Simple Stuff: A series devoted to talking about the stuff that might prove useful or helpful or otherwise necessary while making a home in a small apartment or anywhere. Its aim is to provide a bit of inspiration for simplifying your space sustainably and stylishly. Its contention is that what’s useful can be beautiful, and that you might already have everything you need.
For someone who loves a bare floor precisely because there’s nothing on it, a rug can be a hang up. But there’s the comfort factor, and the downstairs neighbor factor, and the clattering block towers factor, and even I concede that a rug can be a helpful thing to have in a small apartment or otherwise.
But first I have to confess (or simply remind, depending on how closely you’ve been following along) that we’ve played a bit of musical rugs since living in our current apartment. There was the first rug that was too thick and too crumb-catching, that got sold to a family headed upstate. Then there was the declaration of no rugs, until the neighbor complained. Then there was the second rug, and my subsequent realization that it was too big and too bright. That one got sold to a fellow Brooklyn family with more space and a healthy relationship with Technicolor textiles. Right this minute, we have a handful of smaller throw rugs purchased to appease neighbors and make a soft spot for babies, but still allow for at least a little floor to show through. They’re soft and lovely and very much washable, which has been important, but I sometimes wonder if a solid rug or a simpler pattern would suit the space, or my general disposition, better. I hope to attain inner peace regarding the state of my rugs one day, but I also want to let anyone out there with similar rug indecision problems to know you’re not alone.
In case you’re similarly trepidatious about rugs or otherwise unsure of where to begin looking, here’s a short list of rugs that have caught my eye, for better or for worse. They’re rugs that appeal to me, which is to say that the designs are relatively simple and the sizes relatively small. As always, I’ve tried to gather a list of possibilities where materials are natural, artists are compensated for their work, and resources are thoughtfully considered.
+ Some folks can be squeamish about inviting secondhand (let alone third, or fourth, or fifthhand) rugs into their homes, but once you accept that you’ll probably need to add the price of a professional cleaning (or, depending, at least two cycles at the laundromat) onto the total cost, treasure hunting at flea markets or estate sales is a great place to start. We bought our vintage rag rug from our favorite neighborhood treasure trove and even though it ended up not being perfect for us, it was perfect for someone else and I was able to recoup the cost, minus what I’d spent on cleaning. I’m a broken record, but sleuthing for vintage specimens has all sorts of benefits both for the environment and, depending on how much you dig, for your bank account.
+ If haunting estate sales for rugs is not your idea of a pleasant Saturday, consider experts. I regularly scanned my pet favorite “Scandinavian rag rug” search on Etsy for a solid month before finding a local option. If you’re ever in the mood to salivate, the exquisitely curated 86Home is a very favorite shop of mine for gawking at beautiful antique homewares, including lots of pretty rugs. Ditto, Sharktooth and Saturday Sunday.
+ Our current rugs are 100% cotton rugs made by a cooperative in Brazil and sold through Joinery here in New York. Not all of their rugs are still in stock, but our square black and white rug is still listed as on sale. Same goes for the striped rugs in Faye and Silas’s room. I love that they’re soft and machine washable (and small enough to send down to the laundromat). (We use these rug pads underneath.)
+ For folks hoping for a cotton rag rug with something of a more muted color palette than can reliably be found in vintage options, consider the very lovely rugs from Willaby. Owner and designer, Kim Woods, partnered with Amish rug makers from her home state of Ohio for the special project that puts fabric remnants from her past children’s clothing collections to use in rugs. Like the clothing collections she’s designed, the colors are earthy and muted. I love No. 7 and No. 9 best of all. 100% cotton and machine washable.
+ For readers who are decidedly not afraid of patterns or colors, the rug collection from Block Shop Textiles is one to take a look at. The design for these cotton dhurries begins with watercolor sketches and is realized by a self-governing cooperative of master weavers in Jodhpur, India. I got to see some of their earliest dhurrie samples when I visited their offices in LA and I can attest to their loveliness. Thin, but durable. Soft, but sturdy. And just look at that diamondback. (New designs are coming out in the new year—follow along with their Instagram account to stay up-to-date.)
+ For a stateside-made option, Melinda Bateman is a farmer and weaver who uses domestic Churro wool to make her woolen throw rugs. RMTL sponsor Wilson and Willy’s stocks her work in three striped colorways. Perfect for a cabin in the woods or, you know, a fourth-floor walk-up in the middle of the city.
+ Block Shop alum Nisha Miran (we met on that same office visit!), opened her own textile company, SUNDAY/MONDAY in 2016. She and her husband partner with master weavers in the desert region of Kutch, in the western state of Gujarat, India to make the rugs they sell. I especially love the look of their Pataang rug.
+ I really love the marriage of traditional and modern design in Caroline Z Hurley’s alpaca wool Florence Light Blue rug. It’s designed by Caroline and made by artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. I love the natural variation of the undyed and untreated wool and Caroline’s signature graphic touch.
+ For more truly neutral options, Brookfarm General Store has also had some solid options in stock recently. I appreciate the natural fibers, neutral colors, and subtle patterns of their current options, like this cotton and hemp rug.
+ What about you? What kinds of rugs do you daydream about covering your floors?