Everybody knows by now that plush carpets don’t last forever. And even if they did, we would probably grow bored with the color, the cut or the weaves.
When it comes to home décor, we are fickle, first craving wall-to-wall carpeting after World War II, then tiring of those annoying footmarks by the end of the century.
Enter a whole host of carpet alternatives, from hardwood to tile. Even so, we still seek something to soften the floor when the kids play, the dog lies down, or we trot across a room in our bare feet.
Bret Hemphill of Hemphill’s Rugs & Carpets in Costa Mesa, Calif., says he recently measured four jobs in two days for sea-grass installations. “It has been our most popular carpet in the entire store for about the last four years,” he says.
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According to Hemphill, the price of oil has a direct effect on the price of synthetic carpet, so nylon carpets are falling out of favor.
“It takes 7 gallons of petroleum to produce 35 pounds of nylon carpet,” he says. “These days, you can get wool for about the same price.”
Carpet alternatives like sea grass and sisal are not that new, but they are gaining on traditional carpets for affordability and a casual vibe.
Sea grass is grown in the salty marshes of India and China, and it’s used to create carpets with natural colors ranging from beige to green. Sea grass is recommended for people with carpet-based allergies. It is softer and more stain-resistant than sisal.
“It offers a lot of look for your money,” Hemphill says.
A natural fiber from the agave plant, sisal can be rough on the knees of crawling babies. For those of us who walk upright, sisal can provide a sturdy choice. It does stain, but it can be dyed in many colors. Tighter weaves are recommended so that the loops don’t catch and snag.
Cork is gaining in marketshare because of its eco-friendly, formaldehyde-free construction and sustainable growth. Plus, its bouncy character makes it easy on the feet, especially if you spend lots of time in the kitchen.
What’s more, cork has natural antibacterial qualities, making it a good choice for play areas. It does fade in sunny rooms, however.
Leather is a hot item for high-style interiors. Floors from manufacturer Torlys Smart Floors are made of recycled leather in either planks or tiles, and installed with nail-free, snap-together technology.
Leather is appropriate for light- and medium-traffic areas such as bedrooms, but is not recommended for heavy use. Use leather for throw rugs to add an earthy appeal to your rooms.
Wool is one of the earliest known floor coverings. While expensive, it lasts a lifetime. And you can’t beat wool for durability. “It’s why they install it in heavy-traffic places like hotels and cruise ships,” Hemphill says.
Wool is fireproof and easy to clean.