Seven Questions for Dan Golden

What do you get when you mix hand-tufted New Zealand wool, a former cartoonist, and morphine? Dan Golden‘s top selling rug design (“Morphine,” pictured below). Golden has made a name for himself with whimsical, art-infused rugs that replace symmetrical designs and staid color combinations with cartoony characters like the froggy green alien who bids our planet “So long, Suckahs!” from a lush ground of magenta wool. As Golden expands with a range of new projects—including a collaboration with Odegard, a lighting collection with Swarovski, and a range of pillows—he took time to answer our seven questions. Read on to learn how he made the leap from the wall to the floor, what inspires him, and why people love morphine—the rug, not the drug.

1. How did you transition from making art on canvas/paper to rugs?
It was actually my business partner, Ford Lininger‘s idea. I had been looking for ways to expand the size and scope of my work for a while, and Ford had the vision to see how my drawings could translate into super high-end rugs. It was kind of one of those, “It’s so crazy, it just might work!” ideas that did work! I had been waiting for someone like Ford to see the potential in what I was doing, and help channel it in the right directions. For me, it was like YES! someone else shares/believes in my work/me, and let’s go for it—that’s a wonderful feeling.

2. What do you think makes one of your artworks particularly suitable for use on a rug?
I think with the first series, the cartoons, they are all banners or statements of attitude—morphine is the best medicine, so long, suckahs!, same old shit/crazy new shit, god wants me to be financially abundant—they are all very identifiable positions someone might take, relate to. They are—not to try to be all philosophical—basically, ruminations on bigger, deeper things, put in a way that most everyone can get into—simple, clean cartoons drawn in an earnest, slightly sloppy, real hand kind of way.

3. What furniture or other interior design elements do you think best complement your rugs?
Well, I would defer to our good friends Kathleen and Maurizio [Almanzo] of Eccola in Los Angeles. They have exquisite taste, and truly understand how to combine various design elements in a space. They took our funky contemporary rugs, and paired them with Italian mid-century pieces by the likes of Gio Ponti and Vico Magistretti. I think the rugs would also be complemented by super modern, minimal pieces, say from Capellini, Kartell, or Knoll. For that matter, what would be cooler than having the dogs smoking grass underneath an 18th-century chandelier? Now that would be beautiful.

4. What designers or artists inspire you or do you admire?
Well, my background being in art—painting and drawing—I’ve always been responsive to the Abstract Expressionists, especially Jackson Pollock. It’s funny because I’m really into streamlining things and keeping them simple, and his work is putting it all out there on the canvas, but I love how elemental his work and practice was—unprimed canvas, using cheap basic house paints—using less to create more.

I’ve been looking through At Home with the Makers of Style [by Grant Scott and Samantha Scott-Jeffries] a lot lately—it’s a great book on contemporary designers and their interiors/workspaces—very inspirational.

5. What’s your best-selling rug and to what to you attribute its success?
Morphine is the Best Medicine has been the best selling rug so far. Why? Because people like morphine. No—probably because the colors work nice together—the bright red of the cross against the warm white ground. And, because what it says is funny and sad all together and true, and people respond to that.

6. Best/most memorable design-related encounter?
There are two very memorable design-related encounters which stick out. First, when Ford and I first went to Los Angeles to introduce the collection to potential showrooms, we were told by our talented writer friend Liz Arnold, that we had to call Kathleen and Maurizio at Eccola. She said they would make us a fresh pasta lunch and serve Prosecco, and that sounded good to us. We didn’t have any expectations of them liking our rugs, though—their showroom was filled with the big guns of Italian mid-century design, as well as other amazing finds they’ve come across, and we had a rug that said “crazy new shit” on it.

But, to our surprise (and great happiness) they got exactly what we were doing right away, and saw a connection somehow to the great work they had, and we planned our first big launch party with them over prosecco that very afternoon. (and in the movie re-enactment, I will be played by Brad Pitt)

The second, and equally memorable, design encounter was meeting Paul (Melo) and Stephanie (Odegard) of Odegard, inc. A friend of Ford’s introduced us to them at one of Ralph Pucci‘s openings, and they were very friendly and open to us.

7. Proudest design/art moment?
There have been a few, but most recently it was when Paul at Odegard told us that they were interested in producing a collection of rugs I designed—wow! was all I could think