How to buy the best wool rugs for your home

Mindthegap Accessories Woodstock KAPADOKIA Indigo Wool Kilim Rug

I must say I enjoyed every second of the UK’s unexpected Indian summer. And I can’t pretend I’m not struggling with the rather abrupt arrival of autumn! I feel the cold acutely – not least because I suffer from Raynaud’s Syndrome – so it’s extra important that me, my home (and my garden studio) are as warm and cosy as possible. Thanks to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by sky-high utility bills, I was determined not to turn on my heating until November. Well, that resolve disappeared pretty quickly during the latest cold weather snap! But I’m still committed to saving as much energy (and money) where possible. And wool rugs are one of my secret weapons!

Sonya Winner Chromatic Pixels Rug in different colours
All things bright and beautiful: Pep up your room’s palette with this colourful designer creation from the Sonya Winner Rug Studio. Inspired by digital photography, the washable Chromatic Pixels rug (from £2,967) is hand-tufted in pure New Zealand wool by GoodWeave artisan weavers – and it can also be displayed as a wall hanging

Designer perspective

Sonya Winner creates exceptional area rugs that are graphic, vibrant and original as you can see above. Here, she explains why her designs are so popular: “Wool rugs have the power to transform a room. A plain neutral wool rug adds texture, a feeling of cosiness and assists acoustics. A colourful wool rug with a modern design can flood a room with warmth and personality and add feelings of positivity.

“At Sonya Winner, these rug designs have inspiring shapes, colour combination and have a 3D sculptural effect using variable tuft heights. Our yarn has a uniquely developed twist to make our award-winning rug designs particularly vibrant and hard-wearing.The result is distinctive wool rugs that are (according to a number of text books about colour theory in the USA) considered art pieces for the floor.”

Why choose wool?

Choosing the best design for your home isn’t an easy task, because there is so much choice, and lots of different elements to consider. Colour, size and style are all important, of course, as is durability.

But did you know that wool rugs are excellent insulators and such a popular choice? Your home’s floors can account for over 10% of the heat loss it experiences. Nowadays we associate rugs with interior aesthetics, but they were originally designed to keep prevent heat loss from wooden/stone floors, and keep us warm when the mercury drops.

I suggest you look for floor coverings with a high stitch count – the amount of loops or threads that are present. The higher the stitch count, the denser the product should be – and the warmer it will be.

Mindthegap Accessories Woodstock KAPADOKIA Indigo Wool Kilim Rug
Hand-knotted and coloured with natural vegetable dyes, this Kapadokia reversible pure wool Turkish kilim from Mindthegap Design&Supply (from €1,870) showcases a striking blue, white and orange palette and evokes a relaxed Mediterranean vibe

The benefits of wool rugs

They offer so many benefits, but to sum up, I think large wool rugs look and feel fantastic! There are plenty of alternative materials, of course, including silk, cotton, sisal and synthetics. But wool rugs manage to be both soft and sturdy, so they’re suitable for any and every room in your home. Wool fibres are naturally extremely tough and resilient, so this flooring solution tends to be far more durable – and needs less cleaning – than their synthetic counterparts.

Siobahn Quinn, Raft Furniture Brand Director says: “At Raft, we love natural materials that allow us to balance the elements of a room. Especially when you’re opting for a neutral colour palette, the importance of introducing a tactile experience with natural textures cannot be overlooked. Also, as wool is naturally hypoallergenic and has air purifying properties, wool rugs offer so much more than their aesthetic and tactile charm!”

Cobblestone rug in Silver by Raft Furniture
Raft Furniture’s Cobblestone Rug in Silver is a hand-woven wool blend design, starting from £155 for a 120 x 170cm size. This comes in a cool colour way, which could be ideal if you prefer neutral colour tones in your home

Highly durable & hypoallergenic

This means that this flooring type is suitable for high-traffic areas, such as hallways and living rooms. It’s also very family-friendly, as it’s naturally stain-, flame- and water-resistant, thanks to the lanolin coating that protects the fibres. The colours tend to stay vibrant for longer too. That’s because the fibres can absorb more dye than certain synthetic fibres. So don’t be afraid to go big and bold with your colour palette.

