High standards: Stephanie Odegard's vision includes beautiful things and human rights

02/04/2007 3:01 AM

02/28/2007 2:22 PM

Miami Beach artist Mira Lehr likened visiting the Odegard showroom for the first time to a religious experience. ''It's so beautiful, it's like a cathedral,'' she says. ``Everything is arranged in this very quiet way that seems profound.''

With a mix of furniture, accessories and fine carpets, the showroom reflects the sensibilities of founder Stephanie Odegard.

''My sense of aesthetics is definitely innate, but as I have new references to draw from -- through living, studying and maturing -- my sensibilities continue to evolve,'' Odegard said. ``I've also had a chance to work alongside some very talented artisans.''

Odegard collaborates with visual artists, designing carpets inspired by their art. One such artist is Lehr, who has a line of carpets designed after her paintings. Odegard also has been a human-rights champion for the craftspeople who make her products.

For instance, Odegard's carpets, found on the floors of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Aspen, Colo., home of Robert Redford, are hand-knotted in Nepal and India, countries where she hopes her efforts will help to resuscitate strife-torn societies.

As early as 1987, Odegard began trying to establish a market for high-end carpets by creating contemporary designs (only traditional motifs had been used before), thus giving jobs to hundreds of Nepalese craftspeople. She increased the knots per square inch to 100 from the traditional 50 or 60 and developed new dyes to add richer, more modern shades to the palette, making the rugs more appealing to the luxury market, which can pay more. Prices range from $30 per square foot for cotton flat-weaves to $123 for a pure Himalayan wool rug with special vegetable dyes. Her carpets are certified by Rugmark, the international label against illegal child labor in the carpet industry.

In her newest venture, Odegard is collaborating with French designer Paul Mathieu to produce smooth and hammered metal furniture and carved marble accessories crafted in Udaipur, India. The lines, which include a beautifully patterned Semainier (chest) from the Louise Collection ($7,895) and a set of nesting tables ($5,360), have just debuted in the Miami showroom.

Miami architect Alison Spear trekked to India with Odegard and was inspired to create a line of side and coffee tables. Spear's drinks tables, which are $710 each, are available in white metal, brass, copper and silver.

Among the accessories in the showroom are marble goblets ($280 each), gold-plated lotus candle stands (from $150 to $405), hand-embroidered blankets of Kashmir wool ($670) and sterling silver spice spoons ($360 for a set of seven).

''I always have a vision that I want to communicate,'' says Odegard, a former Peace Corps volunteer. ``I appreciate simple, beautiful things.''

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