Murat Tasdemir, the owner and president of Tasdemir Rugs on Bainbridge Island, Wash., doesn’t just move merchandise, he connects clients with “the right art,” he said. “I believe that carpets are an art, and each individual carpet has a story to tell.”
This personable purveyor of rugs from the Middle East and beyond will be presenting a Turkish rug trunk show May 23 and 24 at Sesame and Lilies, 183 N Hemlock St., where Tasdemir has sold rugs for the last few years.
The show will include about 200 wool and silk rugs for sale — principally Turkish, but also Persian, Russian, Indian and Pakistani — plus the collection of about 20 already available at the store. Many of the older rugs are traditional pieces woven by Turkish women for their homes and sold to Tasdemir, and most of the newer ones are designed by American artists in the Turkish fashion, he said.
Sizes usually range from 3-by-5 feet wide to 10-by-15 feet long, the prices from about $120 to $12,000. A decent 7-by-10-foot rug woven between the 1940s and 1960s can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000, he said.
Tasdemir and one of his employees will bring other Turkish and Turkish-style goods, such as scarves, textiles, silk pillows and custom jewelry, he said.
Selling rugs is only one side of Tasdemir’s skill set; he also does a kind of field work, venturing into the homes of prospective buyers and finding rugs that “match” their interior design. He often makes an initial visit to check out the client’s home, sans rugs, then makes a second visit with several rug options.
“I am good on decorating — seeing the house and seeing the colors and seeing what will be best to put in their home,” he said.
Though the trunk show is scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Tasdemir may remain in town a day or two later, just in case customers invite him over and ask him to assess their rug needs.
“If they want to come and buy what they want, if they know what they want, that’s great,” he said, “but I’m also there to serve, and I’m going to be there to build a connection with clients, and I’ll do what is needed to help the people.”
Besides educating his customers about the rugs they intend to purchase, he seeks to educate them about the rugs they already have.
“He’s the quintessential Turkish rug salesman,” said Diane Speakman, who co-owns Sesame and Lilies with her husband, Jay Speakman. “He’s just so full of energy, and he’s just so eager to make everyone happy.”
A U.S. citizen since 2003, the 43-year-old Tasdemir was born in Malatya, Turkey, and at age 17 started cleaning and folding carpets for a company in Istanbul.
He took his expertise from one company to another until, in the mid-1990s, he found himself working for a company that sold to the states, and he became its overseas representative.
His first stop was in Tucson, Ariz., and he then made the rounds in Portland and, later, Bainbridge, where, after renting out a space for a few years, he opened his own rug store in 1999. That same year, he married his wife, Lisa, who owns a boutique named Lilies across the street from Tasdemir Rugs.
In his travels, Tasdemir has sold thousands of rugs, decorated thousands of homes and carried products through the country, he said. “Name a state, and I have sold there.”
Recently, in what he called his “biggest adventure,” he traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he sold rugs and did some interior decorating for a group of prominent citizens.
“For me, it’s very important for the right carpet to go to the right house,” he said. “If they know what they have, they’re going to appreciate the carpet that they have more.”
For 15 years, Tasdemir’s business has steadily grown, in part, because of word of mouth, a potent force in his line of work.
“I think word of mouth is very beautiful — and very powerful, too,” he said.