Banilivy Rug Corporation: Staying True to Tradition

April 23, 2013 3:12 am Last Updated: April 23, 2013 1:57 pm

NEW YORK—The Banilivys are very good at staying put. The family, originally from Iran, has been in business for about 60 years, 40 of which have been spent in New York.

Amid the market’s clamors for avant-garde carpet designs, Banilivy Rug Corporation has also stayed put in its conviction that age-old designs will always retain their appeal, regardless of current trends.

Masood Banilivy and his cousin Leon run Banilivy Rug Corporation, a highly respected carpet wholesaler on West 28th Street.

“We are more of a traditional house,” said Masood Banilivy. “That was a decision that we made because we want to sell something that is good forever. What we sell may not be a trendy kind of rug, but it is good today, it was good yesterday, and still will be years from now.”

Come One, Come All

Though the bulk of the Banilivy business is wholesale, no individual customer is ever turned away. For them, Banilivy offers prices “a little above wholesale.”

The store carries rugs large and small from Persia, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Romania, and China. All day long, retailers shuttle in and out with hand trucks and orders to be signed. Banilivy juggles his accounts deftly, in the easy, convivial manner reminiscent of the old country.

While the company has in stock some modern styles to meet demand and a small selection of machine-made pieces to vary price point, what really drives the business are traditional-style, handmade rugs.

“I personally came into the business because I love art,” Banilivy said. “[For] every rug, someone put a lot of effort into it—making the rug, dying the wool, designing it. Every piece is artwork in and of itself.”

The gamut of patterns is vast and varied. Just in Iran, one can rattle off a sing-song list of rug-producing cities and villages—Isfahan, Nain, Shiraz, Abadeh, Qom, Bijar—and each place has its own style of weaving, its own patterns and coloration.
Telling all of the styles apart is not something a layperson can learn from a guidebook.

“It’s not that easy, but if you stay in business long enough, you can tell because of the texture, the weave, the workmanship, and wool quality,” Banilivy said.

Key Purchasing Considerations

Home decorators usually shop with color and pattern criteria in mind, but wool quality, knot count, and dye type are important when it comes to the longevity of the item.

“What’s important in buying rugs are two things: quality of the wool used and the knot count,” Banilivy said. “The tighter the knot, the better. If more material is used, it makes the design nicer, finer-looking.”

Banilivy says a good knot count is anywhere between 300 and 400 knots per square inch. To determine this on your own, just count the knots going vertically and horizontally in any given square inch on the back of the rug. With practice, you’ll be able to tell by sight alone.

Carpets produced in villages have a cotton foundation and wool in the pile; nomadic herders use only wool throughout, since they do not grow cotton.

Judge wool quality by touch. You want something pliable and dense. Seasoned collectors develop a feel for where the wool originated; climate conditions produce regional differences in wool quality.

Aim to buy a naturally dyed rug over a synthetically dyed one. Vegetable dyes have a more delicate color and bind better to the fibers, while synthetic dyes fade at varying rates over time, leaving unsightly “roots” in the base of the pile.

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