Antique rugs shop in Dublin full of life

  • —Rowan Wilson

  • —Rowan Wilson

  • —Rowan Wilson

  • —Rowan Wilson

  • A comparison between a rug with thousands of knots per square inch (left) and a rug with fewer knots (right) —Rowan Wilson

  • Bottom of two rugs —Rowan Wilson

  • Pap in 1993 years ago in front of his story Courtesy Photo—Peter Pap

  • Pap sits outside of his shop, recreating a 28 years after old photo Courtesy Photo—Susan Maunders Olson

  • Gallery at Peter Pap Rugs in Dublin Courtesy Photo—Susan Maunders Olson

  • Courtesy Photo—Susan Maunders Olson

  • Courtesy Photo—Susan Maunders Olson

  • Courtesy Photo—Susan Maunders Olson

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/17/2021 10:26:25 AM

Driving through Dublin on Route. 101, it’s hard to miss the big sign for Peter Pap Rugs. Nestled on the edge of Yankee Field, Pap opened his Dublin storefront in the early 1990s. Inside are about 2,500 rugs spread out on the floor, hung on walls and rolled up to save space. Looking down the showroom lined with white pillars and gallery lighting is a world of colors and textures, geometric patters, unique rugs that can’t be found anywhere else. “It is one of the most significant collections of rugs in the country,” Pap said.

Around 1974, Pap was living in Boston. Not sure where else to get a job, he was hired at a nearby second-generation Armenian-owned rug shop as a stock boy. He moved up in the business and started to work as a salesperson, which was when he said the older rugs “piqued my curiosity.” Pap started buying rugs from auctions, antique shows and estate sales. At that time in the United States, many people were getting rid of rugs without appreciating their value. Pap knew how much these rugs were worth, he knew they were art, and his career took shape.

Pap is bicoastal; he has a store in San Francisco and just bought a business in Oakland. He has recently become a Dublin resident again, and has been spending more time in the area now that his son is in college on the East Coast.

Pap explained that the term “oriental” as in “oriental rugs” was derived in the 19th century in reference to the “Orient,” the area that we now know as the Middle East. This is where most of the rugs were made, specifically in Persia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and the Caucasus region in Russia. Generally misunderstood and misused, the term has taken on a somewhat negative connotation.

Pap has been an appraiser on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” for 16 seasons. It has given him recognition all over the world. He described one episode in which a woman came in with a small wagon of rugs she had saved from a dumpster in San Diego. One rug, a “camel trapping from Turkmenistan, c. 1800, one of only 10 in that design know in the world at the time,” Pap appraised to have a retail value of $125,00 to $150,000.

Looking closely at the rug on the floor of his office space, Pap pointed out that the diamond shapes are much larger on one side than they are on the other. In fact the border becomes shorter, the design slightly different on each side. It’s asymmetrical.

Pap explained that when you buy one of these rugs you are “getting something that will never be made again.” Mostly made of wool, the rugs were crafted by tying rows of individual knots, which were then cut. It was a time-intensive process. Pap explained that rug-making was a “women’s art form, basically.” He explained that two or more women (depending on the width of the rug) would work side by side. With different eyes and hands working on the same piece, there were variations within each rug. As Pap described, it was “almost like a jam session, except it takes several months.” Of the modern rugs that try to replicate the originals today, Pap said they tend to be “a bit forced, a bit too symmetrical.”

Setting two rugs side by side, Pap compared a tightly knotted, intricately designed rug, one probably made in an urban workshop with the intent to be exported (often designed to please Western taste) to a looser, more free-form pattern. The latter would have been made by nomads or villagers to use for practical purposes within their community. “You can sense the joy. I think it was a joyful experience,” Pap said. It gives ethnographers and collectors like Pap a look into what life was like, what colors and patterns were valued. Each rug tells a story.

Pap said there is “a lot of personality and soul to rugs – when carefully chosen [one] almost becomes like a family member.” Unlike a generic rug someone might buy from a department store, if taken care of, these rugs don’t lose their value. When considering what place antique rugs will have in the future, Pap said there’s a “shift where younger people are tired of buying things that are disposable.” Perhaps more people will choose to purchase a rug with personality, one that “can be with them for a lifetime.”

Pap emphasized that the pandemic has changed our relationship to spaces. With many people working from home, it has become more important to feel connected to the art that surrounds us. He encourages people to stop by to look around the shop and take the opportunity to see some beautiful rugs.

Peter Pap Oriental Rugs is open Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by chance. Pap can be reached at 603-563-8717 and inquiries@peterpap.com. He can be found on Instagram, Facebook and his website, peterpap.com.


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