Natural Fiber Area Rugs: The Eight Most Common Materials Compared

by Nicola Temple on December 23, 2011

Natural fiber area rugs can be a beautiful, yet functional accent to any home interior.

An area rug can highlight furniture pieces, protect floors, help create separate spaces within the home, and provide comfort under foot.

Choosing one made from natural fibers has the added benefit of being constructed from renewable resources and is therefore a more eco-friendly option.

However, just because you choose to incorporate eco-friendly options into your interior, doesn’t mean you have to be limited in your design options.

There is a great deal of diversity in the range of natural fibers used to construct area rugs, almost guaranteeing that you will find something to suit your needs; whether you are seeking a contemporary, luxurious, or rustic feel with your interior.

So, before you head for the shops, here is the rundown of the eight most commonly used fibers used in natural area rugs as some may be more appropriate than others depending on your needs.

Bamboo mats or rugs are very common and are excellent for outdoor spaces such as porches, patios, sunrooms or even indoor spaces in more contemporary homes. They are durable and infinitely renewable as bamboo is the fastest growing terrestrial plant. Bamboo rugs have a very distinct look, however, and so there is little diversity within this fiber – a bamboo rug will always look like a bamboo rug.

Jute rugs are made from a fiber extracted from plants of the genus Corchorus. They often have a tweedy look to them giving a sophisticated feel. The fibers are very fine making them soft underfoot, but perhaps more appropriate for a sitting room rather than a high traffic area.

Seagrass rugsare woven and can provide texture to a room. The fibers are durable and naturally very stain resistant. As seagrass rugs have a limited colour range, colour accents are usually added as part of the border, with linen, cotton and leather in various colours.

natural fiber area rugs

Sisal is one of the common types of natural fiber area rugs. Sisal comes from the plant, Agave sisalana, which is widely cultivated and the leaves are dried as shown. CC image courtesy of Agecom Bahia on Flickr.

Sisal rugs are much like seagrass rugs as they are woven from the dried leaves of the Agave sisalana plant. This natural fiber is very hard wearing, which makes it ideal for high traffic areas such as stairs and hallways.

Hemp rugs are usually made by combining the hemp with yarn, cotton or jute and then hand-knotting it. There is usually some diversity in the colours as these rugs can be dyed usually using natural vegetable colourings. Chenille and hemp can also be combined to create a soft luxurious rug that is also durable.

Coir rugs are made from coconut husk fibres and are very durable. However, due to their rather rough fibrous feel, they are also usually better suited to outdoor spaces.

Wool is a natural fiber that probably offers the most versatility in terms of area rugs. It can be dyed for a range of colour choices. It can be a chunky thick knit that provides a lot of texture or it can be a tight knit that has more of a sophisticated contemporary feel. Wool is extremely durable.

Cotton can also be utilized in rugs. It can be blended with other fibers, such as recycled bamboo, to create soft yet durable area rugs. The video below shows a silky shag, which is a cotton/bamboo blend that doesn’t shed nearly as much as other soft shag rugs.

Even an active household, with kids and lots of through traffic can incorporate natural fiber area rugs into their interior. Natural fibers have become more sophisticated giving a greater range of choices to meet your needs while also being durable. Equally important, the natural fibers mean they are constructed from infinitely renewable materials, which means they are an eco-friendly choice you can feel good about.

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