Natural Fiber Rugs Have Been Used for Over a Millennium—And We Still Can’t Get Enough

The first rugs made by mankind were likely woven natural fiber rugs—grasses or reeds braided into textiles that could warm earthen floors. And for a millennium, the practice has continued across the globe.

In the Middle Ages, woven rush–sometimes called medieval matting—covered dirt grounds, preventing them from turning to mud when it rained. In the Tudor court paintings, similar rugs can be spotted underfoot. And for centuries in Japan, tightly woven rush tatami mats laid the ground in the homes of the upper class and aristocracy. Today, interior designers are turning to this typology yet again as a chameleon, all-natural basic that can work in virtually any project.

In the living room of Amanda Ross Bacon’s home, AD100 designer Muriel Brandolini used a diamond-patterned sisal rug.

Ngoc Minh Ngo

“They’re a neutral layer that helps ground a room—like a camel-colored coat that goes with anything,” says AD100 interior designer Virginia Tupker. She has used natural fiber rugs across her projects, from a Park Avenue apartment to a Connecticut retreat, where abaca area rugs add texture to a cozy living room and the primary bedroom.

Indeed, to her point, such floor coverings can work in almost any context: layered with color and pattern—even topped with more rugs, if one desires—for the maximalist; or blending into the oatmeal-hued palette of the minimalist. They can even create a pleasing contrast with stainless steel, or other heavy metals, embraced by those with a more tech-y aesthetic. Suffice it to say: Their grounding impact has no limits.

In the pondcabin living room of this Connecticut country property AD100 designer Virginia Tupker covered the floors in...

In the pond-cabin living room of this Connecticut country property, AD100 designer Virginia Tupker covered the floors in seagrass rush matting.

Frank Frances

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