In the Middle East, where Lubna Culbert grew up, rugs were an important part of everyday living.

"Everyone had rugs," she said. "It was more of a practical thing. You got your rugs first, and then you got your furniture."

When she married David Culbert, LSU John L. Loos Professor of History, he had books and art, including a fine Audubon Havell bird. But no rugs.

"The bird in the Audubon looked like a chicken," Lubna Culbert said, "so we went to Sarkis (Oriental Rugs Gallery) and turned it in and got a rug."

That was the beginning of the Culberts' collection and study of Oriental rugs. 

Those attending the Friends of Magnolia Mound Plantation's 17th annual Petite Antiques Forum on Jan. 26 can see the Culberts' collection beautifully displayed in their home, designed and built by architect A. Hays Town. The tour follows a talk by Walter Denny, distinguished professor of art history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and senior consultant in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Denny and David Culbert were classmates at Oberlin College.

The Culbert home, set back on property that was originally a park on a quiet street off Perkins Road, was built around five majestic live oaks.

The home is beautifully decorated completely by the Culberts. And ever since that first carpet, they have been collecting rugs and books on Oriental carpets.

"That's what whet our appetite for carpets," David Culbert said. 

They are members of the International Conference on Oriental Carpets and travel all over the world attending meetings and viewing carpets in museums and homes. 

"I feel about rugs they way I feel about malt Scotch," David Culbert said. "There may be one malt Scotch that I didn't care about. I love rugs. Whenever I go to a house, I look down."

For the Culberts, that starts at the double front door, which opens to a large foyer where several smaller Oriental rugs are underfoot. Also on display is part of the Culberts' colorful collection of Iznik pottery.

"There is a movement in Istanbul to recreate old pottery that was made in the city of Iznik," Lubna Culbert said. 

The movement was started when three Armenian families were brought over before World War I by the Ottomans to restore the tiles on the parameters of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The three families, Lubna Culbert said, decided to stay and opened workshops where the pottery is made.

"They use Armenian and Jerusalem motifs, many picked up from the Ottomans and Middle Eastern textiles," she said.

To the right of the foyer is the living room with a Persian carpet in the Tree of Life motif. Throughout the room are several pillows that represent Lubna Culbert's love of Oriental carpets combined with her skill at needlepoint. These are not remnants of carpets converted to pillows but rather original projects designed to scale from patterns in the carpets.

"I started doing needlepoint based on the Oriental carpet motifs," said Culbert, who charts the patterns on graph paper, carefully matching the original motifs and colors. "I try to find a typical design of the country of the carpets."

The living room opens at the back to an airy sunroom, which opens on the left to the library with two Turkish rugs and one contemporary rug.

"You can use traditional motifs and contemporary motifs together, and they don't clash," Lubna Culbert said. 

The dining room, to the left of the foyer, has a special rug that belonged to David Culbert's grandmother. 

The Culberts moved to their home in 2000 and completely renovated the bathrooms, kitchen and breakfast room in the home's original style of the 1940s.

"We did not change one inch of the roof line," Lubna Culbert said. 

Friends of Magnolia Mound Plantation's 17th annual Petite Antiques Forum

WHAT: A one-day symposium, "Gracious Living and the Mysterious East: Oriental Carpets in North America," which includes a lecture by Walter Denny, distinguished professor of art history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and senior consultant in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, followed by lunch at the Baton Rouge Country Club and tour of the home of Lubna and David Culbert, collectors of antique Oriental rugs.

WHEN: 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 26.

WHERE: Louisiana State Archives Building on Essen Lane

RESERVATIONS: $85 per person for the lecture, lunch and tour. Reservations are limited and are required. Go to friendsofmagnoliamound.org to download a form. Complete and mail or call as directed on the form.

INFORMATION: (225) 271-4187