Katrin ten Eikelder – From New York to Berlin



Katrin ten Eikelder has channeled her passion for textiles into an original business venture. Using lots of sunshine and color she breathes new life into vintage, hand-woven Oriental rugs, thereby creating sustainable, modern lifestyle works of art.

Berlin-Mitte, Berlin’s central district, in an old building on Torstrasse 98. On the second floor, a young woman wearing a white blouse, grey denims and sneakers opens the door with a radiant smile. Katrin ten Eikelder ushers us into her office that also serves as a showroom. On the floor a pile of Oriental rugs in bright colors are heaped, one on top of the other: purple, red, light blue, beige. The white walls are hung with large hemp rugs in bright colors, too. Below them, tied-up bundles of folded rugs as well as soft throws and cushions are lined along the walls. Turquoise and light blue hues set the tone. “They’re my favorite colors,” ten Eikelder tells us. And her customers appear to prefer light shades, too. Light blue and silver-blue colored rugs are strong sellers at The Knots.

A natural aptitude for textiles in her DNA

At first glance selling carpets seems an unusual career choice for a 32-year-old woman of German extraction. But the brand and its concept are as fresh and youthful as their creator. A native of Cologne, ten Eikelder was born with a passion for textiles. Her father is a carpet trader and an expert on Oriental rugs – no surprise then that Katrin ten Eikelder feels her passion for textiles and appreciation for artisanship is part of her DNA. All the same, she says, she never planned to follow in her father’s footsteps. Instead she studied Business Administration in Cologne and Milan with a focus on fashion. Subsequently she worked in Business Development at Hugo Boss and realized her secret ambition: Being assigned to the American subsidiary in New York, her dream city.

In New York she repeatedly came across Oriental rugs, displayed in bars and restaurants. “They would be laid out in the coolest way and immediately caught my eye,” Katrin says. This set her wondering whether she could achieve something with the vintage Oriental rugs she knew how to source. “At the end of February 2014, this amazing idea came to me and I just couldn’t shake it off,” she tells us. That April she quit her job knowing full well that this also meant the end of her dream of living in New York.

A carpet’s origin can be identified by its pattern

With € 12,000 start-up capital she went to Berlin and founded The Knots. She also travelled with her Dad to Turkey where he introduced her to his contacts and shared with her his vital know-how. “He was a great help and boosted my confidence,” Katrin tells us. The knot count, pattern, condition, wool quality – all are key indicators for establishing the quality of a carpet.

The first impression is important: Does it match or not? This is a subjective impression, and also a question of taste

Her carpets are mainly sourced in Kerman and Tabris, Iran, as well as in the regions of Turkey’s Central and South Anatolia. “These are traditional carpet regions, and I like their patterns and types of rug best,” she says. Each rug tells a story, and you can tell where it was produced just from the pattern.

From old come new one-of-a-kind rugs

Meanwhile, Katrin ten Eikelder is working with 5 manufacturers in Iran and Turkey. They seek out blanks for her, old vintage carpets between 60 and 80 years old that can still be found in private homes. Every two or three months, Katrin travels to Turkey and Iran to inspect the carpets. “Then they are sent to Germany either in their original condition, because they are still gorgeous without being redyed, or they are processed on site, because I know they’ll be even more amazing after being reworked.” The process consists of first laying the carpets out in the sun to bleach for a month or two. Then they are washed, shorn, and in a final step, dyed. A new modern product is created – every single one is unique.

The rugs are given a second lease on life and her customers appreciate the excellent quality, sustainability and above all the uniqueness of the products. The post-Ikea generation, singles and young couples between 30 and 40 years of age who enjoy design and appreciate unusual furnishings are the main customers for her unique rugs. “But I have also had a customer who was 84-years old,” says ten Eikelder. Taste is not a question of age. Sales are done mainly through the online shop, but also from the showroom, and via trading partners in Scotland, Berlin, Cologne and Vienna.

My objective is to dust off the fusty image that Oriental rugs have today and show that these products can be very fresh

Her success seems to be proving her right. In the meantime she sells about 15 carpets a month – in addition to vintage Oriental rugs also hemp and Berber rugs, as well as vintage Kelims. Throws and cushions have been recently added to the range. In future Katrin ten Eikelder wants to build up a team and expand the brand. Apart from her suppliers and a freelance employee, she is currently running her business single-handedly.

Why everything is tied in with New York

Maybe one day she might even go back to New York. The city remains an important part of The Knots. “It’s an emotional tie, that’s where the idea germinated – and a common thread has been made through the labeling,” says Katrin. Each rug is given a name that ties in with New York. On her desk there’s a city and subway guide of New York and a beverage card from her favorite bar in the Big Apple. This is where she gleans names for her latest collections: Brooklyn Bridge, L-Train, Harlem or Hemingway’s Cats.

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