By Marni Jameson
Things are only worth what you make them worth. —Moliere
“What have we done?” That thought emerged from the pit of my stomach before my eyes had opened to the new day — the first day post rug binge. The night before my husband, DC, and I had dropped more money on a 10 x 13 area rug for our great room than we had spent on all the furnishings in that room combined. While we were at it, we bought a rug for the entryway, too.
“This was all a big mistake,” I fretted, as I pulled the pillow over my head, and reran the events of the night before.
“It’s an investment rug,” said Hakan Zor, the rug merchant we met in Turkey six months ago, who had come to our house bearing rugs.
It was an investment all right.
“You’ll never regret it,” he said.
I wasn’t so sure.
I then cast around between my head and my heart looking for an honest place between my dueling feelings — “I’ve been duped! This is all a big trick and we fell for it. I’m no better than the naked emperor,” on the one side, and “I can’t believe I have these amazing rugs in my home. I would buy these pieces of art again in a heartbeat,” on the other.
Later, I call my friend, Beverly Hills designer Christopher Grubb to referee my polar emotions. Grubb is no stranger to high-end furnishings. I send him photos of my great room before and after the new rug, and tell him I am on the verge of an acute case of buyer’s remorse.
“Be honest,” I say.
“Do you have to ask?” says Grubb.
“The carpet is fantastic in your room, better than fantastic. It brings the room to life. And the scale is perfect.”
“But couldn’t we have achieved that for a lot less?”
After a long pause, he delivers the news I did not want to hear: “Not after you know what a good rug looks like, and you can tell this is a very good rug. You’re an expert now. You appreciate the value. You saw the process involved in making rugs like this and can’t look at rugs the same way again.”
He was right. Sadly. After DC and I learned about the ancient art of handmade rugs during a trip last year to Turkey, we couldn’t unknow what we now knew. And I also now knew enough to know that the rugs in our home paled in comparison. The large rug we bought the night before took two weavers working together two years to complete.
The same cost of learning applies whether you’re getting into antiques, fine art, jewelry, wine, or rugs. Sigh. Ignorance can be expensive, but knowledge can be, too.
So, when Hakan came to our house in person, with rugs in mind for us, any resolve we once had to resist the temptation to indulge turned to Play-Do.
After our evening of rug splurging, err, uhh, investing, DC and I invited Hakan and his helper to share a late supper of grilled cheese sandwiches and wine, which resulted in lively conversation, and capped off an experience we will never forget.
However, all this got me thinking under my pillow the next morning, about value. What are things worth, and why? Who finally decides? So I asked experts from three varied professions to get their views on value:
- A designer: “You buy certain things in life not because you’re going to make a profit, but because you are filling a desire,” said Grubb. “At some point you need to say, we’ve got this one life, and you go for it. Besides, now you have something that makes you smile, and that has this great story, right down to the grilled cheese sandwiches.”
- An antiques appraiser: “I am forever hearing people say something is worth such and such and placing a value on an item far greater than it would ever be sold for,” said Gary Sullivan, a high-end antiques appraiser who has liquidated hundreds of estates. Items are rarely worth what collector catalogs say they’re worth. The best guide is to see actual recent sales prices listed on eBay. Finally, when selecting antiques, don’t grab the most valuable pieces. Go for meaning. Select the items that give you the greatest positive connection.
- A certified public accountant: “If you want to know what something is worth, try to sell it. You’ll find out. But most people who collect what they love don’t want to sell,” said my friend and colleague Tom Thomas, a CPA from Winter Park, Fla. Thomas knows something about collecting. He owns a mint-condition 1969 Camaro SS, which he takes to car shows. “I’m a car guy. I wanted a loud, fast, muscle car. I enjoy it. I’ve been offered a lot more for my car than I paid for it, but it’s not for sale.” His advice to others who have a pricey passion: “If you appreciate the workmanship, if you enjoy it, and if you can afford it, buy it. But don’t buy it for an investment.”
My conclusion: If you are going to go down the path of buying fine collectibles – and I am not recommending it – first, get educated. Train your eye. Then find an expert you trust to advise you, someone with many years’ experience and a good reputation. Finally, though items may hold their value, don’t do it for money. Do it for love.
Join me next week as readers share their wild and woolly rug tales, yarns of woe and wonder, and love….
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two home and lifestyle books, and the newly released Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.