From Sisal to Jute, the Best Natural Fiber Rugs Are More Than Just a Seasonal Staple
Shop the harlequin find we can’t stop talking about.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 12:46 AM
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Natural fiber rugs are synonymous with laid-back summers in California bungalows and Hamptons beach houses, but they’re not just for warm weather. These textiles are beloved by designers for their timelessness and proven durability—not to mention they’re incredibly affordable. While an 8-by-10-foot vintage Persian find will cost you thousands, a jute style in the same size is merely hundreds. We found nine options with staying power to prove that the best natural fiber rugs are much more than a seasonal swap-in. Read on for au naturel floor coverings both rustic and modern—don’t sleep on the patterned versions!—that will lay a solid foundation for any room, 52 weeks a year.
- Best overall: NuLoom Rigo Handwoven Jute Area Rug
- Best value: IKEA Lohals Rug
- Best harlequin: Harwich Natural Woven Jute Rug
- Best stripe: NuLoom Alisia Flat-Weave Stripes Jute Rug
- Best runner: Safavieh Handmade Chunky Textured Premium Jute
- Best abstract pattern: Tantuvi No. 16 Hemp Rug
- Best texture: Flat-Woven Mateo Jute Rug
- Best oval: Jute Dori Rug
- Best cotton binding: Santiago Sisal Rug
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Made from leafy plants like agave, the most popular natural fibers include sisal, jute, seagrass, and hemp. Jute is one of the softest options, whereas sisal can feel a bit scratchy, depending on whom you ask (though you can easily combat this by choosing a sisal-wool blend). “Sisal has a higher-end, more refined look and is great for a certain aesthetic,” notes Mindy Gayer, founder and principal designer of Mindy Gayer Design Co. Gayer, who specializes in bespoke home designs inspired by the laid-back California lifestyle, sources jute rugs more than any other natural fiber for her clients. “They add a warm, textural element to a space and tend to be more affordable,” she says.
Typically woven in tight, intricate braids (similar to a handmade basket), natural fiber rugs are built tough, ready to stand up to the demands of any high-traffic area. They’re most often flat-woven with a low pile, but they’re available in chunkier formats, too. Gayer prefers a weave that’s somewhere in between—not too thin, not too thick—to avoid snagging the rug under doors.
These rugs are known for their range of earthy, raw shades of sandy brown, but the fibers can also be bleached or colorfully dyed. Keep in mind that natural fibers are more susceptible to discoloration; if you plan to place your rug in front of a sunny window, rotate or turn it over every now and again to keep it from fading unevenly. Other issues may arise when these fibers come into contact with liquids, so be sure to blot up any spills ASAP to prevent staining, says Gayer. And contrary to popular belief, it’s why you may want to think twice before selecting natural fibers for your next outdoor rug! If you can’t resist, make sure it’s placed in a covered area away from rain and wet feet.
Keeping Them Clean
These woven rugs are relatively low-maintenance. Because they are so good at stopping dirt in its tracks, you will need to establish a regular vacuuming schedule to pick up everything they collect; once a week or so should suffice, according to Gayer. Some fibers have a tendency to shed (jute and hemp are the biggest culprits), but consistent cleaning can help keep loose threads at bay.
Natural fiber rugs come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re most popularly used as runners or space fillers. One of Gayer’s most recent projects—a home for a family of six—needed an oversize rug to bring balance to an extra-large living space. She knew they required something that was also soft and able to withstand daily wear and tear, so going with jute, she says, was a no-brainer.
Large-scale rugs can also be the backdrop for a budget-friendly layered look. Gayer often reaches for a jute or sisal rug to place under a smaller, more colorful statement piece. With vintage rugs, for example, the sizes tend to be a bit irregular; in order to properly cover a room at a lower price point, a natural fiber foundation can make all the difference. “We recommend going down in size incrementally so there’s a border,” says Gayer. “For example, with a 10-by-14-foot jute rug, opt for a 9-by-12 statement rug.” In a kitchen or front entry, you’ll want to go with something smaller and narrower: The dimensions 2-by-8 and 3-by-12 are good points of reference.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: NuLoom Rigo Handwoven Jute Area Rug
This quality and budget-friendly jute rug comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and formats, from round to oval and off-white to natural to black, and it has a striated look thanks to its tightly braided strands. It’s backed by nearly 10,000 positive reviews on Amazon, which praise its versatility. The rug will be right at home in any space; plus many of the sizes—8-foot round, 6-by-9, even a large 8-by-10—are available for less than $200.
Best Value: IKEA Lohals Rug
For Scandinavian simplicity, you can’t go wrong with IKEA. At just under $90, this unembellished flat-weave is a low-commitment purchase. Consider placing it under your dining room table. The dark brown color is great for hiding any crumbs. And although it’s the most affordable option on this list, the design also happens to have longevity on its side: Past purchasers reveal that their Lohals rug looks good years later.
Best Harlequin: Harwich Natural Woven Jute Rug
Natural rugs don’t always come in simple, neutral solids. Make a statement by choosing a bolder, more graphic option, like this diamond-pattern design from Dash & Albert, a collaboration between designers Annie Selke and Mark D. Sikes. Bonus: It’s blended with cotton and polyester, so it’s softer than typical jute.
Best Stripe: NuLoom Alisia Flat-Weave Stripes Jute Area Rug
This flat-weave offers a twist on a jute rug by adding timeless two-tone stripes for a beachy look that’s not overly nautical. Placed carefully, it can even elongate the appearance of the smallest rooms or the narrowest hallways. Reviewers rave that it’s surprisingly soft and lays flat immediately.
Best Runner: Safavieh Handmade Chunky Jute Rug
Empty hallways are often troublesome to decorate. If you’re stumped about what to do with a long, narrow space, this runner is an easy instant fix. The jute option features a looser weave with larger knots, giving it a chunkier feel and less uniform shape for a truly organic look; it’s also available in 10 colors and a variety of sizes. A few reviews warn of a bit of dust and shedding after unpacking, so give it a good shake before bringing it inside.
Best Abstract Pattern: Tantuvi No. 16 Hemp Rug
Searching for a bit more pattern play? Check out this modern geometric take on a traditional Indian handmade rug. Woven from sustainable hemp and hand-dyed in Jaipur, No. 16 will appeal to the eco-conscious, as it uses less water to produce than rugs woven from cotton. It’s also antimicrobial and mold- and mildew-resistant.
Best Texture: Flat-Woven Mateo Jute Rug
This high-meets-low-pile bohemian design is the visual intrigue you need if your dining room is falling a bit flat or your bedroom could use a little something extra. For texture that isn’t overwhelmingly rough or chunky, picking this surprisingly sophisticated pattern quickly adds a subtle, natural feel. Shoppers agree that the photos of this exclusive Anthropologie design don’t do it justice. It’s even prettier (and softer) in person.
Best Oval: Jute Dori Rug
Handwoven in India, this West Elm find features jute fibers wrapped in polyester, a hardier synthetic, so it promises to hold its shape. The concentric pattern with a unique contrasting detail is an elevated take on an oval design. Use this subtle piece to soften sharp angles or accentuate the curvy nature of your furniture.
Best Cotton Binding: Santiago Sisal Rug
A cotton-bound border not only keeps all of the sisal fibers held firmly together—eliminating any chance of unraveled ends down the road—it doubles as a visual frame for furniture or a way to delineate space. This sisal version is fully customizable, from color to shape to size—even down to the look and width of the border—so you can create the rug of your dreams.
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