Shop Talk

Nader Bolour of Doris Leslie Blau

As told to Elizabeth Wallace
December 20, 2017

The Collective dealer pulls inspiration from all over the globe to create unforgettable spaces back home

I got into the rug business because my father and grandfather were in the business, three generations going back to the 1930s in Tehran. We moved to London when I was 9, before the [Iranian] Revolution, and opened a rug shop there. At age 10, I started working for my father in the store, cleaning and moving rugs, manual labor. The business was in my blood.

I got kicked out of school at 16, for misbehavior, I guess. I went straight to work in the shop. Slowly, I learned the rug business from my family. I got introduced to different kinds of rugs, started going to country auctions in England to shop, and began learning about restoring rugs, which is a big part of our business. I learned how to serve clients, how to meet their needs.

Left: Doris Leslie Blau owner Nader Bolour. Right: The showroom of Doris Leslie Blau, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. All photographs courtesy of Doris Leslie Blau
Left: Doris Leslie Blau owner Nader Bolour. Right: The showroom of Doris Leslie Blau, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. All photographs courtesy of Doris Leslie Blau

In 1994, I moved to New York and opened my own rug business, I met Mrs. Doris Leslie Blau; I was one of her vendors. A couple of years later, she wished to retire and sell her company, which had been in business 40 years. The timing was perfect—I bought it.

I sell antique and new rugs—we do most of our designs in-house, pulling inspiration from all over: vintage textiles, a chair from the Louis XVI period, the elevator of an Art Deco building in Chicago. My focus is always on the unusual, the most eclectic—I try to push boundaries. For our eBay Collective shop, we focus on the very, very high-end antique rugs, staying fresh, innovative, out of the box, like a vintage Chinese carpet from 1900 and a modernist rug from 1940s France. I like that all our pieces come with a story—some stories we know, some we don’t—like the Tibetan monastic runner from the ‘20s.

Nader Bolour of Doris Leslie Blau - Picture of inventory of rugs

Even some 20 years into my business, I’m still very involved in the day-to-day: selling, buying, repairing, marketing. It’s a love relationship; I dream it, I live it, I sweat it. I could be in Jaipur for two days, finding new mills, looking at different textures, finding new ways to oxidize wool, then get a call from London to come to a country sale auction in England. Traveling really inspires me. I might drive down a country lane, see a beautiful red leaf, and send it to my designer to create a rug in that color. I have also done that with eggplant peels. Aubergine is such an abstract color; there are just so many shades in it. That’s how I envision my favorite pieces—the more different the elements of texture and design, the better the story.

Nader Bolour of Doris Leslie Blau - Picture of samples of rugs