The rug dealer of Taos


Robert Vander knows rugs.

For nearly four decades Vander has been traveling between New Mexico and Asia, bringing a sweeping assortment of Oriental treasures to his retail location, Alhambra, where Chinese and Indian finds co-mingle with Nepalese altars and Tibetan-style artisan creations. But, despite this extensive collection of one-of-a-kind furniture, the real stars of Alhambra are the piles of rugs and carpets.

Maybe you haven’t given much thought to your choices in floor coverings but Vander thinks you should, as nothing defines your living spaces as much as rugs do. In a large, open-concept home, rugs anchor your furniture and design elements and provide a functional delineation. Or, in rooms with an eclectic collection of styles, a thoughtfully selected rug can be what ties everything together.

Bold patterns and lush textures can visually soften angular spaces, cozy up an otherwise chilly-feeling space, and lend individual personality to every room in your home. Rugs are a quick, foolproof way to refresh a tired look, conceal flooring imperfections, or provide soundproofing.

Whatever your decorating goals, Alhambra--like any reputable dealer--encourages you to take one or more rugs home “on approval” to find your perfect fit.

“The only way you can see whether or not a rug will work with what you have is to take it home,” said Vander “The lighting in your home is going to be very different than that in the store, and a rug’s base and accent colors can be deceiving,” Vander continued. “A rug can only be judged alongside the interior selections you’ve already made.”

Vander’s emporium stocks a dizzying array of rugs and carpets but think of them not just as ornamental or functional pieces for your home, he suggested. Enjoy them also as works of art whose construction represent generations of traditional techniques and the regional interpretations of designs, colors, and textures that mark the point of each rug’s origin.

Having traveled in the 1960s to film a documentary of vanishing cultures in Afghanistan and surrounding countries, Vander said he was struck by the beauty of the weavers he met. “They were illiterate, but with their talent they could sure ‘read’ a rug,” he said. “Think of the fact they count thousands of knots and keep that number in their head.”

Vander’s late wife was, coincidentally, from Afghanistan and it was with her he built this long-standing business, now located at the corner of Camino de la Placita and Paseo del Pueblo Sur.

“I still deal with several of the weavers or their families from our earliest transactions. Every single rug we sell is hand woven and knotted, and many of the tribal rugs are hand dyed in small batches, using natural dye sources, which results in charming

variations of color that only add to their authenticity.” You will never see a machine- made rug in his store, Vander emphatically guaranteed.

“We also carry high-end Persian carpets whose level of artistry is unmatched in the world,” he said, explaining that, unlike other countries, Iran sponsors actual weaving schools where students may earn the right to apprentice in an atelier.

But, what does your home need? Maybe try a kilim weave in your high-traffic areas. Its loosely woven fibres don’t trap dirt the way a pile carpet would, making cleanup a snap and, bonus: they’re reversible. They’re also available in a stunning array of geometric patterns and in color palettes that range from neutrals to brights, and work well with southwestern style.

Similarly, dhurry weaves are durable and easy to clean. Many of the stock in Alhambra are reminiscent of a Navajo aesthetic but are meant for your floors as opposed to Navajo blankets. They’re an affordable option for anyone looking to add a Native American feel to a room.

And, of course, the Persian carpets are luxurious underfoot and, more than with any other weave, impart a comfortable richness to your decor.

The choice is yours and, at Alhambra, the choices are many.

Alhambra is located at 124 Paseo del Pueblo Sur. For further information please call (575) 758-4161, or visit


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