Arguably, the rug is the foundation of a room’s design elements. Its design, whether minimalist or intricate, sets the tone for the space and makes way for the right furniture, lighting and décor.

Keeping this in mind, the nearly 30-year-old business RenCollection is pivoting back to its roots and keeping its focus on where it all started: rugs.

“The room is built around the rug when it’s done properly,” says Bryce Smith, manager of the Dallas Design District store.

Saied Esfahani opened the business in 1995 under the name Renaissance Collection. With his wealth of contacts throughout Asia and the Middle East, Esfahani has been able to provide homeowners and interior designers with a bevy of one-of-a-kind pieces. The business eventually expanded to include hand-carved Italian furniture and lighting as well as antiques, but after more than two decades in business, Esfahani is returning to a rug-focused showroom with imports coming from Iran, Turkey, China, India, Central Asia and Russia.

“He wanted to display rugs in a different way than anyone else in the city does,” Smith recalls. “My background is in theater set design, and I immediately thought, ‘Let’s create a stage for each room and make the rug the star.’”

Instead of having customers pore over the thousands of rugs available at RenCollection, they now walk in and are greeted with three dozen vignettes. Rugs hang on the walls with furniture before them, a part of a scene designed by Smith to elicit a creative response. From there, Smith helps customers narrow down the style and feel that they’re looking for and provide them with a more tailored approach to rug shopping.

“You can see how the rug changes the furniture, how the furniture changes the rug,” Smith explains. “I’m not showing them 5,000 rugs. I’m showing them five rugs that I know they’re going to love.”

Smith joined the business venture after spending years in theater as an opera singer and set designer. He spent a decade in New York City as well as a year in Berlin, performing, but he took a hiatus to care for his father in Mississippi. After his father passed away, Smith had an opportunity to help his voice teacher’s daughter with revamping a showroom. Even though he had no experience in interior design, he took the challenge and relocated to Dallas, where he now also performs with The Dallas Opera.

When Smith became the manager of RenCollection, Esfahani let him run wild. “He gave me full authority to do whatever I wanted to do. This showroom became my sandbox and I just started playing around and experimenting,” he says. “It’s not where I thought my artistic career would go, but it’s still visual art and I love it.”

The unconventional approach to the showroom has been working. It is visually easier for customers to digest, and the company prides itself on helping clients understand the difference between the types of rugs, regional differences in the design, the best way to care for them and the lingo that comes with the world of rugs—something that can be overwhelming.

And RenCollection’s work doesn’t end when the rug is sold. The company also provides cleaning and restoration services, something that clients have gravitated toward. This is another opportunity for education, as many rug owners tend to spot clean a rug on their own, or assume it’s ruined, instead of bringing it in for a full cleaning.

“You’ll always see that spot,” Smith explains. “You have to clean the whole rug so the entire rug receives the care that that one spot is going to receive. That makes sure that the entire rug looks uniform from one side to the other. Let a professional come pick up the rug, take it, wash it, clean it, treat it.”

The rug is the foundation of the room, after all. Smith says that when interior design is done properly, the rug is the base of the inspiration. And if a designer or homeowner still can’t find their perfect rug from the thousands available at RenCollection, Esfahani’s connections are sure to source it. Fairly quickly, the team can see what is available or even what rugmakers are currently working on. With the company’s 30th anniversary coming up, they are working on adding custom rug lines to the Dallas market.

“We’ve seen some stunning rugs and beautiful pieces that are in the process, and we think it’s going to be a wonderful design trend when they hit the U.S. market,” Smith says. *

Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.

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