Stanislav V’Soske revolutionized the carpet industry in 1924 by inventing the modern hand-tufting technique of rug making. Since then, family-owned V’Soske Inc. has always set a high standard in the design community for textiles that help define interior space, a standard sustained in 1979 with the appointment of Ellen Hertzmark and Roger McDonald as directors of design. In 1989, the AIA recognized the company with an Institute Honor Award for its collaboration with architects and, in 2012, New York’s Center for Architecture exhibited V’Soske’s work in a retrospective entitled “Architecture in Transition, 1979-1993.”
The way we prefer collaboration is early on in the project. Our clients know that we feel the floor is an integral part of architecture—that plane is the most important surface in the building’s design. It affects the resolution of the walls, the ceiling, and the space as a whole. The materials that we use are so important to us, too—whether they are refractive or absorbent, so that the rug responds to the ambient and direct light, for instance, in the space. We use wool and silk, and the silk acts as a guide to push light onto the piece itself, just as the yarn weight of the wool adds to the rug’s refraction.
In order to “landscape” a space, we need to know the “voice” of that space. One thing that people don’t realize is that if a rug is too small, it will ruin a room because the eye will pull inward to focus on it. You want the eye to fall out to the entire space, all the way to the walls, to see the architecture.
Our New York Center for Architecture retrospective last year was called “V’Soske Rugs by Architects: Architecture in Transition, 1979–1993,” and that period really was a time of great change. Each of the architects we worked with viewed the floor plane differently. Roger Ferri wanted two figures with the sea surrounding them. Alan Buchsbaum asked for a “pillow rug”—with a hearth and an edge that looked like it was burned away from that hearth. Tod Williams, FAIA, and Billie Tsien, AIA, asked for a sense of walking through a field of green and dropping a silk scarf.
Our process is about going to the design’s limit, then restraining it so that it’s in tune with the architecture. It’s also about a craft tradition. When we discuss what we’re going to do with the architect, we have to pass all of that information on to our plant and production managers who, in turn, pass it forward to the dye master, the tufters, and the balance of the team of craftsmen. So, in the end, it’s a constant dialogue to ensure that the hand of the architect passes fully through, from the time we talk to the time the rug is completed. What’s wonderful about architects is that they love the design process as much as we do. Sure, we love the end result, but we love the process of doing it more. —As told to William Richards