Floor Show: Jakob Staron
May 1, 2018
A sort of creative wanderlust is behind the unique rugs Jakub Staron creates through his Stamford-based company.
Text by Maria LaPiana
Jakub Staron is an accidental weaver, an artist turned businessman who chanced upon a career path that led to the world of luxury rugs—for reasons that had nothing to do with warp or weft, at least not initially.
Staron is the owner and creative force behind J.D. Staron, the custom rug and carpet company headquartered in Stamford’s Waterside Design District. Selling to the trade only, Staron is known for its finely crafted, richly textured rugs and sophisticated, original designs. Established in 2004, the company has grown from one showroom to nine, including locations in Paris and London.
“Jakub’s design vernacular was rooted in history from the beginning,” says Judy Zolt, who with her husband, Rick, is a managing member of the company. “His designs blur the lines between timeless antique carpets and edgy, contemporary weaves.”
Rugs are his passion now. But painting was Staron’s first love.
He grew up in Poland, where he went to an art school that offered only three areas of concentration: sculpture, ceramics, and weaving. He had no interest in the first two, so he settled on weaving mostly because it seemed like “the closest thing to painting.” After moving to the U.S., he found himself torn between following his art and enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. “Luckily, I heard from Parsons School of Design first,” he says.
He worked his way through school by repairing antique carpets, so after graduating (and earning an MFA from Hunter College), his résumé was heavy on practical experience and a knowledge of antiques. But he still wanted to paint. What changed? “I finally accepted the fact that no one wanted to buy my paintings,” he says. “That’s when I really started liking weaving.”
He began “inventing textures,” experimenting with riffs on classic, dimensional Aubusson carpets—and found success. For years, he sold exclusively to industry leader Stark Carpet. In 2004, he opened a studio in New Canaan, selling on a small scale to established designers. His first client was Cindy Rinfret of Greenwich; his second was Healing Barsanti of Westport—not too shabby. When he outgrew the space, he opened his first showroom in Stamford. The Zolts joined the company a few years later: Judy in 2007, and in 2013, Rick, who was vice president of sales and marketing at Stark.
Staron is hands-on in every way—from designing new patterns to designing new showrooms. He travels constantly—to China, India, Nepal, Thailand, Pakistan—to visit the weavers who make his designs a reality. Today, says Judy, “J.D. Staron rugs pay homage to tradition—the Oushaks, Aubussons, Tibetans, and Agras—but with a twist.” Increasingly, clients have been drawn to Staron’s abstract and contemporary designs.
But he insists it’s not his designs that make the company unique. Unlike many manufacturers who apply designs onto a carpet (“it’s like taking a painting and throwing it at a rug”), Staron doesn’t separate pattern from texture. “We integrate our designs into the weaves, changing the technique, depending on the texture we want to create,” he says.
Staron is determined to offer clients something they can’t find anywhere else, even in the fast-changing world of interior design—or maybe because of it. “You can get anything you want online, but there’s still an acute need for a designer. Someone who really understands interiors, the purpose of interior design.”
An independent opinion is invaluable. “If the only point of view delivered to you is your point of view, you’ll never grow,” he says. “And when you have a choice between something of significance and something mass-produced, wouldn’t you rather have something of significance?”
While his inspiration comes from all over, “the truth is I am a malcontent,” says Staron. “I’m miserable, never happy with the current state of affairs. I’m bored easily and always on the lookout for a change. Take the trend toward silver and gray. Everywhere it’s silver and gray. When 80 percent of what you sell is silver and gray, you might think we’d just make more silver and gray. No. That’s when I know it’s time for a change.”
It’s that desire to keep things fresh that’s got him planning to change things up in a big way. “You always have to stay ahead of the curve,” he says. Next up: a collection of lush, luxe, mostly handwoven fabrics from India and Nepal. Samples of the limited-edition textiles, made of alpaca, mohair, and other natural materials, were enthusiastically previewed at a pop-up concept gallery at Maison & Objet in Paris last year. Design consultant Crans Baldwin, who is working on the new venture, says there is keen interest in what he calls “not so much a line as a crazy collection of exotic and exquisite fabrics” that will be available in May or June.