For a chosen few, finding a career, one that can be described as anything but work, must be celebrated as an achievement. Having been immersed in a craft, a culture and a lifestyle that comes from a place of tradition doesn’t happen to many in a lifetime, and it doesn’t happen by accident. David Bakhshi acknowledges the opportunities that present themselves daily, knowing he was put here to fulfill a passion, a commitment and so much more.
You might say rugs and carpets are in his DNA; the very juice running through his veins, he lives and breathes a profession of which he is immensely proud, and one that has never wavered over time. Not only is every client important, but every transaction must be completed with the upmost care and understanding; treating each and every one of his customers–past, present and future–as if they were his own kin. Call him old fashioned, diligent or any number of adjectives, all of which accurately depict this gentleman and the traditional values of his craft, but look beyond and there is a charm, a dedication and genuine loyalty. It doesn’t happen by chance; a lifetime of building a clientele, getting to know people, building trust, providing them with what they need, ensures the business is built upon a solid foundation, where customers become returning friends.
“I am fascinated by the history and geography of where they are made, how they are made, and after so many years, maybe hundreds of years, still the rugs are surviving and people are enjoying them,” said Bakhshi, who refers to the rugs as “art on the floor”. As the founder and owner of Kingston Royal Rugs on Kingston’s Princess Street, David Bakhshi, the face and the heart of the business, has a long-standing reputation. Serving Kingston for eighteen years, the last few from a charming 1890s heritage storefront building, his love for antique rugs and their preservation runs deep.
With two more locations in Toronto, he imports and sells a wide selection of Oriental rugs to Canadians, within Ontario and beyond; he is the only business covering an area from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Brockville, reaching north and south. The Mount Pleasant location deals with antique and rare pieces, some a hundred years old, others three or even four hundred years old. “It looks like a museum; they are spectacular quality, one-of-a kind pieces you won’t see anything like it in Canada or North America, it’s phenomenal,” he says. His clientele comprises collectors, and institutions and organizations, such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the City of Toronto and several museums.
Restoring old and antique rugs means the textiles can live on, sometimes with the same family, perhaps in a different home, for another three or four generations. While restoration and repair are a big part of what Bakhshi does, his business also involves appraising and selling rugs, carpets and textiles, each of which is hand-picked by the master, where perhaps as many as twenty thousand have passed through his hands in his lifetime. “I have done so many special restoration pieces in different places and countries, including Rome, Italy and for a collector in France,” he adds. “There have been spectacular and magnificent pieces, very unique tapestries, rare pieces, and I have done many jobs for high-end dealers and collectors.”
“A rug has to speak to me before I purchase it, and each one is individual and one-of-a-kind,” Bakhshi explains that each rug is “unique in its design, and colour palette; it has the history, and an identification of the tribe, or the country or the city where it was created.” He has the skill and experience to look at a rug and identify the country, the region and often the maker from the way the wool has been dyed or by the choice of colours used, which can be specific to a certain family, or the clue may lay in the materials used, or the design and technique. “The rug is an identification of the family; how they made it, and you can basically tell from the quality and the design and the technique how they were making it,” said Bakhshi. “It is like a signature, the signature of the family.” Rugs are imported from Iran and Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Turkey and Morocco, and occasionally China. Interestingly, he explains how rug restoration is a more difficult process than making a new carpet. “With restoration, you have to exactly follow the steps of how they made it a hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, or even three hundred years ago, whatever they may be.”
Working with the rugs, whether it’s restoring, repairing, cleaning or buying, the process gives him a sense of purpose, a sense of place, a sense of history, and is where his heart lies, but he notes that you have to love it. “Your heart has to be in it; if your heart is not in it, you won’t get what you want.” For Bakhshi, an immigrant from Iran, he speaks fondly of Canada, the country he has proudly called home for a quarter of a century. His profession means love, passion and pleasure all coming together in one place, where he bonds with each piece he handles. “I go out of my way to give a boost to the person who made it and is no longer in this life,” he says. Bakhshi immediately connects to the soul of the rug maker to feel and experience the full flavour of each creation.
Having spent a lifetime working at a profession he refers to as a hobby, as a fourth generation family business, having mastered his trade since he was twelve years-old, Bakhshi will tell you it’s in his blood. “I haven’t done anything else in my life other than carpets,” he says, “I don’t know what any other job feels like as that’s all I know.” His work encompasses cleaning, restoration, repair, appraisals, dying wools, designing, and buying and selling. “It gives me joy, pleasure, energy when you look at the rug, and I look at it as representing the soul of the person who made it and it sticks with me.” He feels good energy in the pieces, recognizing their beauty and senses a communication with the rugs. “Every house I go to, if there are handmade rugs, it’s like I am having a family friend in this house and I am communicating with the carpet.”
Kingston Royal Rugs
214 Princess Street