Did you know that wool rugs are naturally hypoallergenic, which Siobahn has mentioned? This is obviously a major advantage if anyone in your household suffers from allergies. The fibres incorporate tiny “pockets” that trap dust, pollen and fungal spores. Choosing a version that’s created using dyes from natural sources will further reduce exposure to potential allergy-triggering chemicals.

Wayfair Drubin rug
If you’re unsure about bright colours, add interest with patterns instead. This Drubin Hand Tufted Wool Black Rug form Wayfair – styled here by Aurelian Farjon and shot by Alexander Edwards – is a purse-friendly £69.99 (other sizes and price points are available)

Supporting sustainability

As you know, I do try to shop sustainably, and wool rugs are a winner regarding this criterion too. It may sound obvious, but sheep grow new fleeces every year, and they’re sustained by pasture, water and sunshine – all of which are 100% renewable.

Importantly, sheep are often grazed on land that isn’t suitable for growing crops, and is naturally watered by rain. So sheep are part of the natural carbon cycle, consuming plant-stored carbon, and converting it to wool. But the sustainability doesn’t stop there. In production terms, these fibres also require a lot less water and energy to manufacture than many alternative materials.

Cotterell & Co Ombre Runner Rug Mustard
Brighten up your living space with this Ombre Runner Rug Mustard from Cotterell & Co. Featuring 90% tufted wool with 10% nylon, it incorporates a striking tonal palette and is priced at £349

Lastly, thanks to their inbuilt longevity, this floor covering has a long lifespan. But even when the time comes to replace them, it’s worth remembering that they are also naturally biodegradable.

How is a wool rug made?

They are made from natural fibres, which may include cotton and silk, they are usually hand-woven, but they can sometimes be machine-made too. Traditional versions are hand-crafted by artisans, meaning the quality and craftsmanship is much higher.

Rug Society Pink Hallway Decor _ Lucy Rug
Pastel perfection: I love the geometrical shapes and pastel pink palette of this Lucy Rug from the Rug’Society (price on application). It’s hand-tufted, and combines natural wool with botanical silk

Even for the hand-crafted variety, there are several different methods of production. Hand-knotted is by far the slowest (and therefore most expensive) way to produce this floor covering. This weaving dates back thousands of years, and can take months and months to complete. As the name suggests, you knot this type by hand, on a specially designed loom. For context, a standard rug might incorporate up to 1,000 knots per square inch. A skilful weaver can complete around six knots per minute.

By contrast, the fastest method of making a wool rug is hand tufting. Tufted rugs are created using loops of yarn (often with a tufting ‘gun’) instead of knots. Because this method is less labour-intensive, those created this way tend to be less expensive than hand-knotted versions.

The third main production method is hand hooking. This is similar to tufting, although the loops remain intact. These tend to be less hard-wearing, so are more suited to locations with lower footfall.

Loaf Bobble Rug In Natural
Looking for a design that’s interesting but not too ‘out there’? Keep things classic with Loaf’s Bobble Rug in Natural (£395) – a hand-knotted piece combining New Zealand wool and cotton, made by skilled artisans in Panipat, India

Size and shape

Function and form are equally important when choosing your new floor covering. You should also consider your prospective location. In addition to providing warmth and colour, this accessory can link different zones with a space. So they are perfect for “pulling together” an open-plan kitchen/living area, for example.

Think hard about the size of your wool rug too. Obviously, where warmth is concerned, the bigger the better. But if you’re choosing a version for underneath your dining table, make sure it’s large enough to accommodate fully pulled out dining chairs. And don’t be afraid to experiment with different shapes. I think an oblong style underneath a round table can make a really striking centrepiece.

This Morpheus wool rug has pride of place in my redesigned open-plan kitchen. It’s from the fabulous, family-run MM Furnishings however this design is sadly no longer available. But you can ask them to source a fantastic range of different styles, sizes and shades to suit any room in your home

Shade selection

A new wool rug is a wonderful way to update your lounge or living room. This tends to be a hard-working space, so think carefully about your needs before you make your choice. Is your priority practicality? Or do you want to make a design statement with a large wool rug? Dark colours and/or bold patterns are a sensible choice if you’re concerned about staining. Or go bold with a bright, contrasting colour to really make your design palette pop.

With the busy festive season fast approaching, it’s important to feel well rested. Click here to discover my bedroom design ideas to help you get a good night’s sleep.