Last fall, SHIIR Rugs debuted a new collection featuring a bold choice in material—leather. Available now in select showrooms across the U.S. and England, the line includes seven designs featuring a mix of treatments and combinations of silk and hair-on-hide: Breton, Callahan, Essex, Hawsbury, Holborn, Ludlow, and Warwick.
Interior designers Shea Soucie, Martin Horner (of Soucie Horner, Ltd.) and Oscar Isberian Rugs’ Oscar Tatosian and Sarkis Tatosian are the visionaries behind SHIIR. They source the best materials from around the world to handcraft customizable rugs to meet their client’s design dreams.
To learn more about how to better incorporate leather into the home—and not just on the floor—Whitewall spoke with Soucie about travel, trends, and experimenting with new techniques.
WHITEWALL: What made you interested in exploring leather in your rugs?
SHEA SOUCIE: Our mission has always been to develop a collection of textures that could be layered. We want to see houses filled with different fibers, materials, and styles so they look like they were collected over time, not variations on a theme that look like they were purchased in an afternoon.
Those explorations eventually led us to leather. It layers beautifully in a mountain house with a cashmere rug, for example, or with an antique Persian rug in a wood-paneled library. Rugs offer a whole new way of looking at leather and we wanted to explore that. We also wanted to explore the idea of using rugs other places than just on floors. Leather is ideal for use as wall panels, headboards and upholstery, too.
WW: What kind of techniques did you explore with this collection?
SS: We did the same sort of exploration with our new Leather Collection as we do with every collection: we took a material people think they’re familiar with and experimented with ways to innovate in terms of technique and design to offer designers something new and exciting they haven’t seen before. Our Warwick rug is a great example. It features a stitching technique known as trapunto, which is typically found on high-fashion clothing. That’s a revolutionary way to think about leather in the rug world.
WW: How does travel play a role in influencing new collections?
SS: SHIIR rugs cross borders and cultures in multiple ways. There are the different countries where our materials are sourced and hand-crafted. Then there are the artistic talents that different cultures contribute to our designs by artisans who learned their craft at the side of their parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents. And then there’s the more traditional notion of travel as it relates to design in terms of how it opens your eyes.
To that end, we’re influenced by everything. I mean, everything. Nature, antiquities, Venetian velvet, marbleized end papers for books, ancient art techniques—they all inspire our designs. Travel, and the many new and exciting things we see and experience when we travel—whether to Marrakesh or Russia or Japan—has a huge impact on our designs.
WW: What trends in rug design are you into right now?
SS: We’re not into trends at all! Our rugs are pieces of art; they’re heirlooms in waiting. They’re literally hand-crafted by master artisans, and are incredibly high quality. They’re the exact opposite of trendy, which by definition implies something will be passé sooner rather than later.
Having said that, we’re always watching fabric lines, fashion trends and color trends to see which directions the marketplace is moving to ensure our lines offer options designers are looking for.
WW: What trends should clients maybe avoid?
SS: One of the things that differentiates SHIIR from other rug lines is that of the four partners of the company, two of us are interior designers and we are passionately committed to avoiding trends. No one wants to live in a house that’s going to be outdated as soon as the next big thing comes along. Houses should be as unique as the people who inhabit them.
To us, that means designing things that are intensely personal and customized to suit a particular client’s tastes and preferences and lifestyle. That includes rugs, and that is one of the reasons we were determined from the very beginning to build a collection that is completely customizable. It’s not about trends.
WW: How can a rug make a room? What do you tell clients who might be afraid of making a bold choice with a rug?
SS: Not only are rugs one of the most expensive line items in a designer’s budget, we would argue they’re also the most important. A rug is the literal foundation of a room. It can and should set the tone for the rest of the design.
As for being afraid of making a bold choice, it’s really more about making the right choice. Do you have kids or pets? You may want to use a wool rug, because wool is so easily cleaned. Silk, on the other hand, is incredibly durable, which most people are surprised to learn. But because it’s not as easily cleaned, it’s better for a less-trafficked area such as a master bedroom.
WW: What are some of the materials you’ve been experimenting with for new collections?
SS: We are always experimenting—with fiber, with texture, with new and innovative ways to use materials that have been synonymous with luxury for centuries. That is how we’ve always approached design, and that will never change.