simple stuff: throw rugs.

September 27, 2017

Simple Stuff: A series devoted to talking about the stuff that might prove useful or helpful or otherwise necessary while making a home in a small apartment or anywhere. Its aim is to provide a bit of inspiration for simplifying your space sustainably and stylishly. Its contention is that what’s useful can be beautiful, and that you might already have everything you need.

For someone who loves a bare floor precisely because there’s nothing on it, a rug can be a hang up. But there’s the comfort factor, and the downstairs neighbor factor, and the clattering block towers factor, and even I concede that a rug can be a helpful thing to have in a small apartment or otherwise.

But first I have to confess (or simply remind, depending on how closely you’ve been following along) that we’ve played a bit of musical rugs since living in our current apartment. There was the first rug that was too thick and too crumb-catching, that got sold to a family headed upstate. Then there was the declaration of no rugs, until the neighbor complained. Then there was the second rug, and my subsequent realization that it was too big and too bright. That one got sold to a fellow Brooklyn family with more space and a healthy relationship with Technicolor textiles. Right this minute, we have a handful of smaller throw rugs purchased to appease neighbors and make a soft spot for babies, but still allow for at least a little floor to show through. They’re soft and lovely and very much washable, which has been important, but I sometimes wonder if a solid rug or a simpler pattern would suit the space, or my general disposition, better. I hope to attain inner peace regarding the state of my rugs one day, but I also want to let anyone out there with similar rug indecision problems to know you’re not alone.

In case you’re similarly trepidatious about rugs or otherwise unsure of where to begin looking, here’s a short list of rugs that have caught my eye, for better or for worse. They’re rugs that appeal to me, which is to say that the designs are relatively simple and the sizes relatively small. As always, I’ve tried to gather a list of possibilities where materials are natural, artists are compensated for their work, and resources are thoughtfully considered. 

Vintage

+ Some folks can be squeamish about inviting secondhand (let alone third, or fourth, or fifthhand) rugs into their homes, but once you accept that you’ll probably need to add the price of a professional cleaning (or, depending, at least two cycles at the laundromat) onto the total cost, treasure hunting at flea markets or estate sales is a great place to start. We bought our vintage rag rug from our favorite neighborhood treasure trove and even though it ended up not being perfect for us, it was perfect for someone else and I was able to recoup the cost, minus what I’d spent on cleaning. I’m a broken record, but sleuthing for vintage specimens has all sorts of benefits both for the environment and, depending on how much you dig, for your bank account.

+ If haunting estate sales for rugs is not your idea of a pleasant Saturday, consider experts. I regularly scanned my pet favorite “Scandinavian rag rug” search on Etsy for a solid month before finding a local option. If you’re ever in the mood to salivate, the exquisitely curated 86Home is a very favorite shop of mine for gawking at beautiful antique homewares, including lots of pretty rugs. Ditto, Sharktooth and Saturday Sunday.

Cotton

+ Our current rugs are 100% cotton rugs made by a cooperative in Brazil and sold through Joinery here in New York. Not all of their rugs are still in stock, but our square black and white rug is still listed as on sale. Same goes for the striped rugs in Faye and Silas’s room. I love that they’re soft and machine washable (and small enough to send down to the laundromat). (We use these rug pads underneath.)

+ For folks hoping for a cotton rag rug with something of a more muted color palette than can reliably be found in vintage options, consider the very lovely rugs from Willaby. Owner and designer, Kim Woods, partnered with Amish rug makers from her home state of Ohio for the special project that puts fabric remnants from her past children’s clothing collections to use in rugs. Like the clothing collections she’s designed, the colors are earthy and muted. I love No. 7 and No. 9 best of all. 100% cotton and machine washable.

