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When fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger renovated his villa on the Caribbean island of Mustique, the choice of materials for the rugs and carpets was simple.
The villa overlooks L’Ansecoy Bay, where turtles feast on lush seagrass beds. So seagrass was the answer.
Few of us could hope to live in such an idyllic setting, but seagrass and sisal can bring a relaxed elegance to any home and work well for high pedestrian areas.
Beach feeling: seagrass floors. The natural material is extracted from rice fields flooded with seawater
“Seagrass and sisal are the best-selling materials for rugs,” said Victoria Broomfield, buyer at John Lewis. ‘This is especially true during the summer months, as they can bring a welcome beach feeling to the customers’ homes.’
John Lewis reports a rising interest in neutral tones, with more than 500 percent more searches on his website since last year.
“These shades go well with other colors and can be brightened up with accent colors or put in a whole new style when people are redecorating,” says Broomfield.
Due to their strong fibres, these materials are particularly suitable for carpets and stair climbers, but also for large rugs. John Lewis’ flatweave seagrass starts at £22.50 square feet.
The shop’s Skye range includes rugs made from jute (an equally durable natural fibre) starting at £50 for 150cm x 90cm. John Lewis also offers seagrass curtains and accent pieces such as seagrass baskets.
Luxury interior designers are exploring ways to combine these materials on different levels of a room.
Emma Sims-Hilditch offers a bespoke service that embraces craftsmanship and beautiful materials.
In her Cotswold studio, she placed a sisal carpet with a tamarind finish next to antique ‘stools’ reupholstered in jute, ‘which is softer than sisal and therefore slightly better suited for upholstery’, she says.
Colorful basket, £12.50, from Oliver Bonas
‘The natural colors and coarse texture of the sisal carpet underfoot and the softer jute upholstery of the stools introduce natural elements and bring the outside in.’
To decide which material is right for you, the main differences need to be understood.
Seagrass is harvested from rice fields flooded with seawater. The fibers are non-porous and do not tend to stain, but the fiber shell repels dye just as well. The greenish hue may limit color options, but the smoothness is pleasant to walk on, especially barefoot.
It is easy to vacuum (avoid using a beater) and suitable for areas such as dining rooms, where there is a risk of spillage.
Sisal is harvested from the Agave Sisalana plant native to the Americas and the Far East, although it is found closer and closer to home – even in Devon. Although it has a coarser texture, the fibers are more porous.
It is available in a wider range of colors but does not offer the same resistance to dirt, grease or spills.
Julian Downes is the founder of Fiber Flooring in Salcombe, Devon, specializing in these materials. “Sisal is older than synthetic materials and is part of our nautical heritage,” he says. “It was used by local sailors to make rope, so it’s very sturdy.
‘Unlike jute, which can stain untreated even with water, sisal in its natural state is relatively practical. We only recommend lighter colors in favor of dark or mottled colors, which are more forgiving.
‘Allowing a lot of dirt to dry and using a vacuum cleaner is often sufficient. Natural fibers avoid the static electricity you get with synthetic fibers, which makes it easier for dirt to come off.’
Fiber Flooring is favored by interior designers such as Kate Arbuthnott, known for her inviting layered textures. She solved the practical challenge in a double-width salon in London by opting for a chocolate brown bouclé sisal called Himalaya, £78.60 sq.m.
“It’s somewhere between carpet and wooden floors,” she says. “People don’t feel the need to take their shoes off, but it has texture and movement.”
In terms of sustainability and environmental footprint, there is pressure from companies such as Fiber Flooring to source materials closer to home, especially in Europe.
“Who knows,” Downes says. ‘As well as the tea grown in Cornwall and the much-discussed English red wine, we may also be harvesting sisal here in Salcombe.’
Savings of the Week! Cozy pillows
Westmorland Sheepskins Waste Less pillows in black, gray or oatmeal come in two sizes
Grocery stores feel that keeping warm for less will be a priority this fall, producing ranges of cozy pillows that are luxurious for less, with savings of up to 50 percent.
The cuddly teddy bear pillow in anthracite, navy, pink and taupe from Dunelm costs £3, instead of £4.20.
On the clearance section of the Next website, you can find cozy throw pillows, including the Orange Ashton Chunky Chenille that would deliver a bolt of color on a gray or navy blue couch.
The price is £8, reduced from £14. At John Lewis, the Anyday shearling pad in storm gray is down 30 percent to £16.
At Westmorland Sheepskins, the Waste Less pillows in black, gray or oatmeal are available in two sizes.
The 40 x 40cm costs £60, a 25 per cent drop, while the 50 x 50cm used to be £105 and is now £85.
Whichever cozy cushion you choose, you will sit comfortably.