We Know Where to Get the Rugs of All Your Decorating Dreams

Aelfie Oudghiri’s label, Aelfie, is the perfect budget-friendly alternative for vintage lovers.

By: Hannah Baxter
Photography: Alec Kugler

If you’ve ever lost a couple hours of your life inside a Tumblr hole of drool-worthy interior spaces only to come up for air and wonder, How the hell do they find these amazing pieces?you’re not alone. We’ve all dreamt of the casual stumble across an original Herman Miller Lounger in the back of a dusty garage, or a gorgeous kilim rug peeking out from a stall at the flea market. Dreams they may be, but one woman in Brooklyn has managed to craft an entire career out of just such a lucky break.

Aelfie Oudghiri, aka the creator and designer behind her eponymous brand, Aelfie, has the type of unconventional background that you’d doubt still existed in a post-Jack Kerouac world. Her studies and travels have traversed the globe everywhere from Budapest to Paris to Bushwick, eventually landing in her sun-drenched Greenpoint studio in the neighborhood’s refurbished Pencil Factory. Unsurprisingly, the space is stacked with piles upon piles of rugs, vintage and her own designs, with several fuzzy poufs conveniently loitering within arm’s reach. Paintings and knick-knacks (including a Beavis and Butthead matryoshka doll) adorn the small studio, each with their own curious story of how they eventually came to reside in Brooklyn.

Spending time with Oudghiri means you’ll leave with both a thorough education of the artistry and history of rugs, as well as a sense of her dedication to preserving their style of craftsmanship via her own company. She’s deftly merged her passion for textiles with a whimsical modernity, and her piecesseveral of which are named after her friends and familyare ideal for the contemporary urbanite. While the former medical student admits that her Ivy League education initially steered her in a much different direction, we’ll luckily be coveting her growing label for years to come.

Click through the photos below for a peek inside the Aelfie studio and how a chance encounter at a dinner party might just be enough to launch your new career.

“My husband and I met at a hip-hop nightclub in Paris, and at the time I was in medical school in Budapest and he was working for The World Bank in Morocco doing energy-related projects. We fell in love, and I didn’t really want to move to Morocco, and he didn’t really want to move to Budapest. So we sort of settled on New York, and he convinced me [to] apply to Columbia.”

“So I fell in love, dropped out of medical school, moved back to New York, and it was the middle of the recession. Columbia is expensive, so I was kind of patching it all together, working a lot of strange little jobs. I worked in a genetics laboratory; I worked as a clean room janitor; I [worked] as a research assistant in the department of Middle Eastern, East Asian and African studies, and I was selling vintage textiles on eBay at the same time. I was studying religion, [and] I really liked the textiles—it really spoke to me.”

“I went to a dinner party at my family’s house, and they’re like, okay, what are you going to do now? I was drunk, and I was like, oh, I’m going to be a rug dealer, and my stepmother [said she knew] the perfect rug dealer. So she put me in touch with this woman, Valerie Justin, and Valerie was in her late 80s at the time, and she had this huge rug collection, and she didn’t want anything to do with it. I met up with her and started selling them on eBay at bottom-basement prices just to move them.”

“I was taking [the rugs] on consignment and then taking a percentage. [Valerie] shipped them from her L.A. storage unit to my tiny apartment—hundreds of beautiful tribal and antique carpets and textiles. So I made fliers, and I went and I stood next to the L train and I passed them out, and I put them in all of the coffee shops and I posted on Craigslist endlessly. I discovered that people like the handmade nature and they like the symbology and the history, but they also like the fun colors, but nothing too stuffy or traditional. That’s when I started thinking about designing.”

“[I drew inspiration] from a mix of the vintage rugs and also living in Bushwick at the time, because there's so much street art and cement trucks—it’s just loud. The industrial nature of it. All the palette truck guys and the neon orange vests, like I would look down at them in the morning [from the first studio] doing their chocolate croissant shuffling.”

“[Now] I think I’m probably drawing inspiration from a wider range of things and textiles and places and feelings. I have the time and the headspace. When I started, I was really, really studying rugs, because I was talking about vintage and antique textiles all the time. I knew about their history and the weaving and what all the little things mean. I still look at a lot of industrial stuff, like the U-Line catalogue [laughs].”

“The rugs are made in Northern India. They’re made by co-op weavers in a small area called Bhadohi. They’re traditional flat woven dhurries. When I was in antiques and the vintage textiles, I had a couple antique Indian dhurries, and I was like, these are the shit. The colors are amazing, the texture is really cool—the only issue is they’re cotton, which doesn’t hold up that well, but I was like, if you could make them in wool, that would be the sickest rug for an apartment.”

“I like pink. The funny thing is, if you use a fake dye, over time it turns pink. So, serious collectors sort of bristle at pink rugs, but I love the way that a synthetic dye wears. It’s not good for the long haul. I heard that up until into the 20th century, if weavers used synthetic dyes and yarns dyed with synthetic dyes, they would have your hand cut off.”

“Don’t be scared [of color]. Start with a crazy pillow and see how you feel. The rug you can go crazy—it’s pretty innocuous. I mean, think about these vintage pieces—all of the traditional rugs are completely fucking bananas, but they’re sophisticated-looking. I think the more toned-down a rug is, in a lot of ways the cheaper it looks and the more a waste of money it is. It’s a little bit of an investment.”

“I’m really excited about the [new] bedding. It’s that good stuff, that 300-count. We all worked on the bedding and came up with some crazy dream ideas [for the print]. I really like these little half-moon poufs just because they’re so functional and bizarre. I also love this table, the Mirah Geo Table. It’s named after my daughter.”

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