Rugs may belong underfoot, but they should be top of mind when considering your home decor. The right rug makes a design statement. Besides beautifully tying together a room’s style by adding elements of color, pattern and texture, rugs are functional. They give your feet a cozy spot to land when you get out of bed in the morning or keep the wood floor in your entry hall pristine even with heavy foot traffic.
So it’s not so much a question of whether to buy a rug, but what kind of rug you should get. There are countless types of rugs on the market and getting the one that’s right for you depends on several factors. One of the most important decisions to make regards the type of material used in your rug.
Types of Rug Materials
The different kinds of rug fabrications can be categorized into two groups: natural fibers and synthetic fibers.
Natural fibers can offer a luxurious look and feel to a rug. Some of them are renowned for their durability, while others may be more delicate or involve more complex cleaning and care. Natural fiber rugs are typically more expensive than their synthetic counterparts.
Wool is one of the most common natural rug fibers. It has a lovely softness, but it still holds up to foot traffic, as well as dirt, dust and stains. Cotton has many of the same attributes as wool, but rugs made with these fibers are generally less expensive. Plus, cotton fiber rugs are often machine washable, which makes cleaning a snap. On the other end of the spectrum, silk rugs have an elegant look and sumptuous feel that is considered one of the softest rug materials. However, they are more delicate than cotton or wool and may require professional cleaning.
Other rugs in this category have a truly natural look to them, and they’ve grown in popularity over the years as designers have embraced the trend of bringing elements of nature into home decor. These include sisal, jute, bamboo and hemp. These rugs generally have a coarser texture and fewer color options than other natural fibers. On the plus side, they tend to be durable and resistant to host allergens and water.
Technology has allowed rug manufacturers to create state-of-the-art artificial fibers. Synthetic materials offer the same qualities as natural fibers but are usually more affordable.
Polypropylene and polyester are two popular choices. They offer a nice softness, durability, stain resistance and easy care. They can also work well outdoors as well as indoors. Nylon is another good choice, with many design options to choose from.
Other synthetic varieties have a distinctive appearance but require special handling. Viscose mimics the look and feel of silk, and much like silk, it is delicate. Faux fur has unparalleled softness and attracts dirt.
Rug Weaves and Piles
Along with understanding the different types of rug fibers, it helps to know how a rug is made. Certain types of materials lend themselves to specific manufacturing processes. A power loom rug is stitched by machine and often used for synthetic fibers. These rugs are easy to produce, so they’re often affordably priced, and the weave is also a uniform high quality. On the other hand, flatweave is a made-by-hand technique that’s a common choice for cotton.
There are other ways to make rugs by hand. These techniques include tufting, knotting, hooking and braiding. The latter can be found in natural fiber rugs such as sisal or bamboo.
It also helps to understand pile height. Basically, the higher the pile, the thicker the rug. Generally, low pile carpets can be easier to clean and maintain than those with higher piles. Low-pile rugs go up to ¼” high, thick piles are ¾” and above, and medium pile rugs sit in between the two. Some rugs add pattern and color variation by combining different pile lengths.
How to Choose a Rug Material
Before making a final selection, think about what you need in a rug. Ask yourself:
Where will the rug go? A high-traffic area such as your entryway needs a durable rug and should be easy to keep clean. Kitchen rugs should be water resistant so that you don’t have to worry about mildew. Save delicate rugs such as silk for places that get less activity, like in a corner of your bedroom.
What look are you trying to achieve? Covering a stone floor with a sisal area rug is a chic way to bring the outdoors inside and is on-trend for modern rooms. A gorgeous polypropylene rug adds elegant refinement to a bedroom or living room. Find a rug that fits your design aesthetic.
Will the rug be easy to maintain? You may like the look of silk or viscose, but do you have the time for professional upkeep? Do you have a dog that likes to chew and can’t wait to sink his teeth into a jute rug? Do you have young kids and need something that’s easy to throw in the washing machine? Depending on your lifestyle, there may be certain rug materials to avoid.
What can I afford? Budgetary considerations may be the determining factor between natural and synthetic fibers. If you love the look of wool but not the price, consider an alternative like polyester or nylon.
Find the Rug for You at Elegant Strand
In the end, the best rug material for area rugs is the one that suits your needs. You’ll find a variety of handsome rugs to choose from at Elegant Strand. Our collections feature rugs that offer exceptional quality and design, with color palettes that add sophistication to your spaces. Shop our selection today.