Best Place to Buy a $50,000 Carpet

Smith and Burstert Oriental Carpet

Open the oversized glass door at Smith and Burstert Oriental Carpets and smell it: an earthy tone tinged with mothballs, the dust from a hundred Middle Eastern bazaars, the wool from a thousand sheep, the grime from a million fingers tying a billion little knots. Dozens of carpets, rolled into bundles and bound with string, line the edges of the store. Many more are in the back, old and new. Manager Pam Hoelzel will roll each one out, big or small. She'll let the visitor look, touch, walk barefoot. And she'll tell each carpet's story, its design, its origin: Turkey, Pakistan, the Caucasus, China, Morocco. Hoelzel won't quit until you find true love, the carpet that will "change your life," that will make you smile to think of it, that will transform your hall into your favorite room, that you will wake up early just to see the rising sun caress, warming the dyes, aqua and sage and umber. But you'll have to close your eyes to write the check: $3,000, $14,000, $40,000, whatever. Can you put a price on true love?

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