When the FBI released the photo of records allegedly taken by former President Trump strewn around a floor in Mar-a-Lago, it suggested not only haphazard keeping of the government’s secrets, but also an incredibly tasteless rug underneath.
I was curious. And so, I turned to Richard Afkari — a renowned New York City rug seller famed for his encyclopedic knowledge of carpets.
When I reached out to him on Wednesday, Afkari had already read about the Mar-a-Lago searches and the most recent filing. But he hadn’t seen the photo of the documents — and the carpet underneath them — included by federal prosecutors in the filing.
I emailed Afkari the photo.
He immediately knew what he was looking at: a rug with an arabesque pattern and axminister weaving. It was likely a custom ordered pattern — more expensive, for sure — but almost certainly machine manufactured — lower quality than handmade carpets.
“It’s not a handmade carpet, it’s what we call wall-to-wall carpeting,” Afkari explained, adding that the fabric was likely made out of a mixture of wool and silk, or a shiny cotton-based substitute.
“It’s a very English taste,” he added, describing the pattern as an “arabesque design which was originally copied from early textile and artwork from the Middle East, and Turkey, and then onto Spain and into England and France, and finally here in the States.”
Afkari speaks slowly and eloquently about his subject matter. An Iranian immigrant who came to the United States during the country’s revolution, he hails from a family of rug merchants.
Afkari recounted traveling with an uncle who would journey from Iran to Germany, selling the country’s hand-woven rugs at foreign exhibitions. After the revolution, Afkari opened up a rug shop in Manhattan — on Madison Ave and 29th street.
It was into that shop, Afkari recalled, that a younger Donald Trump entered to browse in the late 1980s.
“He was looking for a Persian rug at the time, but he never ended up buying,” Afkari said. “I didn’t really know who he was at the time, but a friend walked in and started talking to him, shook his hand, said, ‘oh, Mr. Trump.'”
I asked: how expensive would a rug like this be? Were we talking hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars? Or more? Or less?
Afkari estimated that the Mar-a-Lago rug would go between $80 to $100 per square foot, likely from a manufacturer in China, though older custom rugs would have come from the United States.
“It takes at least two weeks to design the machine to make the pattern,” he said. Trump could save by ordering more square feet of the same product, but would pay more to have the arabesque carpet cover only a few rooms.
“If I were to order 100,000 square feet of the same product, it will become very inexpensive because it’s been programmed to create 500 rolls or 1,000 rolls,” he explained. “However if I say I need two rolls of carpeting to cover the bedroom and master bedroom, I get charged the same amount for 500 or 1,000 rolls that I ordered.”
It’s not clear where in Mar-a-Lago the FBI took the photo of the strewn-about documents.
And for Afkari what lay atop the carpet was more shocking than the rug itself.
“If it were one of my workers with invoices thrown around like that, I would call the police,” he remarked.