+ For readers who are decidedly not afraid of patterns or colors, the rug collection from Block Shop Textiles is one to take a look at. The design for these cotton dhurries begins with watercolor sketches and is realized by a self-governing cooperative of master weavers in Jodhpur, India. I got to see some of their earliest dhurrie samples when I visited their offices in LA and I can attest to their loveliness. Thin, but durable. Soft, but sturdy. And just look at that diamondback. (New designs are coming out in the new year—follow along with their Instagram account to stay up-to-date.)

Wool

+ For a stateside-made option, Melinda Bateman is a farmer and weaver who uses domestic Churro wool to make her woolen throw rugs. RMTL sponsor Wilson and Willy’s stocks her work in three striped colorways. Perfect for a cabin in the woods or, you know, a fourth-floor walk-up in the middle of the city.

+ Block Shop alum Nisha Miran (we met on that same office visit!), opened her own textile company, SUNDAY/MONDAY in 2016. She and her husband partner with master weavers in the desert region of Kutch, in the western state of Gujarat, India to make the rugs they sell. I especially love the look of their Pataang rug.

+ I really love the marriage of traditional and modern design in Caroline Z Hurley’s alpaca wool Florence Light Blue rug. It’s designed by Caroline and made by artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. I love the natural variation of the undyed and untreated wool and Caroline’s signature graphic touch.

Other stuff:

+ For more truly neutral options, Brookfarm General Store has also had some solid options in stock recently. I appreciate the natural fibers, neutral colors, and subtle patterns of their current options, like this cotton and hemp rug.

+ What about you? What kinds of rugs do you daydream about covering your floors? 

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30 Comments

  • Reply Аnn September 27, 2017 at 7:26 am

    I like woolen carpets, they are very warm and visually cozy.
    And acrylic carpets – it’s very comfortable to feel like silk.
    Still at me before an entrance door the usual homespun rug, from a clap, very practical. Easy to wash in the washing machine

  • Reply Nina September 27, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Having been a downstairs neighbour to bare (or barely rugged) floorboards myself, I wonder if you’ve ever thought of putting down a cork tile floor – they can look beautiful and are soft, warm, and quiet.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Sounds lovely!

  • Reply Zoe September 27, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Love this post! Any information on where to get ethical, responsibly made or vintage home goods is always appreciated! And one day my dog will grow out of chewing rugs and we will get some of these beauties 🙂

  • Reply Anna September 27, 2017 at 9:51 am

    I find throw rugs can be a bit tricky with little crawlers and curious toddlers. I can’t handle rugs getting scrunched or moved all the time but once my littlest gets past that stage I’ll have to check some of these out.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      Ha! Yes. The rug pads were a lifesaver for us on that front! Not soo much for the dirt they track everywhere…;)

  • Reply Stacey September 27, 2017 at 10:06 am

    I know this is off topic but is this your room? Are there any other photos on the site of your bedside table? Our room is so tiny and we’ve been doing without tables forever. That looks like a really good option and I’d love to be able to see more of it! Thanks for all the rug sources too!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 27, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      It’s my room in so much as it’s *the* room! Our bed shares a space with the rest of the apartment in this one bedroom! Our table is just a wooden crate propped on its side! There are a few other shots in this post: http://www.readingmytealeaves.com/2016/04/on-bed-sheets.html

  • Reply Kelly September 27, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I make rags rugs – knitting homemade ‘yarn’ (tied together bits of sewing projects or t-shirts that are stained/have holes) on large needles. Price is right :-). And they’re machine washable. I made my first pair in 2012 and they’re still going strong.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 27, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      Crafty!! Love it.

  • Reply Judith September 27, 2017 at 11:23 am

    I am looking for a smallish rug for our place. One issue I have with buying them online is I won’t be able to feel them as coziness and texture and potential itchiness are all important factors for me. One source you and your readers might want to check out for rugs and other items is http://www.theanou.com/ . The proceeds go directly into the hands of the Moroccan artisans and includes a photo of the maker and information about their area of Morocco and the materials that go into their works. I learned about it from my son, who spent two years there as a Peace Corps volunteer.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 27, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks so much, Judith! So glad for this recommendation!

