No matter how fabulous your family's matriarch is, and how much you love and respect her, there is a degree of negativity that accompanies the remark, "you're turning into your mother." Oftentimes delivered more as an accusation than a compliment, the "accused" is likely to respond with a certain level of disdain, most likely bordering on annoyance.
"Turning into your mother" conjures visions of women nagging their husbands to take out the trash, chasing their children with supplemental layers of outerwear ("Put on a jacket, I'm cold!"), and licking their index fingers to wipe shmutz off their childrens' faces (I swore I would never do this. It is now a daily occurence.).
Growing up, my own mother often made remarks about how different we were. I loved to shop, it was her own idea of torture. I spent hours getting dressed, and at the age of 7 developed a love for wide-brimmed hats, and eclectic hanging earrings. She loathed the dressing process, and was perfectly happy with four pairs of the same classic fit pants in slightly different variations of black or grey ("if it fits, buy multiples!"). She could change a tire, rewire a lamp, and kill a spider... and enjoy it. I didn't grasp the concept of "lefty loosy, righty tighty" until I was 15. On the surface it appeared we couldn't be more different, and I think it kind of turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Flash forward 20 years. Recently I was faced with choosing an area rug for the main living area in our house. I wanted something to pop. Something unlike anything we had. Something with color, richness, and a history. I wanted it to look like the floor covering belonging to the California-bred, embarrassed-of-his-sizable-trust-fund, handsome surfer dude living in an upscale bungalow on the shores of Maui. Something maybe his grandmother's mother passed down to her, and then to him. Mixed with modern pieces (tulip tables, cowhide upholstered seating, extra deep oversized sofas, arced floor lamps) I was looking for something with some substance and staying power that would tell a story. Was this too much to ask? Not too much for Ali and Tony at Mansion Rugs.
After hours (Fine. Days.) of internet research (can anyone ever really buy a semi-expensive rug online? I wouldn't recommend it.) and visiting a few rug stores - namely the ABC Carpet & Home Warehouse, and the new Rug Gallery here in Westfield - I found myself in Mansion Rugs on Rt. 22 thanks to a Google search. Skeptical and having no idea what I would find (or honestly what I was looking for - let's face it not everyone understands my wealthy-Cali-hawaii-surfer-chic vision) Ali and Tony were beyond accommodating.
I thought for sure I would have to travel into Manhattan for a selection like I found there. I was shocked at the variety of sizes and styles they had, and the willingness of the guys who worked there to lug, unroll, and subsequently re-roll rug after rug for my discerning (read: picky) designer eye to examine.
Ali (shockingly) understood what I was going for right away. He defined my style as "Tribal" and informed me I was looking for a rug that was "old or made to look old." He said I must have grown up with rugs like this, because I had a good eye for them. (This was the first hint of the "You're turning into your mother" threat (compliment?) I felt, but I pushed it aside. It was a passing comment and he didn't even know my mother! Right?) Ali took the time to explain the antiquing process that many rugmakers were using these days, as well as many other things I never knew about Oriental and Persian floorcoverings. He showed me pages from Architectural Digest that pretty much summed up what I was going for (what? my vision wasn't unique? Hrmph.) He took his time with me, and although I left the store empty-handed that day, he took my name and said he'd check his inventory and call me if he came across anything I might like.
And call he did. A few days later I met with him and Tony and they showed me four or five new rugs (as in, new old rugs. New to me, but old in terms of years on this planet.) they thought I'd like. They were beautiful and each one was more unique than the next. But one spoke to me. It was big (10x14ish), stately, red, blue, wonderfully warm and worn-looking, and looked remarkably similar to something that was currently lying on the floor in my parents' house.
Shoot. Does this mean I shouldn't like it? That's silly, right? This rug felt like "home" to me. But is that why?
I was jolted out of my existential musings by a shocking proposal from Ali. Take the rug home and try it out. For real? He actually insisted I do so. I was thrilled! What better way to see if I was making a good decision than to see the rug in its intended surroundings. And although their prices were surprisingly good (I expected to pay upwards of $3000 for a rug of that size... not true at all!) So he took my basic information, rolled it up, and helped me out to my car with it. Just like that I was sent on my way with a big, gorgeous, semi-antique, vaguely (disturbingly?) familiar-looking rug.
I had conflicting feelings on my ride home. I was excited to try the rug out in the room and to show the family, but something in the back of my mind was nagging at me. It was simultaneously exactly what I was looking for (my imaginary surfer friend would totally have this rug under his sandy feet), and also exactly what I had strived to do so differently in my own home. After growing up with nothing but old Oriental and Persian rugs and antiques, I sought out modern, contemporary, geometric, and natural-fibered rugs and furnishings for our house. This one was so similar to the rugs I grew up with. Ali was right.
I'm turning into my mother. Does this mean I shouldn't like this rug? Does this mean my taste is changing? Does this mean my mom has, gulp, GOOD TASTE?
And when did rug shopping turn into a therapy session?
When I unrolled the rug I got what I call the "decorating goosebumps." It was so right; there was no going back now. It was the perfect backdrop for our deep leather sofa, reclaimed wood media unit, and soon to be purchased modern furnishings. It was just old enough to look vintage (the reds were washed and worn to a striated coral hue, the blues watery and gentle), and in good enough shape to feel new. It had to be mine.
I immediately started thinking about the other rugs Ali and Tony had showed me, and where else I could use them around our house. I loved what this rug did for our room. It made it look lived in and rich, pulled together and eclectic at once. Straight out of the pages of Architectural Digest, indeed. I thought about the 2x3's that would look great thrown around my kitchen, and the runners that could grace my hallways, even a little one I could purposefully put in my walk-in closet to make it feel more like a boutique and less like a closet.
As I had anticipated, when my parents saw the new rug they loved it too. That day, I looked at my mom, dressed in her timeless and classy "uniform" of fitted cropped black pants and hint-of-whimsy summer tank (she swaps out the tank for an expertly tailored, always crisp, white button-down in cooler months. I realize now, what's chicer than that?). She looked beautiful, youthful, and nostalgic playing with my children, smiling from ear to ear, and telling me stories about myself that age. I pictured her at my age, with my dad, buying their own rugs that my brother and I would someday roll around and play on. Picking from piles until one spoke to her. Perhaps we weren't really so different? Maybe I was turning into my mother. Maybe I liked it.
This week she sent me a photo she found on a website of a photographer friend of hers. The image showed a handsome man, stretched out on a chaise atop a rug that looked like the spitting image of the one I was "test-driving." Her email said, "Is this the same rug?"
Although it was only five words, I felt sure at that moment that I was making the right decision. She liked it enough to remember its pattern, and pick it out of hundreds of images. I had her approval, and it felt great.
Instead of feeling that pang of realization that I was "turning into my mother," I felt proud that I had chosen something that she liked. I'm turning into my mother. Thank goodness.
Mansion Rugs, 213 US Highway 22, Green Brook, NJ, 08812, 732-529-5855, www.mansionrugs.com
Ellie Mroz is the C.A.O. and Design Specialist for , a Westfield-based Design/Build General Contractor. http://www.MichaelRobertConstruction.com
She can be reached at Ellie@MichaelRobertConstruction.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Michael Robert Construction, its affiliates, or its employees.