More than a century ago, in 1884, S. Kent Costikyan left his native Turkey for the United States. In Constantinople (now Istanbul) his father had developed a rapport with the missionaries stationed there and he decided to send his son to Colgate Academy (now Colgate University) in Hamilton, New York, to pursue theological studies. The Costikyan family was in the import-export business, primarily engaged in exporting rugs around the world. When a shipment of rugs arrived in New York City and traditional channels for selling them fell through, the young Costikyan took them to Hamilton, where he was able to sell them to members of the school’s faculty and administration. His career interests took a turn, and in 1886 he opened Costikyan Frères in Rochester, New York. He subsequently moved the company to New York City at a time when the family had branches in Constantinople, London, and Kirman in Persia. In 1900 he and other family members who had joined him from Turkey, opened Kent-Costikyan in New York City, continuing to sell antique and contemporary carpets made all over the world.
Today the firm is run by members of the third and fourth generations of the family. Aside from selling the same kinds of carpets they have handled over the course of the last hundred years, the company also specializes in restoring and cleaning rugs under the name Restoration by Costikyan. Some of the carpets that are brought to them for restoration were sold by their forebears to individuals like James Deering, whose enormous house, Vizcaya, was built in Miami between 1916 and 1925. Today it is a historic house museum. The colorful seventeenth-century Portuguese needlework carpet illustrated above adorns the banquet hall at Vizcaya. Deering bought it for the house on the advice of the interior designer Paul Chaflin, who had been a protégé of Elsie de Wolfe. Chaflin studied at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Art Students League in New York City, and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, and he spent part of his early career as a member of the curatorial staff at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Over the years, this carpet, like any other, had suffered from exposure to light, dirt, insects, and foot traffic. The services offered by Restoration by Costikyan range from a simple cleaning to executing extensive repairs. These include blocking or stretching, tinting, patching, reweaving, and replacing bindings and fringes. For the carpet at Vizcaya, conservation included repairing stitches that had separated from the foundation. Along the border, where the most damage often occurs to carpets, loosened areas needed to be hand-stitched back into place (see illustrations below).
The project was completed and the carpet was reinstalled not long ago. Unfortunately, it was damaged by water when hurricane Wilma tore through southern Florida, so it has been shipped back to Long Island City, where Restoration by Costikyan is removing mold and stabilizing the carpet in order to ensure its preservation for generations to come.
Restoration by Costikyan has worked with a number of museums and historical societies. Among them are several houses administered by the Preservation Society of Newport County in Rhode Island, the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, New York, and the Morgan Library in New York City. For more information visit www.costikyan.com.
Images from above: Portion of a seventeenth-century Portuguese needlework carpet in Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami after cleaning and restoration by Restoration by Costikyan. Details: at left, an area where stiches had become detached, and at right, the area is shown after being repaired.
This article was originally written by Allison Eckardt Ledes and appeared in the December 2005 issue.