How Four Co-Founders Are Revolutionizing The Rug Industry
The team at Batch sat down with Benjamin Hyman, the CEO and Co-Founder of Revival Rugs, to understand how he and his other three co-founders are revolutionizing the current rug industry.
You and your co-founders started Revival Rugs due to personal frustrations with the lack of fair prices, quality materials and unique styles in the U.S. market. How has Revival Rugs changed the industry?
I think most people who have shopped for a rug have experienced frustration. In our case, we were outfitting our first nice apartment and we wanted a special rug to be a centerpiece, but we didn’t have $3-5k to spend – our budget is more like $300-500. For most Americans there aren’t many good options. A customer who currently buys a $400 rug is likely buying a machine-made or hand-tufted rug, neither of which, we think, compares in quality to a handwoven, one-of-a-kind rug. Discerning rug shoppers often scour the web and find rugs of middling quality, or visit higher-end retailers only to discover prices that are out of reach.
Revival Rugs is able to offer a choice: now you can choose a high quality vintage rug with unique character rather than a machine-made rug for roughly the same price.
What do you enjoy most about working in the rug industry?
Earlier in my career I spent 6 years working in SE Asia and Latin America. Initially, I took a role as a researcher with Harvard University which threw me into Cambodian garment factories. I ran a program in Phnom Penh to measure and improve working conditions on massive factory floors. That role convinced me that while international commerce was indeed a force for good, the approach in some modern textile factories could be socially destructive.
I continued to work in Cambodia and Laos as a consultant for the World Bank. Much of my work was oriented towards keeping traditional industries – handicrafts and agriculture – alive by connecting artisans and farmers to international markets. With Revival Rugs, I feel like I’m continuing this mission.
Tell us more about how you source the rugs. What are the top 3 things you look for?
Joyce Kong is our Head of Product and hand selects every piece in our collections. She looks for these key elements when selecting rugs:
1) Design that features the hand knotted qualities of the rug – whether that’s a well-conceived motif, beautiful details, clean lines, etc. The common denominator is balance between all these factors. A rug can be maximalist and full of really intricate details but that also means it should have a really nice fade to it or be antique washed or over dyed to let those details really shine.
2) Artisanal details that are unique to hand knotted rugs like abrash which is the kind of dappled, watercolor effect that happens from handspun yarn having different saturations of dye and also from yarn being small batch dyed so the color isn’t uniform throughout. Those irregularities create a beautiful depth and dimension to color which is further enhanced by weathering and sun fading.
3) Color palette. On top of being aware of trends and what colors are popular, Joyce imagines the kind of place the rug could find a home. If she envisions it and thinks it’s beautiful then she says yes to the rug.
How does the collection of rugs reflect each founder’s style? How do you personalize that style for customers?
On the site we name all our rugs and we develop relationships with them. When the rugs are delivered to us in the states, I catch myself saying “oh this is Jordan...he looks even more beautiful in person.” Aycan, our Head of Turkey Operations, packs each rug by hand and calls them his babies. We all have our favorites and make friendly wagers about which of our favorites will go first.
What do you find most appealing about working with vintage rugs?
The rugs make me feel grounded and they evoke nostalgia and romanticism for me. Each one is unique and beautiful in its own way.
They can shape the character of your space, and they can reflect your personality.
The more upheaval and technological change modernity throws our way, the more people like me crave artisanal pieces that are rooted in history – items that are original and not made on a massive factory line.
Do you have any advice for someone trying to choose a rug for their home?
Imagine the color schemes you’d like before looking at the products. You might start with a Pinterest board. This helps to narrow down what can feel like an overwhelming amount of rugs to choose from.
Once you’re on our site, make use of our filtering system to narrow your search down to 2 or 3 rugs. Then get input from friends and family. On our website, we just created a wishlist function so that you can save the rugs that interest you so you don’t have to continue to search for them every time you visit the site.
Why are rugs so important to include when decorating a room?
Rugs help to unify a space and give it soul and character.
How do you maintain a rug?
With regular care, your rug will last for decades. We recommend that you regularly vacuum your vintage rug to remove dirt. Depending on how heavily your rug is used, just once or twice a month is adequate. Too much vacuuming can wear down the knots and fibers more quickly. If you have a suction attachment on your vacuum cleaner, use that instead of a rotary vacuum. Every few months, you’ll also want to flip your rug over and vacuum the back to get any grit out of the foundation of the rug. It also helps to rotate your rug once a year to ensure even wear over time.
Finally, every 3–5 years, we recommend getting your rug professionally hand washed. Please do not take it to get steam or dry cleaned – this will almost certainly damage the rug! Hand washing requires the use of a pH-balanced shampoo, worked into the rug by hand with a soft-bristled brush, before being rinsed thoroughly. This process should be repeated a few times.
How would you define your decorating style?
My style is pretty eclectic. For the first 15 years of my adult life I lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle and purchased unique pieces from wherever I was living. We have several antique tapestries in our apartment that I bought when I was living in Laos. Before moving to Oakland, Amber and I were living in Korea and there was an affordable furniture maker there who built us a wonderful wooden desk (that now serves as our dining room table) and a tv stand. We also have some great mid century pieces that we found on craigslist, and a beautiful teak chair from Masaya & Co. a neat brand that makes incredible pieces using sustainable practices in their studio in Nicaragua.
Which Revival Rug styles do you have in your home?
We have a tribal Anatolian runner with pinks, creams, and orange patterns, and a rug with a more ornate Anatolian motif in navy and crimson hues, which sits under our dining room table. Every time a new Revival collection comes through, we’re tempted to swap rugs.
We just had a little baby and the team in Turkey sourced a special blue kilim as a surprise gift for her birth. What makes this story particularly serendipitous is that Amber (my wife and a cofounder) saw a few photos of the rug and developed a crush on it before she knew that it was earmarked for us. Amber asked the team in Turkey about it and then it came to light that they had actually sourced it specifically for us. It’s weird how life works sometimes.