When Jacob Rahman founded his SOHO Design House Brand in 2012, he was still serving a four-year deployment in Afghanistan. But that didn’t stop Rahman from conceptualizing a unique idea for functional art: fine art rugs.
“What I do is offer limited-edition, handmade rugs designed by artists. Each rug is essentially an extension of the artist’s canvas,” Rahman says.
Rahman opened his physical space on Melrose in 2014, where he displays a number of rugs for clients to view and select from, while also providing specifically requested commissioned pieces.
“Buyers can use the finished piece as a hanging tapestry or on the floor as a rug. It is fully functional art,” Rahman explains.
His weavers work with wool, silk, and a combination of the two materials, and each rug is entirely hand-knotted. The company imports Tibetan wool in a raw form, meticulously washes and cards it, spins it into yarn, and dyes it before weaving. Weavers uses graphs of a design suspended in front of them on a loom. Once woven, the rug is clipped and carved, washed and dried in direct sunlight. The process doesn’t stop there: it’s clipped and carved a second time, stretched on all four sides, then finished and checked for size, shape, and design.
“When I started formulating the idea for my company, in my spare time I reached out to both artists and weavers. By the time I was finished with my duties, I had a collection of about a dozen rugs already made,” he relates. “Then when I returned to the states, I acquired the space to display them.”
While many of Rahman’s clients have heard about his rugs online or through word of mouth, rather than casually coming in from the street, he enjoys having an address on Melrose Avenue. “It’s a nice address to have,” he asserts.
SOHO Design House works with a consistent team of weavers, but their roster of artists continues to expand. “I am constantly growing my collection of artists, annually I’ll try to acquire two or three more artists each year on average, and work with them seasonally,” Rahman says. He likes to release new rugs at the beginning and in the middle of the year.
Among the artists that Rahman has worked with are David Flores, Tristan Eaton, and Ron English. In the coming year, he plans to work with Mark Dean Veca and iconic Los Angeles street and graffiti artist Chaz Bojórquez, who has been influencing area artists since the 1950s.
“Whatever the artist creates goes directly into the rug,” Rahman reports, whether the designs are figurative or abstract.
“Each of our designs is unique, but some commissioned pieces require something more unusual. We’ve had requests for an irregularly shaped rug with jagged edges that looked like the surface of the moon. I’ve also had a piece commissioned that was really hypnotic-looking, an optical illusion type of effect. As you walk on it, it looks as if the rug is undulating under your feet.”
Because the rugs are designed by artists, they’re all “extremely visually forward,” Rahman notes. He says that many of his customers receive their completed rugs “with awe. They treat the rugs primarily like art pieces. They’re really looking for an artwork rather than just a rug.” SOHO Design House itself is, more like an art gallery than a rug shop.
“We show at Art Basel in Miami every year,” Rahman reports.
Not many rug shops can say that.
“I want people to know that we are truly creating art rugs, and we can virtually make any design into a rug.”