The Storytellers

Husband-and-wife team Melissa and Dave Dilmaghani transform their online shop, Old New House, into a brick and mortar space that embodies their love for rugs, décor, comfort, and home.

11.01.2016
By AnnMarie Martin

Long before their personal love story began, Melissa and Dave Dilmaghani were both entrenched in their own professions that were all about illustrating soul.

While Dave worked as a fourth-generation rug seller in his father’s rug store, Melissa had transitioned from a screenwriting major in college to becoming a photographer.  

“I can just take one picture and there’s a story there,” she said. “I realized I don’t have to write an entire 85-page screenplay. So that made me fall in love with the art form.”

Similarly, Dave was basking in the glow of his sincere passion and pride for rugs, and the unique history that lies underneath each and every one of them.

The Dilmaghanis brought that enthusiasm to planning their wedding in 2011, which is where Old New House began through Etsy. They started with a few rugs Dave had collected and some antique pieces from their wedding day that they wanted to resell. “We got really into eyeing things together and having this vision. We’d go to flea markets and it was just really fun for us to source things.”

Two years later it was time to make a decision: could they turn this hobby into a business that would support their family? They took the plunge, starting out with an e-commerce website. During that period, online platforms such as Chairish and eBay took on a whole new identity, Melissa explained, forcing Old New House to evolve as well. They began taking on more inventory, and knew they were going to have to find another place to store it other than their garage. They found an abandoned barn located behind the storefront they would eventually call their own on Katonah Avenue in Katonah, N.Y.

They found the town (where they also live) to be quite supportive of local businesses, with a very welcoming, approachable culture. The zoning board gave the Dilmaghanis the green light to allow customers to come and buy pieces in the barn by appointment.  

“Manhattan and Brooklyn people were coming up and finishing their transactions in person,” Melissa explained. “We realized there was local interest and the location was convenient enough for those customers as well, so when the shop that we’d always adored became available it was a dream come true.”

They celebrated Old New House’s grand opening in September 2016. And what started as just a hobby with only five rugs has now grown to an inventory of over 1,000, about 35 source vendors including other vintage shops and retired rug sellers, and both an online and physical
retail presence for their brand. At approximately 1,100 square feet, the store houses a small percentage of rugs (most remain in the barn), as
they hope people will still search out their favorite on the website, and then it can be retrieved. Customers will find in the shop custom furniture pieces the couple has created together, as well as decorative items such as Moroccan poufs, handmade pillows and, their personal
favorite: felt flags.

A large majority of their customer base online is made up of interior designers, and they are excited to see how that will translate in their retail shop. They can accommodate custom orders and searches, and have also sourced and installed one piece “show-stopper” rugs for boutique hotels and restaurants.

“I feel like a rug has a soul, because it’s lived such a long life,” Melissa said. “It’s so interesting to think of the life/lives that happened on it. When I met Dave, I didn’t understand rugs. But once you start seeing how much a rug can change a room, you get it.”