“The Rug Lady” Shares Decorating Trends for Today

 By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

It started as a quest to know more about fine rugs, specifically Oriental rugs, about which I may know the first thing, but not the second thing.  By asking around, I learned of Antoinette G. Lombardi and her reputation for being so accomplished in the field of rugs that she is known in this region as “The Rug Lady,” a handle which she has trademarked.

After meeting with Lombardi at The Rug and Home Gallery, her large store and showroom in Thornwood, and listening to what she had to say about home decorating in general, I decided that, rather than an article on just rugs, which is still Greek to me, if not Chinese, I would switch my focus to her down-in-the trenches experience with what is happening in decorating trends since the beginning of the Great Recession. 

“People are not as interested today in fine rugs as they were in the 1980s when I got started,” she said. “Maybe it’s about not appreciating the art or workmanship of fine carpets any more, or maybe it’s the money. Or, maybe it’s just that they have different values today.

“At one time, expensive Oriental rugs, indestructible as they are, were handed down from mother to daughter, but that doesn’t happen anymore,” she continued. “In fact, my clients say, ‘I don’t want my rugs to look like my grandmother’s.’  They’re not interested in looking at the old Sarouk, Kashan or Kerman carpets. Of course, there will always be a percentage of people who want fine carpets, but the number has fallen drastically in recent years.

“Also, customers don’t seem to want the bright reds and blues of the Oriental carpets of past years, but rather prefer more muted, softer tones,” she said, and those preferred tones are reflected throughout the three floors of  her 5,000 sq. ft. gallery in rugs, furnishings, accessories and hangings, accompanied by only small flicks of color as accents.

“I’ve also found that today, people prefer to find the ‘whole package’ for decorating under one roof rather than buying a rug in one place, furniture in another and accessories in still another, “ she said. “Now everyone is working harder and longer to keep up, and no one has the time to shop around for the look they want. They come to me because, once they tell me their basic preferences, they like the way I’m able to take the burden off their shoulders and do all the arranging ‘from the ground up,’ literally. That’s why I decided to offer the entire decorating service under one roof,” she said.

“I compare the decoration of a space to planning a special event,” she added by way of analogy.  You wouldn’t run all over the place to find first the location, then go someplace else for the food, and another place for the linens and china. I use the same principle, where all the elements of a room are selected from my own inventory and what I can secure from my suppliers.  If a prospect asks me if I will go shopping around with them for furnishings, I decline. That’s not my customer.”

Lombardi’s formula for building a client relationship is to ask first what the budget is.  “I say, just give me a number and I’ll stick to it, and you’ll be happy with the results.”   She uses the same formula when she works with her commercial clients.

When asked what she does when a client has a limited budget, especially in these crimped times, Lombardi said, “I strongly suggest that they prioritize their needs.  That might mean selecting just one room to decorate, perhaps where the family gathers or where they entertain.  I certainly understand today’s constraints and want to work within them.”

Having started her business in 1982 as an at-home operation with two rug sales per year, in spring and fall, at the Ramada Inn in Armonk,  Lombardi bought her first retail store with partner Luigi Festagallo in 1995.  When she expanded into a full service decorating  business, she moved to the larger building in Thornwood and, since then, The Rug Lady switched to decorating from the floor up, offering the “package” decorating service with the help of her daughter Louise.

Asked if she is a certified interior designer, she said simply and pluckily, “No. All I’ve ever had was a sense of style and my own passion for beautiful things.  All I’ve ever done is to listen to what people say they want, and all I really sell is service.”

Part of that extended service, and an important element of her business from the beginning, is a very successful rug cleaning and repair service, a winning operation cited as “The Best of Westchester” in Westchester Magazine, where the price per square foot includes pick-up and delivery. 

To get to know Antoinette G. Lombardi personally, visit the Rug and Home Gallery at 722 Commerce Street, Thornwood. She’s sure to be there.  Also, visit her website, www.rug-lady.com, or call her at 914-741-2486.

 Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (www.PrimaveraHomes.com), affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner (www.PrimaveraPR.com). For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.