I bet the floor was an expanse of smooth wood, concrete or resin.
Beautiful . . . and not very welcoming.
But minimalist interiors don’t have to be clinical and stark.
They can be warm and relaxing.
How . . ?
By adding an understated rug - the definitive accessory.
I’m not talking Chewbacca rolled out on your floor. I mean subtle, stylish and sophisticated.
In minimal homes rugs are usually totally forgotten, or completely wrong. So many scream for attention - patterns, colours, shapes. People feel they have to make a statement.
But it’s not about that, it’s about unifying the room without standing out. Get it right and it’s like flicking the light switch. Your room comes to life.
Here’s why rugs are essential for minimal interiors, with everything you need to know to make the confident choice. Plus my edit of the best, with not a hint of shag pile from Barbarella’s spaceship.
When selecting a rug for a minimal interior, there are 6 things to consider - size, texture, fibres, pattern, fringe and sustainability. Here's the lowdown on each, with 9 insights on weaving wisdom to make you the go to person for rug advice.
Don’t choose a rug that’s too small for your room. It’ll float in the middle and look like an after thought.
A rug can never be too large, the bigger the better!
Think of a rug as creating a zone within a room.
It connects the furniture in that zone. This could be the seating area in the living room, or the table and chairs in a dining room.
Ideally you want it large enough to go under every piece of furniture. For example, add a metre around a dining table to pull out the chairs.
Minimal interiors can look odd and disconnected without a rug to unite them. When all the furniture sits on the rug it unifies the room.
So only choose your rug when you know the final position of your furniture.
#1 - just like fabric, rugs are made of vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) strands woven together on looms. This flat 'fabric' forms the base of the rug. Looms can be operated by hand or machine.
Textures are key when designing minimal interiors. They add subtle contrast between elements without spoiling the overall effect, and rugs are the perfect way to do this.
The rug's texture is created by the weaving technique. The two main types are flat woven or pile woven.
These rugs have only warp and weft strands with no pile. They come in a range of textures depending on the fibres. Anything from a silky smooth tatami mat to a rough dhurrie made of jute.
#2 - the rug base is typically made of tough cotton and jute fibres. This makes it hard wearing and keep it’s shape. Flat woven rugs can have other fibres added like wool or silk to give a more luxurious texture.
Modern weaving techniques are creating innovative textures. Gravel by Menu uses tonal wool yarns of varying sizes, looped into tufts. Up close these alternate in size and feel like soft pebbles. But at a distance, the surface appears to ripple like a cornfield swaying with the wind.
Most surfaces in a minimal interior are smooth. Think wood and metal. Pile woven rugs introduce contrast and softness that’s difficult to create any other way.
Also, single colour rugs can look dull and flat. Pile is good at visually breaking up the surface. It reflects light in different directions giving the rug a constantly changing tonal variation. Pile made of bamboo silk is particularly good at this.
#3 - pile is added to the flat base and can have cut ends (plush) or looped ends (berber) or a combination (cut and loop carpets). It’s woven in by machine or knotted by hand.
Whether your minimal rug is flat or pile woven, it can be made from a variety of fibres. Most start with a cotton and jute base and add any of the following.
Rug wool’s normally from sheep. Depending on the breed and where they’re raised the wool has different properties. Wool shorn in spring gives the finest quality. Other animal wools include goat, camel, yak and even horse.
#4 - hand knotting is a traditional way to add pile to rugs. Some of the horizontal weft rows are replaced by short knotted threads with cut ends.
Silk’s beautifully soft but not hard wearing. Silk carpets are exceptionally fine with very short pile. The best Persian carpets are 100% silk but modern rugs tend to combine silk with wool or use a fibre that mimics silk.
#5 - rugs can be knotted using the Turkish symmetrical knot, or Persian asymmetrical knot. More knots per square inch mean a better quality rug.
If you had to pick a rug made of bamboo silk or viscose, which would you choose? Likely bamboo silk, it sounds natural and luxurious. But guess what. They’re actually the same thing!
If you think viscose is nasty and synthetic, you’re not alone. But it has nothing in common with nylon or polyester. It’s a completely natural product and used as a silk substitute in most expensive luxury rugs.
#6 - viscose is made from wood cellulose (usually bamboo). It’s a natural sustainable fibre and completely biodegradable.
If you thought a rug made from bamboo was strange, how about one made from paper?! Finnish company Woodnotes is the first in the world to use paper yarn in contemporary rugs. They’re flat and smooth with crisp straight edges, similar to a tatami mat.
Strong and durable,100% recyclable and biodegradable.
Just because your interior’s minimal you can still include pattern. It’s actually useful in large rugs to stop them looking flat and heavy. These three patterns are great in minimal designs.
Simple repeated geometry in two colours works well. The colours can be very contrasting like black and white. When you step back it creates an illusion of texture and colour variation. Rather than seeing black and white, your eye sees grey.
#7 - a Kilim is a tightly woven, hardwearing rug where only the weft is visible. Characteristic vertical slits occur where the strands double back on themselves and the colour changes. Traditionally geometric, now modern Kilims can have any pattern.
If you want clear pattern and distinct colour go for a large geometric design. Just make sure the colours are tonal otherwise it’ll be distracting and spoil the minimal look.
Not technically a pattern, but a way of combining colours. In a marl design threads are randomly woven together with lots of variation. Colours can be tonal or contrasting. It’s a clever way to bring all the colours in a room together.
#8 - a Dhurrie is another flat rug but unlike a Kilim both the horizontal and vertical fibres are visible. Very versatile, Dhurries can be used to create almost any pattern.
Traditional rugs have fringes along the short edge. These are the vertical fibres when the rug is taken off the loom, kept for decoration.
In a modern minimal interior rugs look better fringeless. The clean edge is achieved by binding with cotton, wool, silk, or leather, or weaving the fibres together.
For the ultimate in flat rugs with a crisp edge, go for a Japanese Tatami. A core made from rice straw is covered with woven soft rush and edged with brocade or cloth. The size of tatami differ between regions in Japan but they’re about 0.9m by 1.8m. With the rise in the influence of Japanese design, I predict you’ll see many more tatami inspired rugs.
#9 - rugs are fantastic sound absorbers. If you’re in a restaurant and the noise is deafening, look around. You’ll only see hard surfaces that reflect and amplify sound. The same can happen in your home, but add a rug and instantly the room becomes quiet and relaxing.
Here’s a couple of sustainability factors to bear in mind when choosing a rug.
Look for yarns dyed with natural plant or insect based pigments. These produce colours that age beautifully and create warmth. Avoid mineral, aniline and chrome based synthetic dyes which can be harmful to the environment.
Rug making has historically been associated with forced child labour in terrible conditions. For 25yrs the NGO Care and Fair has worked to stamp out illegal child labour in rug producing regions of India, Pakistan and Nepal and get children into education. Since 2008, Nanimarquina and Linie Design have both supported Care and Fair. Look for the logo on the back of your rug.
Now you’ve been on a tour of the world of rugs, you can tell Dhurries from Kilims and yak wool from viscose. You’ve everything you need to make a confident choice to style your minimal interior.
The 6 key things - think big, embrace texture, experiment with fibres, play with pattern, go fringeless and support sustainable.
So invest in the definitive accessory and unite your minimal interior with a subtle and sophisticated rug.