If you’re in the market for home décor that’s going to transcend trends, choose a natural area rug. These rugs evolved with mankind, dating all the way back to the Stone Age, when early humans used animal hide to cover the floors in their huts and shelters. Animal skin rugs — especially patchwork cowhide rugs and leather rugs — are still a highly desirable choice among interior designers and homeowners today.
Rug weaving techniques, many of which are still in use in modern day, were developed around 4,000 years ago in the fertile Middle East region of Mesopotamia. Naturally, these techniques spread throughout the rest of Asia and inspired centuries of rug-making traditions throughout Turkey and what is now Iran and Egypt. These rugs were generally made from sheep’s wool that had been dyed to various rich colors.
Since then, natural fiber rugs have continued to play a central role in the realm of high-quality flooring and home décor. Here’s a little bit about natural fiber rugs in the 20th century and today.
1900–1930s During the turn of the 19th century, elaborate Tudor and Victorian mansions were erected throughout the booming industrial cities of the Americas. Expensive, elaborate Oriental rugs were shipped over from Asia en masse and used to decorate the homes of some of America’s elite. The Hearst Castle, which was built by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in 1919, featured an exceptional collection of fine-quality Oriental rugs.
1930s–1950s In the 1930s and ‘40s, it was all about art deco. Perhaps in response to the Great Depression, color schemes were pleasant and pastel, so wool rugs were quite popular. Wool is a highly reactive fiber, so it makes a wonderful base for bright colors and detailed patterns. Oriental rugs, which are traditionally woven with cotton, wool or silk, maintained their popularity among high society throughout the 1950s. Since many motifs relied heavily on Asian influence during this era, silk and bamboo rugs were décor staples.
1960s–1970s Mid-century rugs were big on warm colors and striking, geometric patterns. Wool and cotton rugs were popular thanks to the fibers’ appropriateness for dying and fine weaving. Although some historians suggest that the shag rug originated in the Middle East or Central Asia much earlier than the 1960s, it certainly hit its peak in America during this period. This super-groovy style, usually made with wool or cotton, prevailed into the 1970s and eventually became archetypical of the era’s decor. Other eclectic styles, like patchwork cowhide rugs, grew in popularity during this time period, too.
1980s–today As a reaction to the green movement in America, eco-friendly home décor has picked up major steam in the past several decades. This has inspired a whole new generation and class of interest in natural fiber rugs that are eco-friendly. Bamboo and jute, two high-quality fibers that are quick-renewing, have become some of the most popular rug options on the market today. Contemporary rugs tend to feature super-saturated, rich colors over detailed yet not too-busy designs. Simple, all-natural fiber rugs in earth tones are always trendy for homeowners that want to create a calm, soothing space.