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Home Series: Luxury Underfoot

Start with the rug; you can find a great one in Norwalk.

One of Elizabeth Eakins contemporary patterned rugs.

Although a few designers may take cues from a key piece of furniture when creating an interior, many get inspiration from the floor covering — they start with the rug

There are many types of expensive rugs, from Persian antiques to all kinds of handwoven carpets.

One option, with its manufacturing facility located in Norwalk, gives buyers an opportunity to observe the process, from the skeins of wool that create it, to feeling its soft fibers at home, beneath their feet.

Elizabeth Eakins started weaving when she was very young, pursuing her love of textiles at art school in northern California, and then at Berkeley. Coming east, she began her handwoven rug business in 1978 from her loft in lower Manhattan, eventually branching out to a showroom uptown, and then a move to SoNo in Connecticut. In 2000, she created her current production and sales facility on Taft Street in Norwalk, designed by architect Deborah Berke. It is bright, airy, and has the technology to keep the air pristine for the benefit of employees and clients alike.

What differentiates her products are a dedication to the qualities she wanted to maintain in her company from its inception.

“We use all-natural fiber, we spin the yarn ourselves, we make our rugs by hand, with our own employees, in our own, dedicated facilities,” says Eakins. “We know the source of everything that goes into our finished products.”

Her rugs have the artisanal quality familiar to any connoisseur of handmade products. For her Private Reserve line of handwovens, the wool starts as the fleece from the Border Leicester sheep on her own Midwest farm. Border Leicesters are prized for their wool — Eakins does not raise her flock for meat — and the line expands with the flock. This year she expects the lambing to yield another 20 sheep for her flock, which is shorn twice a year. Lead time for these beautiful floor coverings is four to five months.

The company has seven different lines, among them a hand-hooked line that can be custom-designed to a client’s own pattern preference. And, while the rugs can cost into the many thousands for a large custom piece, many of Eakins hand woven rugs, fabrics and pillows are aggressively priced for the company’s annual sale, held this year from May 1-3 at the Taft Street facility. Four thousand eager customers showed up at the 2013 sale; follow the company’s blog in the month or two before the sale to see what will be on offer.

“People sometimes wait all year for this sale, and many book a room at a local hotel and come to Norwalk from a pretty long distance,” notes Eakins, who creates room settings, does special runs of the looms just for the sales, and tests new designs with the responses of attendees. 

You don’t have to wait until the sale to see the Eakins rugs, however. The Taft Street manufacturing and showroom facility is open all year, Mondays through Fridays from 9 to 4; contact Fabric Division Manager Mary Zubrinsky in advance, so that you’ll get personal attention when you visit.

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