  • Reply Eva September 27, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I am obsessed with vintage Kilim rugs after seeing my French in-laws decorate with them. They come in all kinds of colors and patterns, but I prefer faded pastels in geometric patterns. They’re really low pile though, so they’re better for walkways and hallways, rather than say, a living room rug you want to sit on.

    http://www.shessobright.com

  • Reply camille September 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you for this timely list. I have been thinking about rugs, and have browsed all the beautiful etsy shops, still I cannot find (do not know?) exactly what I am looking for. Soft, washable, but not too slippery for the almost toddler. Not too dark but not too stain-able. I might use some of these lovely ideas!

  • Reply Elizabeth September 27, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    We’re thrilled with our living room rug from The Weavery – made in Morocco from all natural fibers. It is so comfortable! The whole family sits and plays on the floor twice as much as we used to. Very pleased with the company as well. http://shop.the-weavery.com

  • Reply Heather September 27, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Oh, the Florence Light Blue rug would be absolutely perfect in my living room/dining room/sewing room!! Wishlisted. 🙂

  • Reply Jacqueline Henry September 28, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Thank you Erin!!!! Just the post I was hoping you’d do! Do you think the diamond back blue rug will be soft? I wish the ones you got also came in colors!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 28, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Yes, definitely! It’s 100% cotton!

  • Reply Vera September 28, 2017 at 6:29 am

    I love a nice cotton rug, but the problem is that sometimes they slip away when you step on it (or run like my toddler loves to do…). Do you use a nonslip underlayer?

  • Reply Vera September 28, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Yes… the link is in the post

  • Reply jane September 28, 2017 at 11:41 am

    I am in the same camp of try, try again…with not only rugs, but lots of things. I don’t think that a lot of people understand the dissatisfaction/restlessness…but each iteration seems to get me one step closer…maybe not to perfection…but to my good enough. I’m learning. 🙂

  • Reply Rebekah September 28, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I also enjoy a bare wood floor, and as an upstairs neighbor and Montessori guide my solution has been a work rug for my son. Perfect for block play and easily stored once rolled up. I got mine here.

    http://www.montessoriservices.com/preparing-the-environment/rugs-mats/large-hemmed-work-rugs

  • Reply Kathleen September 28, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I love Moroccan rugs! I was in the Peace Corps in Morocco where carpet making is a way of life for many women in rural villages and I constantly covet so many colorful, lovely rugs. .. A small but worthy plug, another former volunteer started a fair trade organization called Anou that helps Moroccan women sell their rugs abroad, they’re very reasonably priced and come straight from the ladies who weave them: http://www.theanou.com

  • Reply Cindy September 28, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Erin. Thanks for this post. What are your thoughts on bathroom rugs? What kind of rug do you use when it will get wet?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 28, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      We’re still using our old (very) tiny apartment tip of just using a hand towel for our bathmat! That said, I have my eye on this little one from Fog Linen. Or, if you wanted something more rug-like, they have this linen mat made from fabric remnants!

  • Reply Carol September 28, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    I am currently drooling over these lovely bathmats:
    https://quiettownhome.com/pages/rugs
    I think they would look nice in non bath spaces too!

  • Reply Julia (Color Me Green) September 30, 2017 at 8:26 am

    We recently got a rug from Hook & Loom and have been happy with it. Cool company – their wool rugs don’t use dyes and instead use natural variation in sheep wool colors. Their cotton rugs come in colors using recycled textiles and I think are matching washable. Both come in really cool patterns. You can order swatches affordably in the mail to figure out what you want.

  • Reply Tressa October 7, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Would love to know how/why you settled on those specific pads. I’m in the market for one.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 9, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Hey Tressa! Just weighed some factors of cost and flooring and general eco-friendliness and this one seemed like a good compromise!

  • Reply BELN November 3, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I also love rugs, in almost empty spaces. Have a look at these ones: https://pampa.com.au/

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