Rosemary Hallgarten grew up surrounded by hand-made rugs. It wasn’t until a case of the mid-career doldrums that she found out who made them. At the time, the designer, who was raised in Beirut and London, was losing her creative spark for jewelry design, a side passion to her day job at a San Francisco advertising firm. In seeking advice from family, she found out that her mother was the one who designed the rugs in her house, a craft she had mastered in the 1950s and ’60s. She suggested her daughter try the same. So, Hallgarten began “painting with wool,” as she describes the process, and she ended up jump-starting her new career when she was tapped to design a rug for Bay Area designer Charles de Lisle.
The designer briefly launched a small studio in the city before rising costs prompted her to pull up stakes and move production to Peru (and eventually quit her day job). There, she set up shop from the ground up, immersing herself in the alpaca wools of the Peruvian Highlands. “I knew nothing about it, and to be honest, that’s what excited me. I love the idea of just propelling myself into this whole world that I knew nothing about and seeing what happens,” she tells host Dennis Scully on this week’s episode of The Business of Home Podcast.
Over the last two decades, Hallgarten’s business has grown exponentially, with a presence in showrooms nationwide and a dedicated space in the New York Design Center, which opened in 2020. In the process, she has had to learn to balance her art with nuts-and-bolts operations. “The biggest challenge was to shift from being a creative person trying to articulate my vision to hiring people and having a growing business,” she says. “You have no idea that that’s where you’re going to end up, and it may not be your strength, and it certainly wasn’t mine.” Elsewhere in the episode, the designer talks about why she’s done with dupes, why makers’ names should be more prominent, why boucle isn’t going anywhere and how she prioritizes sustainability.
Crucial insight: After a business coach suggested Hallgarten come up with a mission statement to guide her company, she and her team sat down and agreed upon a set of written values. “It really made a huge difference, and it’s the thing that we judge everything with now,” she says. “Any decisions that the team has to make, whether it’s an operational decision or who we’re hiring, [the mission statement] has been a really great guideline.”
Key quote: “As much as I like to think it’s all about my product, my vision and my creativity, it’s not. The relationships that my team has with all the designers and the service we provide them is equally important,” Hallgarten says. “Why do you go back to your favorite restaurant? Sure, you like the food, but you wouldn’t go back to the best restaurants and the best food if you weren’t getting great customer service, right?”
The Thursday Show
BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus joins host Dennis Scully to go over the biggest news in the industry, including change at the top for Luxe Interiors + Design, why starter homes are becoming forever homes, and a look at the latest industry comings and goings. Later, the leadership team behind The Dump discusses their acquisition of the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams inventory.