Ben Soleimani is already a maestro of rugs. Over the past three decades, he has helped change the way many people think about floor coverings, fostering a shift from traditional Persian motifs to contemporary designs awash in nuanced color, free-form patterns and appealing textures.
Now, he is expanding his focus beyond what lies underfoot. With his new eponymous company, Soleimani is offering a broad range of products, including furniture, lighting, bedding, trays, vases and candles, which together embody a complete vision for the upscale home and an aesthetic that emphasizes texture, calm and freshness.
“The rugs, of course, are still the foundation for everything,” says Soleimani. “But I have a lot more to offer. This is about a lifestyle. I have my own look, my own understanding and my own knowledge I want to bring to the world.”
Soleimani has never been short on ambition — or business savvy. He was born in Iran and raised in London, where in 1984 his parents established the celebrated rug dealer Mansour (the company earned a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales in 2002). As a teen, he decamped to Los Angeles to establish a showroom for the firm there. Once this outpost was up and running, he launched Mansour Modern to offer carpets with more contemporary designs, including collections he created with such top designers as Victoria Hagan, Michael S. Smith and Kerry Joyce.
“I started working full-time at the age of seventeen,” says Soleimani, now 48. “Back then, rugs were just something you bought when you went to Turkey or certain other countries, in isolation from the rest of the design package. Ninety-five percent of them were blue-and-red rugs — a patterned, loud thing that you put on the floor. So I worked very hard to change the way rugs were perceived. I saw them more as part of interior design. Matching colors, creating unity and doing custom designs only came with time.”
Where color and pattern are concerned, whether in rugs or furniture, Soleimani likes to keep things very clean. “Less is more,” he says. “That has always been my approach, along with a focus on texture and practicality.”
Gary Friedman, the chairman and CEO of Restoration Hardware, took note and in 2010, when the retailer was in the midst of a major expansion, partnered with Soleimani to design its carpets. Before long Soleimani had become the company’s highly visible textile guru.
Soleimani earned his rug-selling chops at Mansour, which operates at the high end of the market; partnering with RH taught him how to reach the broader market. In his new company, he is applying the lessons learned from both experiences. “We’re creating top-level home goods. The materials we use are of the highest quality, from all around the world,” he says. Even so, the prices aren’t astronomical. The brass Raine side table, which has a sculptural cinched waist, is $640; the Bauhaus-inspired Rives dining table, made from thick slabs of solid oak, is $2,220; the monumental Weston cantilevered brass floor lamp is $1,880; and gracious upholstered sofas start at under $3,000.
Rugs, of course, remain a primary focus, and are similarly affordable, ranging from understated flatweave wool designs for $795 to luxuriously plush Moroccan wool designs beginning at $1,295.
“When your prices are fair, some people think, ‘Oh, the quality must not be at the top,’ ” Soleimani says. “That’s simply not true.”
How does he maintain accessible price points even as he focuses on creating high-quality goods? “We run a lean business, we manufacture directly, and we assemble things where people are good at working by hand and achieving what we need in the most efficient way,” he says.
Currently, Soleimani’s company, which launched last year, sells online, notably at his 1stdibs storefront, and through a street-level showroom on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. There, an exterior mural displaying the words “truth” and “love,” which Soleimani commissioned from the artist Ruben Rojas, welcomes visitors. He expects to open a New York showroom later this year, followed by additional U.S. outposts. “We’re going to open twenty stores around the country in major cities,” he says. “I think it’s important for people to be able to see and touch, to understand the quality.”
Currently, he’s focused on expanding the company’s collections. “I have so much coming, and not a single thing gets made without my say. I have a design team, but I critique and sign off on everything,” he says. “We’re designing things that are real, practical and usable.”
If that means facing new challenges beyond the world of rug production, Soleimani is more than ready to take them on. “I always ask myself, ‘What’s the maximum I can learn and grow today?’ That’s how I live my life, from the moment I open my eyes in the morning to the moment I close them at night,” he says. “We are building this company to be a real player in the top-end home-goods market.”
Ben Soleimani shares his thoughts on a few choice pieces from his company.