within four weeks. Once the sample is approved, production is usually eight weeks. The designer receives a picture from the overseas plant of their finished rug. The rug is delivered a week or two later. Once it is received and inspected, I contact the designer to schedule delivery or installation. Because the carpets are all made to order, there is no wastage.

3. What is the role of carpets and rugs in room design?
Carpets can transform a space. They add warmth and softness to a room, literally and figuratively, and are the finishing element to a room. With so many homes being built with open floor plans, carpets and rugs can also delineate spaces, helping to show, for example, where a dining room ends and a living room or family room begins. I’ve often heard that designers are trained to choose the rug first and then add wallpapers, fabrics, and colors that work with the carpet. But it also works the other way around, by choosing a neutral color carpeting to go with the decor that has already been selected. Gray is our best-selling color, although there are also popular blues and distilled browns.

4. What is your most popular type of carpet?
Flat weaves represent the largest part—about 75 percent—of the products I sell. They are transitional and modern, come in a tremendous variety of colors and patterns, and can be produced relatively quickly and less expensively than traditional carpets. For example, a standard eight-by-ten-foot rug in the best construction, such as a Nepalese Tibetan hand-knot rug, would take as many as sixteen weeks to make and could cost about $5,000. A flat weave can be made in half the time and may cost less than $1,500. Also, many people prefer the lighter flat weave to the saturated-color Persian design that has been popular in the past, although there is still a place for that. Our flat weaves are made from soft, durable New Zealand wools and have a very casual, modern look that is in high demand.

5. You offer so many exclusive patterns. How do you get these?
I can show designers patterns they have never seen before online or elsewhere because many of ours are made specifically for L&M. Having worked with me for more than six years, the carpet mills in India and Nepal have a good understanding of what appeals to American designers. They frequently send me new designs that they think would be popular. I recently received fifteen brand-new flat-weave patterns from India-based designers. I may edit these, saying things like, “That’s too busy, but there is an element I’d like to develop.” So we are constantly adding to our portfolio.

L&M Custom Carpets and Rugs, 201-951-0980, lmcustomcarpets.com

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