Washington Post Blogwatch October 1, 2009

I have (or have had) almost all of these rugs somewhere in my home with the exception of sisal. And there’s definitely a time & place for each of them, depending upon the maintenance, kid, pet & softness factors. Here’s a quick overview of my thoughts & experiences with the rugs.


1— SEAGRASS— In my family room/ office/hangout room, we installed wall-to-wall seagrass just like this (below) and we absolutely LOVE it:
And here’s the lowdown on seagrass:
1) THE WAIVER: The company we bought it from made us sign a waiver saying that seams would be visible and that we understood it would fray and that there would be a smell. The seagrass we purchased also came with its own attached rug pad which would make for a quicker install.
2) THE SMELL: On the day of the install, the smell was SO BAD I was scared. I have a really sensitive nose & whatever glue they used when mixed with the straw-smell of the seagrass honestly smelled like animal urine. BUT a few days later, when all of the glue had dried, we were left with just the “hay smell” of segrass, which I love.     …I have learned from my mistake and it’s EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you ask your installer to use a glue with little or no smell.  We used a different glue in our bedroom and the hay smell is all we have. 🙂
3) THE SEAMS: The seams are not visible. (we had a good installer & he did seal down the seams and all edges) But the rug is also connected so that the natural lines in the rug are in a row… It looks perfect and you can’t even tell even when trying to find the seams.
4) THE FRAYING: So far, so good and we have a dog with long nails who runs all over it. I’m sure it will (and probably already has & I haven’t noticed) pull up in places but it’s pretty simple to just snip loose fibers with a pair of scissors. It’s a natural rug & will get flaws, but they really aren’t very noticeable.
5) THE CARE: A-mazing! It’s recommended to vaccuum once a week (okay, okay, when things slow down I’ll get to that) and you can even sweep these rugs clean! I hate to gross you all out (but want to give you the REAL scoop) — My toddler had an accident on it last week and it all just pooled in one spot without soaking in and I was able to blot it up really easily. Then I sprayed it down with a natural cleaner (probably a no-no but I was grossed out) and wiped it up with towels. There’s no mark, no smell and it looks just like the rest of the rug. Because the grass is from the water, it resists stains & water marks. You also really can’t see dirt at all and when we have gotten mud on it, we just allowed it to dry and then swept up the dirt.
6) THE SOFTNESS FACTOR: Seagrass is actually pretty smooth and hard. It’s actually more like a hard floor than a rug. It’s just as fine for kids to crawl across as hardwood or any other hard surface but isn’t ideal for play areas where they’ll spend a lot of floor-time. BUT it’s GORGEOUS with other rugs layered over it. In our family room in the TV/ play area, we layered an old wool rug over it, which is perfect for playing, lounging & wrestling… (I thought I’d let you see it in all its messy-primary-colored-toy-glory)   Many people complain that it hurts their feet and I have to admit that late at night and early in the morning when it was first installed, it hurt my feet, but now it doesn’t bother me at all, even when I’m tired.

7) EXTRA INFO: Since it’s natural, its color changes over time. It starts out with more of a green tinge and eventually tans. If you are layering rugs, the area under the rug might stay green longer because the moisture is being protected under there so keep that in mind of you plan on moving rugs around seasonally. (Similar to sun discoloration on hardwoods) Eventually, after being exposed for long enough, the difference shouldn’t be noticeable. Weels also work on this rug which is perfect for the wheely desk chairs in my office & also for Christian’s scooter. Joni from Cote de Texas has a beautiful & information-packed post about seagrass which (if you haven’t already read) you should definitely check out here.
2— SISAL—- Sisal rugs are another gorgeous option for natural rugs. (For banding, I like colors that blend with the natural color of the rug vs. colors)
The LOWDOWN on sisal:

1) THE CARE: The maintenance is a bit higher for sisal than seagrass. Water can STAIN it although doesn’t always.  It depends upon the specific rug.

2) SOFTNESS FACTOR: It’s rough & scratchy. It’s not smooth like seagrass and has a rough, frayed rope-like texture. NOT good for baby & kid knees or lounging yourself, but again, is the perfect rug to use in a room you don’t need to be on the floor in, or to layer under a softer rug.

3) USES: It is also beautiful installed wall to wall a living room or bedroom.

I love all of the gorgeous textured options available with sisal.  (Think Stark’s Diamond sisal pattern!! 🙂

** I’ve gotten several comment from people who have had sisal for years & have had no staining issues!!! .. But have also heard from people who have had the staining issues so it seems there’s some variance! ***
3—WOOL LOOK-ALIKES—– Because I love the look of sisal (above) but needed a softer rug, I chose a custom wool area rug for my living room that looks like sisal (below) and had it banded in cotton. (I wanted to go thicker & linen on the banding but the price jump was insane so I settled) You can have these made at carpet stores.
1) MAINTENANCE: Easy. Same as any other wool rug. We haven’t gotten any spills other than water on it (which has been fine) but for any tough stains/ spills, I would just use some warm, slightly soapy water and a rag to blot/work out. The color & texture hides dirt too! yay!! And, because its wool, it’ll last for years & wear really well.
2) SOFTNESS FACTOR: It’s not super-plush or thick because it has that sisal look, but is very soft for kids & babies. My son is on it all the time and no raw knees. My husband has also taken naps on it with no complaints.
3) SEAMS: We didn’t have to get any seams done but wouldn’t have had to sign any waivers for this one, so I’m assuming they would be fine, especially with the striped texture. This carpet came 13 feet wide so I had to cheat a tiny bit in the entry/ book shelf area of the room. It is about 2″ shorter in that one section (below on the left) than would have been perfect but isn’t really noticeable in person and saved me about $1000.00 (We would have had to almost double the amount needed for those couple of inches because you have to buy the whole width and we also would have had to pay for seaming.)

