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Types of runners and how to select the right one for your space

Hallway rug runner
Image: Shoppe Amber Interiors

Rugs bring so much to a space not only because they add softness to a hard surface but because of the texture and interest they infuse. In today's post we are going to take a look at selecting the right runner for both aesthetic and lifestyle for often-overlooked areas of the home. Hallways and other narrow spaces are often blank canvases and provide an opportunity to add character and depth. Much of what we cover can also be applied to other areas in the home as well.

Jute hallway rug runner
Image Lulu & Georgia

There are numerous options out in the marketplace for not only styles but materials and when selecting a rug or runner for high traffic areas there are a number of considerations!

Hand knotted wool area rug
Image Pottery Barn

We'll start by taking a look at some of the more popular materials rugs are made with. No better place to start than wool, my personal favorite!

Wool is not only sustainable and much better for the environment than synthetics but it has a natural softness, durability, stain resistant and is inherently flame retardant. Wool rugs stand the test of time and and retain their shape. Contrary to popular belief an energy to wool is actually rare. Most often the allergy is to commercially processed low grade wool. Due to the limited length of wool fibers wool rugs are typically low pile which will trap less dust and allergens. Additionally for the more environmentally conscious there are a number of natural jute backed options. I've heard concerns over the years with regards to getting wool rugs wet. To this I say keep in mind sheep are out in the elements and get wet. Also if looking at natural undyed wool keep in mind that if you haven't seen a sheep in the color you're looking for then you're not going to find it. When properly cared for a wool rug can last a lifetime, or in some cases longer.

Cotton rugs are lightweight, affordable, easy to clean and tend to be low profile. Cotton rugs tend to be of durable construction and are soft under foot. As we all know cotton accepts dyes well and therefore cotton rugs come in an almost endless array of colors. They are versatile and work well in high traffic areas such as bedrooms, hallways and family rooms.

Cotton & wool blend rugs have a plush feel and tend to be quite durable. These rugs are often hand knotted and sheared by hand which creates a plush feel and unique mottled appearance. As with wool and cotton rugs, they will do well in high traffic areas.

Hand knotted silk area rug
Source: Erik Lindstrom

Silk rugs are the epitome of luxury and are know for their softness, beautiful light reflective sheen and often intricate designs. As a luxury statement piece they are an investment. Silk rugs are delicate and require special care and are therefore best suited to low traffic areas, preferably where one is not wearing shoes.

scalloped jute rug runner
Source Serena & Lily

Natural fibers such as sisal, juste and seagrass bring an earthy and organic vibe to a space. As they are natural they are eco friendly and cost effective. Natural fiber rugs tend to be highly durable, stain resistant and hypoallergenic. They are highly textural and work well with a coastal aesthetic. They do tend to be on the courser side so be aware they are not the softest on bare feet.

Synthetics like polyester, nylon and polypropylene are affordable alternatives. Synthetics are a great option for outdoor rugs. Often synthetics tend to have a higher luster (they have a shine to them,) at least a lower quality synthetic will, so be sure to study the luster of any synthetic you are considering. There are some higher quality synthetics that have both a great feel (“hand”) and low luster but be sure to do your research on the brand and product line. While they are durable, stain resistant and easy to clean they can become matted, dull, abrade and yellow over time. High quality synthetic blends are a good cost effective alternative . A low-quality synthetic rug will generally only lasty 4-5 years before it needs replacing.

Vintage area rug in dinning room
Source Laura Hodges Studio

If you know me at all I'm sure you won't be surprised that vintage rugs are a favorite! They bring history and character to a space and that sense of knowing that you have something unique and special to you and your home. Vintage rugs are often well constructed using quality materials. The vintage category encompasses many of the high quality, and lasting value, styles we have discussed. Vintage rugs do require proper care to preserve their integrity and beauty. Regular vacuuming to remove dirt and debris is a must (NEVER EVER use a high powered vacuum like a Dyson, Shark or similar models as they will destroy the rug over time) and consider professional cleaning as needed. Rotate the rug periodically to even out wear patterns and fading from sunlight.

We touched on the primary materials rugs are made of so now let's talk about styles. First up Persian & Oriental: These feature intricate patterns and designs and originate from regions such as India, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and China. They are often hand knotted with exceptional craftsmanship. There are several subcategories within these styles, but we simply can't cover them all.

Turkish kilim rug

Typically made of wool and tightly flat woven, featuring geometric patterns, kilim rugs are know for their vibrant colors and tend to lean towards a bohemian aesthetic. Kilim is yet another style of rug that is hand woven and in addition to being used as a floor covering are also used for wall hangings, pillow coverings and even for upholstering smaller furniture pieces.

Contemporary rug
Source Erik Lindstrom Photographer Amy Bartlam

Lastly, we have the contemporary category. I know that is quite a broad category and can encompass a number of different styles such as abstract, floral, striped, plaid and geometric just to name a few. Plaid and striped, which we love, are going to work well with a number of aesthetics and of course your abstract are going to lend to a more contemporary vibe while Manny geometric will lean towards the mid century look or even glam. Whimsical motifs such as rainbows, stars and the like are fabulous options for nursery's and for small children.

Hallway runner
Source Loloi

When planning to purchase a rug for your space you will not only want to consider the materials and amount of traffic the space gets but the length and width. For an average size hallway, you will generally want to leave 4-5 inches of floor on either side of the rug or for larger hallways as much as 6 cinches. Going too big or too small will leave the space feeling unbalanced. Getting into the proper size underneath furnishings in other room is a whole blog on it's own that we will save for another day.

As with so many other decisions for your home always consider your lifestyle to determine what type of rug is best suited to the way you live. After care and durability, of course, is aesthetic. Don't be afraid to pair a vintage rug with a more contemporary or transitional vibe as long as the color and patterns complement the existing aesthetic. Same goes for a slightly more contemporary rug in a more traditional setting. The unexpected adds interest when done properly.

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