Feature image: Inspired by the artist’s iconic paper cutouts, this After Matisse designer handknotted wool rug is from £808; www.sonyawinner.com

Article by Barbara Chandler

Kasbah Nimbus Moroccan-style from £138; made from plastic bottles, it is machine-washable; www.weavergreen.com

Your new home from Weston Homes, with its classy wooden floors, is crying out for a rug or two, to add that welcome soft touch and create a cosy ambience.

   A large rug with furniture on top can “zone” an open-plan living space, marking off, say, the seating from the eating area, or delineating a space for a desk, watching TV or a reading corner. Now you have a “broken-plan” which is friendlier and more manageable.

A SIZE THAT SUITS…

It’s tricky visualising proportions when browsing the internet, so be sure to measure up carefully before you start, and have a rough plan to hand. Then outline your proposed rug with masking tape, or cut it out in newspaper. On the whole, think big. Choose a larger size and site as much furniture as possible on your rug.

HOW ITS MADE…

Hand-knotted traditional oriental rugs have had pole position for hundreds, indeed thousands, of years, made in many parts of Asia including Iran, China, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan and Tibet. Many Western “designer” rugs are also hand-knotted in this traditional way, generally made from wool, but also silk and bamboo. Berber rugs are hand-woven in Morocco typically with a diamond design in neutral shades. Flat-weave rugs such as kelims and dhurries are handwoven for a tapestry effect without a pile – lighter in weight and quicker to make. Visit a showroom if you can, as each rug is a one-off. On the web, make sure rugs are photographed individually.

Muse Black Spotty Rug three sizes from £71 www.therugretailer.co.uk

   Cowhides, typically around 210cm in length with the best from South America, add individuality and a distinctive, organic shape to a bland room. Sheepskins have a long and luxurious pile that’s perfect for bedsides.

   Cotton rugs are usually handmade in a tight weave and strong colours. These budget buys are often small enough to go in the washing machine

   Speedier but still essentially artisan is hand-tufting, where fibres are punched into a backing in lines of loops, fixed on the underside with latex plus a hessian backing and then sheared.

   Machine-made rugs can be woven or tufted, coming mainly from Turkey, Belgium or China. Be aware that many imitate the colours and patterns of handmade rugs, but there is an abundance of modern patterns, too, as well as plains and textures, and a wide variety of fibres.

   Outdoor rugs are a quick and affordable way to brighten up your balcony or patio. They are very hard-wearing but in winter bring them in, clean them down, dry them off and store them rolled up somewhere dry.

Jute Triangles rug from £75, Marl Rug from £129, Jute ombre rug from £79, undyed Wool rug £89; www.dunelm.com

… AND WHAT ITS MADE FROM

Well, you can’t beat wool. It’s resilient and soft, with natural oils that resist water, dust and dirt. So it will cope well with traffic but is also kind to knees and elbows lounging at floor level. After use, it will biodegrade. Currently fashionable is viscose, essentially made from wood pulp with an affordable luxe look that resembles silk. But viscose rugs can stain, can be difficult to clean, and may even discolour if they get wet. Viscose is also biodegradable, but toxic chemicals are used to make it.

Nylon is man-made and will not biodegrade, but it is hard-wearing and easy to clean. Look for “solution-dyed” yarns that lock in the colour. Nylon may feel cold in winter – and warm in summer. Polypropylene and polyester are essentially plastics, made from fossil fuels and won’t biodegrade – not a good choice for the environment. However, they are affordable, soft, fluffy and beguiling with good colours and patterns. But they will only last around three to five years in a high-traffic area. They can absorb oil-based stains, so avoid them for kitchens and dining areas.

   On the other hand, jute is a good “green” fibre, a fast-growing, rain-fed crop grown without fertilizer or pesticides. Affordable, soft and reasonably durable, its caramel shades have a natural lustre, but spills can stain. Sisal is tougher and takes colour well. But it’s rather coarse and feels scratchy underfoot, and can also stain. Sea grass is another good eco-fibre which is durable and stain-resistant, and feels reasonably soft underfoot. Hemp is also fairly durable and soft. Naturally a copper brown, it can be dyed and woven into intricate patterns.

Ikea Stoense synthetic pile rug from £50, www.ikea.com

WHERE TO SHOP

Mass-market/internet

Ikea: Stylish handmade rugs (many reversible) whose workers have safe environments near their homes; new looms are reducing back problems. A design classic is the black-and-white reversible Stockholm rug. Some Ikea rugs are made from recycled plastic bottles.

Habitat: Modernist rugs in good colours.

H&M: Brilliant spread of low-key patterns/colours, including jute and also “rag rugs” made with recycled cotton www2.hm.com

Rugs Direct: Trading for 25 years, lots of well-priced rugs to buy online. Free next-day delivery and good customer reviews www.rugsdirect.co.uk

Woodstock Kapadokia Indigo Turkish £2,800; www.mindtheg.com

Trendcarpet: Each handmade rug here is different, carefully sourced, described and photographed www.trendcarpet.co.uk

Dunelm: Well-priced neutrals including clearance and special buys dunelm.com

Weaver Green: Unique process for recycling plastic bottles into traditionally made, soft and comfy rugs www.weavergreen.com

John Lewis: An excellent rug guide plus well-priced Anyday own-brand in jute and wool. There’s also a new spread of handmade orientals www.johnlewis.com

Cecilia rug, £199. www.sofology.co.uk

DESIGNER RUGS

The Rug Company: The pioneers of handmade designer rugs, find classic designs by Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and more. See their rugs in your room on your screen www.therugcompany.com

FLOOR_STORY: This edgy brand commissions handmade rugs from a huge list of contemporary designers including Henry Holland and Zandra Rhodes. A new Wasted collection is woven from offcuts www.floorstory.co.uk

Boston all-wool hand-tufted rug from £35; www.dunelm.com

Designers Guild: Exquisite low-key plains and textures in subtle colours – and famous for fashionable ombre (graded colour); clever tool for choosing colour online designersguild.com

Sonya Winner: Idiosyncratic ranges inspired by artworks that include Matisse. They’ll send you a “digital visual” based on a photo of your room. Price reductions for ex-display selections www.sonyawinner.com

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