3) STYLE FACTOR: Again, I love the look. It looks like a natural woven rug but is super-soft. I also love it layered with other rugs and plan on switching them in & out seasonally. Below you can see part of the hide rug I have under the coffee table right now:

And here’s a (very blurry) close-up so you can see the texture. It’s ribbed multi-tonal texture which is what make it look like a natural-fiber rug.

4—SYNTHETIC RUGS—– In our old townhome, we also had a wall-to-wall synthetic carpet installed that looked very much like sisal. It was by Shaw and is called “sisal touch.” (Our color was “fawn” and it was just beautiful.) WE LOVED IT. Here it is below and I’m sorry there’s not a close-up because it’s actually ribbed & has a subtle two-tone striped pattern. (actually very similar to the rug above, but lighter colors.) This rug is the perfect alternative to the generic berber.

1) MAINENANCE: Synthetic so it cleans up amazingly well. We had some SERIOUS spills on this one- don’t want to gross you out but think- getting sick, new baby, dog, ,ud, even wine. Everything came out with a mix of warm water & normal dish soap. (Read that in Real Simple & this easy mixture even gets blood out.) We also had it going up our stairs & it didn’t show a thing.

2) SEAMS: We had seams & they weren’t visible. The ribbed/ striped textured hid it all.

3) PETS: Like I said, all stains came up perfectly & her long toe nails didn’t pull the fibrs/ loops up at all (although they told us they would.)

4) SOFTNESS: a dream. Again, not as soft as plush carpet, but like a berber. SO FAMILY-FRIENDLY.

5) STYLE: Just beautiful and had multiple people use it in their own homes after seeing it. It’s gorgeous (and super-practical) going up the stairs with a NY roll (when they tuck it around the tread top instead of going straight down) too!


1) MAINTENANCE: laughable. I took the WORST care ever of our jute rugs & they looked fine. They kind of eat your dirt. You can just vacuum them. I’ve had ours in the kitchen & even spilled salsa (I know, gross!) in ours and just wiped it with a rag & then blotted it with a wet rag to get the stain out.

2)PETS: Great for pets. Like I said, these things eat your dirt so they just sort of suck up the hair & you can vacuum it off.
3) SOFTNESS FACTOR: There are a lot of jute-chenille blends that are actually very soft but full jute isn’t as soft. Jute is thicker than sisal & seagrass and also softer, but still not super-soft unless it’s a blend. Ours is full jute and it is more like a foot-massager (which I love to walk on) but I wouldn’t recommend it for a kids’ play area or somewhere that you want to hang out on the floor. All that being said, jute-chenille blends can be the perfect choice for a kid/ baby play area because they can be really soft, so just be sure to check out the specific sample & see what you think. (They vary widely)
4) STYLE FACTOR: I LOVE the look of jute. It’s so chucky & warm-looking and adds so much texture to a room.

5) INTERESTING TIDBITS: The fibers in a jute rug sort of wear and underneath it (if you don’t clean under your rugs often and I SO don’t) you get this weird sort of dirt & fiber dust. (My poor mother-in-law was helping us clean & when she lifted the rug to sweep under it, got to see it in all its glory!) I’m not really bothered by the fiber dust under there but just thought you might want to know! ***I’ve also gotten some comments in about people bothered by the fibers sticking them them when they lay down on the rug— mine didn’t do this but apparently some do, so you might want to check these out in person if you plan on napping on them!

And that’s all I can think of for now on these rugs… Anyway, let me know if you have any questions & I’ll post answers at the end of the post! {I have to apologize also because I lost my sources for the bottom & top images in this post, so if anyone knows where they’re from, let me know & I can add the sources in here!}

Also this place has some great options & prices & they deliver on-time & quickly: http://www.naturalarearugs.com/
Question: For either the wool-look alike or the seagrass…would you go to a carpet store to have a large rug cut? Answer- for the wool look-alike , yes, because it’s not something I’ve seen a lot of ready-made, but for the seagrass, it would be cheaper to look around for ready-made online. Try here: http://www.naturalarearugs.com/seagrass_mountaingrass/
Question: I’m extremely anal about having fibers all over the place — so which out of jute, jute blend and wool would have the least amount of dust generated from the rugs themselves? Answer: the jute is probably the worst for dust & fibers so I would go with the wool look-alike if I were you. Unfortunately, wool is also the most expensive. (But worth it to me!)
Question: Is Pottery Barn a good place to get the rugs, or is there a more affordable place? Answer: Check out that link above.. And also google in the rug you’re looking for and see what comes up. Lots of internet stores have lower prices than Pottery Barn & I usually order from online unless I need custom. (The good thing about PB is you can check it out in the stores.)
Question: My concern is that I have a black sofa, mid-century modern medium-wood furniture, and a huge modern painting with reds and yellows and blacks. My friends say I need a black/grey/red rug – but I want to keep the floor light. Thoughts on using light natural fiber rugs with dark furnishings? Answer: I think you’re fine to go with natural fiber rugs & dark furnishings. In fact, I think it’s really gorgeous. I think the natural rugs give a modern room some texture & some more depth. I’m not one for thinking everything has to “match” perfectly & I’m sure a natural rug would work beautifully with your wood furniture. You can always add a fun zebra hide over it to pull in the black.
Question: I want a seagrass rug so badly. But I have new hardwood floors, and I have been told that the latex backing on the seagrass rugs interact with the chemicals in the finish on the floor, and the latex backing will stick to the hardwood and be impossible to remove, causing the floor to have to be refinished. So…….I’m looking for a seagrass rug without a latex backing. Then the rug will slip and I’ll fall and bust my ***. What is a girl to do? Answer: I think you could add a rug pad (that’s safe for wood floors of course) underneath of the seagrass/latex.