Kitchen Rugs came into decorative focus after our cocinas exploded into the rest of the house.
With open kitchens in the sight lines, kitchen rugs went from purely functional (read often ugly) to consciously stylish. Today, with so many colors, materials and patterns available kitchen rugs often stand alone as accent pieces or coordinate with window treatments, backsplashes and cabinet colors. Rugs aren’t necessarily large in many kitchens. Standard 48-inch wide aisles are perfectly in scale for 24-inch wide runners regardless of the length. Padded walkways are kind to the legs and back, especially on hard floor surfaces such as tile and stone. In some kitchens, only a small 2 x 4-foot rug placed in front of a sink is required for that small pop of color or pattern to juice up décor.
Among the trendiest and chicest look for kitchen rugs are wide stripes. In an all-white renovated California coastal kitchen by Studio Mc Gee [top], a long charcoal and white tent-striped rug picks up the accents from the black stools, oven glass and coordinates with the Roman shade over the window. Striped rugs are incredibly popular and can swing from cottage to modern looks. They also come in a materials from olefin — a synthetic fiber that is nearly bulletproof — to cotton and wool. An underlying function of kitchen rugs is, of course, safety and comfort particularly with a stone floor like this one which can become perilously slippery should a splash of water accidentally fly out of the sink.
Oriental pile rugs offer warmth, pattern, non-standard sizes and one-of-a-kind style. In our Dove Gray Shaker Kitchen, red Oriental runners flank the island adding an intense dose of color. True, they are a conservative choice but should not be dismissed. Whether they are of Persian, Turkish, Indian, Caucasian, Pakistani origin, they are made of wool which is easy to wipe up and shampoo. Wool is, after all, sheep’s hair. Low pile wool rugs are durable and long wearing. And densely woven handmade Oriental wool rugs are toughest of all. Orientals should get sent out every few years to be professionally cleaned, which is done with special detergent and a rotary brush. Then they are thoroughly rinsed and hung up to dry. Our pal, rug expert Jane Tulanian explained the process in her post Questions About Rug Cleaning.
The only difficult aspect of buying kitchen rugs is determining what you want. A universe of options exists at every price point and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Here are five key points to help narrow down a search:
1. Hand or machine made — Most hand-woven rugs are one-of-a kind. In the case of Oriental rugs, the country of origin can determine longterm durability and colorfastness. Hand woven rugs have anonymous weavers and require an expert to determine age. Branded rugs may be hand woven, may offer some type of quality or guarantee of origin, have modern designs, and may be more accessible in the marketplace.
2. Materials — Kitchen-suitable rugs are made from wool, cotton and cotton blends, natural fiber, synthetic (olefin, polypropylene, vinyl). Each fiber has its pros and cons. Fibers can have a different looks, coloration and durability. Beware of exaggerated claims. A quick wikipedia search provides basic attributes of each fiber to help determine its appeal.
3. Style & Thickness – Four rug styles are most common: cut pile, flat, textured weave and or tufted/laminated. Cut pile rugs are created on a loom strung with vertical and horizontal wool or cotton string. Individual strands of wool are hand-knotted between each vertical string and pushed tight into a horizontal line. The wool is trimmed to create the pile and fringe is knotted to secure the ends of the vertical (warp) threads.
Flat-weave rugs, such as kilims or dhurries, have no pile, lend to be lightweight with plain edges and may be reversible. Flat woven kilims have bold designs and earthy colors. Originally created as tent liners they are relatively thin and will lie flat. Usually hand woven they have incredible personalities. Even a kilim with a pale ground, almost the color of the floor in this kitchen, adds dramatic flair by virture of the pattern.
A rug as small as this 3 x 5-foot flat weave rug with a lively pattern is an asset. This very neutral kitchen really gets energy from the small, bold rug.
Textured-weave rugs of natural fibers such as sisal, seagrass or jute have crevices and crannies in the patterns. Unless a synthetic backing has been added for stability, textured weave natural fiber rugs are reversible. Modern rugs made of felted wool and other materials also may have this type of texture. Natural fiber rugs — sisal, jute, seagrass — look great in a kitchen. I love the way the woven fibers look and feel and their colors are neutral and soothing. I would not chose one for a kitchen though. One spill and sisal will stain. While seagrass is the most durable it will wear out in spots in a few years. Rooms other than the kitchen are better suited to natural fiber rugs though designers love them.
4. Type & Look – Rugs come in thousands of colors, patterns and textures from traditional to modern, transitional and retro. Orientals tend to have floral or geometric patterns. Modern rugs may have a repeated pattern or a textural treatment like the relief stripes in this handsome runner that blends beautifully with the texture and color of the wood floor. But take a close look at the right hand corner, which has curled up. This is a tripping hazard which underscores the need for a good pad under any rug. The proper pad also keeps area rugs from slipping. These days, anyone should be able to find an attractive kitchen rug that coordinates well with their home décor.
5. Size and Cost – These are are always related. One of a kind rugs are size specific with no variations. Branded and manufactured rugs are usually sold in a range of set sizes and colors. Custom, at a premium, is also possible. Depending on the size of any rug the cost can range from under $20 to many thousands. Budget is often the single most important factor.
6. Color – Kitchen rugs can match, coordinate or contrast. It’s a question of preference. What’s most important with color, however, is to never trust a computer monitor to be accurate. It is often very surprising how a color — especially a muted color — can shift in any given kitchen depending on the natural light and the way interior lighting is designed. That may be why we see so many neutral kitchen rugs in taupes, grays, or black and white.
Rug manufacturers have cleverly replicated the look of many different types of rugs using synthetic materials. Olefin, polyethelene and vinyl rugs are all, essentially, plastic. Those materials are durable, colorfast, stain and mildew resistant. Easy to clean and maintain, they may be virtually indistinguishable from cotton or wool rugs except on close inspection. Capel’s Hampton Shingle Stripe runner is a wool, nylon and poly blend that’s a dead ringer for a flat-woven dhurrie. Capel is a leading U.S. rug manufacturer of high quality synthetic carpets. I own one of their rugs which I had custom made for my apartment kitchen but now sits in my mud room. It’s the perfect indoor-outdoor choice, it lies flat, and wipes clean. Typical of Capel, the Hampton comes in 11 colorways and six sizes, plus custom.
Another option is carpet tiles. I also have experience with Flor tiles which are 19.7″ squares made of wool or synthetics laminated onto a backing. Easy to assemble with stickers the manufacturer provides, Flor rugs are attractive and durable. Color block is an obvious look for carpet tiles but they are extremely versatile and come in dozens of colors and patterns. The advantage is having any piece of rug washable or replacable.
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