New Oval Office Rug, Made In America

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NPR's Melissa Block talks to Rich Ruggeri, vice president and co-owner of Scott Group Custom Carpets of Grand Rapids, Mich. — a carpet manufacturer that made President Obama's new Oval Office rug. Scott Group also made President Clinton's Oval Office rug. Ruggeri says every aspect of the rug, including the wool and the cotton backing, were made in America.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

A year and a half into the Obama presidency, and just in time for last night's presidential address, the Oval Office has gotten a makeover: new sofas, new coffee table, new wallpaper, and a new oval carpet, all made in America.

The new rug features the presidential seal, of course, but also some of the president's favorite historical quotes. The rug was donated by Scott Group Custom Carpets, which also made President Clinton's Oval Office rug. The company's co-owner, Rich Ruggeri, says the Obama rug is among the most spectacular they've ever made.

Mr. RICH RUGGERI (Vice President and Co-owner, Scott Group Custom Carpets): The rug's done in very warm, soothing colors: wheat, cream, blue. You look at the photographs, and you'll see the presidential seal. There's 13 clouds above the eagle. There are 13 bands that are in the actual shield on the eagle, 13 leaves in the olive branch and then the 13 arrows that are in the talon of the eagle. And the eagle is facing towards the olive branch, which is really a sign of -we're a peaceful nation. It has the notable quotes around the perimeter of the rug.

BLOCK: One of those quotes, from FDR: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Mr. RUGGERI: Correct. The arc of moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. That was Martin Luther King. The government of the people, by the people, for the people, that was obviously President Abraham Lincoln. No problem for human destiny is beyond human beings, that was President John F. Kennedy. And then the last presidential quote was the welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and that was President Theodore Roosevelt.

BLOCK: Now, when we say the rug was made in America, was every component of the rug made in America?

Mr. RUGGERI: It was. Our factory is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There were a team of 30 craftsmen who really put their hands on this product and put 570 hours into producing this rug. It is the pinnacle of all installations, and it's the most powerful office in the world, and it reflects what is done here in America by great craftsmen making great product right here in the United States.

BLOCK: Mr. Ruggeri, we've been reading that this new Oval Office rug is made from 25 percent recycled wool. Is that the case, and what does that mean?

Mr. RUGGERI: What that means is that when we were producing the rug, we looked at the components going into the rug, the number of colors, the size of the rug, the number of pounds of wool yarn that were going to go into actually physically hand-sew this rug and working with the designer and the president's team to try to figure a way to use reclaimed and recycled materials.

And what we felt that we could do is use 25 percent recycled materials within our building. Those yarns were in the building from previous projects that we had in the building, and we used that percentage back into the rug.

BLOCK: Aha, so it doesn't mean another rug or carpet was unwoven and reconstituted in this Oval Office rug?

Mr. RUGGERI: Yeah, you physically couldn't do that effectively. You would not get the structure of the product that we've been noted for globally, and let alone putting it into the president's office and having a rug that we don't know how it's going to perform. There's no history with anything like that.

BLOCK: I have heard a little concern expressed about the presidential dog, Bo, and the possible effects on this rug, which is light in color, right?

Mr. RUGGERI: It is somewhat light in color around the actual presidential seal. You know, I'm not concerned about if the president's dog potentially has an accident.

BLOCK: You're not concerned?

Mr. RUGGERI: No. I mean, wool is a natural fiber that cleans very easily, and I'm sure with his team of people and himself, if there happens to be an accident, I'm sure he'll get after it.

BLOCK: They could take care of that, you think?

Mr. RUGGERI: I think so.

BLOCK: Well, Rich Ruggeri, thanks for talking to us about the new rug in the Oval Office.

Mr. RUGGERI: Thank you for your time.

BLOCK: Rich Ruggeri is co-owner of Scott Group Custom Carpets.

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