Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Natural Flooring - The Comparison: Sisal, Coir, Jute, Seagrass and Rush Matting

The recent heatwave has seen Londoners flocking towards rooftop bars, equipped with white washed walls and a good stock of chilled Rose – while woolly jumpers have booked a last minute staycation to the back of the wardrobe.

At Wickenden Hutley, we have been looking at natural fibre mattings as a cool alternative for tropical climbs, which can (thankfully) also provide a practical and smart alternative to a standard wool carpet during the colder winter months.

A selection of Abaca (banana leaf) and Jute rugs 

As with most floor coverings, natural fibre mattings can be used as area rugs or fitted wall to wall – but are often seen as the less robust cousin of the trusty wool carpet. 

Whilst wool (and therefore wool carpets) will happily take a bashing (red wine/ carpet cleaner/ muddy feet and paws) and come off relatively unscathed due to a natural oil content in the wool, they still require an element of TLC to keep them looking fresh.  The same applies to natural fibres, which - if used in the correct setting, can be practical and sturdy and last for years.     

Abaca rug samples

If choosing a natural fibre, the area of use (how much traffic will pass over it/ how much dirt will it incur) comfort level required (some fibres are softer than others), and colour should be considered to increase the chances of a long and happy life together.

Below, we list 5 common options for natural flooring, and hopefully run through the essentials to keep in mind when making your choice:


Composition: Agave fibres.
Texture: Varies hugely depending on how tight the weave is.  There is a huge variety of designs on the market and the comfort is dependant on design chosen, and personal opinion.  (We suggest standing on a sample in bare feet before committing!).
Colour: A great choice, ranging from naturals through to solid colours, with multiple colours worked into some designs.  (As with wool carpet, a mottled colour will be more forgiving than a solid light or dark tone).
Practicality and uses: Commonly used as wall-to-wall floor covering, also good for area rugs – which need to be bound or whipped to prevent the edges fraying. A mid sized weave and colour looks smart, works well as wall-to-wall carpet and will look great on stairs. Tighter textures may show wear and tear more, and chunky weaves can be less practical on stairs as longer fibres would be likely to break over time.  Spills should be dabbed up asap, as if left to sit – may stain and be hard to remove (though often fade over time).  Wet cleaning methods should never be used.  Sisal can be used throughout the house – except very wet, or dirty areas.

Mellcarta 8060k at Sinclair Till

Sisal Schaft 1001ak at Sinclair Till


Composition: Outer fibres of the coconut.
Texture: Usually rough and scratchy.
Colour: Holds colour well Sinclair Till stock a range of beautiful coloured coirs, as seen in our Director, Charlie’s new house (full story coming soon..!)
Practicality and uses: Woven coir is quite sturdy and hard wearing, making it good for stairs and entrance halls.  Coir mats (a different thing to the woven matting, though from the same material) have been used for years as entrance rugs where the fibres stand vertically and act to remove dirt from shoes before entering the house. Coloured coirs have often been used in restaurants and dining areas, and a multi-coloured option will be less likely to show any stains.   Coir may be less practical for family areas such as play rooms, as the roughness isn’t suited to little feet and bare skin.

(Above and below left) Peacock Coir installed in Barnes
(Below left) additional colour ways  


Composition: Jute (plant) fibres.
Texture: Softer, silkier texture compared to other natural fibres.
Colour: Natural colours vary from grey tones through to honey and gingery tones.  Jute is good for cool greys, as natural fibres can often stray towards warmer tones.  Jute can also be dyed to achieve some bright and vibrant colours.
Practicality and uses: The softer texture makes it less hard wearing in busy areas, but the softness is lovely underfoot in living rooms or bedrooms.

Natural jute rugs at Sinclair Till

Jute at Tim Page; Elver in Petrol

Jute at Tim Page; Elver in Rust


Composition: Seagrass.
Texture: Hard (like dried grasses).
Colour: Natural with a green tinge at times.
Practicality and uses: Like sisal, seagrass can be used as wall-to-wall flooring, on stairs and throughout the house. It is a more brittle fibre, so may show damage a little more than sisal, and can sometimes makes stairs a little slippery in some opinions. 

Seagrass Fine Panama, Natural at Sinclair Till

Rush matting

Composition: Bulrushes (a British industry – bulrushes are still harvested from our waterways today).
Texture: Solid, but not scratchy.
Colour: Green to start – mellows to softer honey tones over time.
Practicality and uses: Woven in 3” widths, which are then joined together.  Rush matting can be used as mats or close covered (fitted wall-to-wall).  The matting should be kept moist to prevent damage and keep the material supple.  

Woven rush matting

With natural matting believed to date from the early sixteenth century found beneath floor boards at Hampton Court Palace, it has clearly withstood the test of time as the flooring of Kings!


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