Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.
A cozy, approachable living space starts from the ground up—literally. The right area rug should visually define a room, but there’s more to it than style. Area rugs absorb impact and sound, add warmth, and help us feel grounded by slowing down the energy flow of a space in a calming, welcoming way.
From your child’s first steps to their most recent sleepover, lots of memories are made on your living room rug. Here’s how to choose the right one for the comfort and health of your home.
They’re the number-one thing we recommend people invest in. If you’re tackling design on your own, getting a custom rug is the best thing you can do to make your space feel like an expert was there. If it looks purposeful and not forced, it’s the most impactful way to make a space feel custom. It’s like tailoring a suit—if the rug fits, anything you layer on top of it will look even better.
You don’t have to buy custom area rugs to buy a size-specific rug. Go to your local rug store and find a natural-fiber rug that’s broadloom—that means the length goes on forever. You can have them cut and bind it for your space.
Because they won’t off-gas chemicals in your home, like synthetic fibers do. For area rugs, I have a huge fondness for wool because it’s the most durable in terms of cleaning, wear and tear, kids, and pets. For cost savings, you could do a wool mix, cotton dhurrie, sisal, or jute. But you do need to pay attention to who makes the rugs and where.
When rugs are made in developing countries and imported to the US, they’re sprayed with pesticides and anti-fungal chemicals so they don’t get riddled with bugs, then they’re thrown into airtight shipping containers for months at a time. Those toxic chemicals get trapped in the fibers and off-gas once you bring them into your home. If you buy a handmade wool rug that’s been sprayed with every sort of pesticide and chemical, it defeats the purpose of buying a natural fiber.
The gold standard is a rug made in the US of natural fibers. Your next best option is a higher-end wool rug from Europe, like Portugal or Scotland—those don’t have to be sprayed. I’ve also had success with handmade wool rugs from India that were imported by air freight—those don’t have to be sprayed either.
Great choice. In the event that they were on a shipping container 50 years ago, whatever chemicals were sprayed on them have long since broken down. To be safe, though, try to buy vintage rugs that have been in the states for a while. Not only are they sustainable, they have that worn-in look that’s really big right now.
Generally, the lower the pile, the better. Look for a flat weave or non-thick pile. Those are good if you have pets that shed too. Dense, thick-pile rugs tend to trap debris and a vacuum can only pick up so much.
Don’t do it. Any sort of chemicals that provide stain-proofing or antimicrobial effects contain known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and you don’t want anyone—children, animals, yourself—coming into contact with that. Wool rugs are actually easy to clean—just use organic soap and hang them outside in the sunshine to disinfect and dry.
Invest in a custom-sized rug.