Someone once said, “Natural fiber rugs have become the jeans of home décor.” You can dress them up, dress them down and layer them. They are affordable, and ever since they showed up in American homes we find them in more and more of our rooms. Let’s face it, they are here to stay. Let’s see what we know about them and how they compare to a jean!
Sisal: Is made from the agave plant, the same family of plants that provides aloe and tequila. These are grown in Central America but major production is from Brazil and East Africa. Strong fibers from inside the large leaves are separated, washed, dried and spun into fiber. These fibers accept color well and are often dyed.
Seagrass: Is indeed a grass. Seagrass is grown in Asian countries, typically among rice in rice fields. It has fast-growing properties and is easy to harvest, which makes it one of the most sustainable flooring options out there. And its rich history, having been inspired from centuries-old reed mats, adds an eclectic look to any home.
Because seagrass is a fiber grown in water, it is not only strong but resistant to most spills and stains. Seagrass fibers aren’t dyed, which means that seagrass area rugs are used in their natural form. It comes in a variety of natural shades. Neutral greens are especially popular, ranging from olive green to lighter shades of sage. Often, browns and beiges combine to create truly unique natural blends of color.
Jute: Jute is another plant fiber grown in Bangladesh, India and China. It is a bast fiber, meaning that the fibers come from the stem of the plant. Jute is the least durable of this group of fibers. It should not be used in settings with high traffic. Jute rugs have a rich texture and a natural tonal variation that is durable yet soft underfoot.
Hemp: Hemp Grass rugs are an un-dyed, rich deep brown, coppery shade. They are smooth to the touch and have a comfortable feel underfoot. Hemp Grass is grown in the highlands of China and is harvested by hand and woven by machine. Hemp Grass rugs are also known as Mountain Grass rugs.
Sisal and its close relatives seagrass, jute and other natural-fiber rugs have been around for centuries in tropical islands and country homes. However, American designers have taken these rugs from their traditional placements to a whole new place.
An oversized jute or seagrass rug lying on a large stone or wood floor can act as a backdrop for a much smaller antique oriental, or a colorful Moroccan, rug—like a frame for a beautiful picture. You can use it as a layering or solo. Georgetown decorator Antony Childs, one of the early adopters of natural fiber rugs, had everyone gasping in 1989, when he lined the formal entrance hall and grand staircase of a gilded Embassy Row show house with black-bordered sisal carpet.
Today’s variety of more durable, softer and kinder-on-the-feet natural-fiber rugs provides new decorating ideas and a new twist to that shabby chic look for our coastal homes. Want to use one in a kitchen, outdoors or a wet area? Faux sisal is made out of polypropylene and can be hosed off, making it well-suited for those surroundings.
It is good advice to think about which one of these natural fiber rugs are best-suited for your particular application. Sisal is best placed on easily accessible hard floors, as dirt naturally falls through its thick weave, where it can simply be lifted up and any debris swept out from beneath. These rugs are generally not recommended for kitchen, bathrooms or near wet areas. However, if you love the “look” and can afford the risk of damage, ultimately you can replace them with a new one. After all, they are a bargain compared to the expensive handmade Orientals or Persians.
Have a fun time decorating and remember it is your space!