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Braided rugs blend color and tradition for fairy-tale finish

Marni Jameson shares no-fail tips for choosing the perfect braided rug for your home.
BY MARNI JAMESON Modified: August 5, 2012 at 12:05 am •  Published: August 6, 2012

Start with a great rug. How many times have you heard that tone-deaf interior design advice? Sure, in an ideal world, decorating a room around a gorgeous rug, which provides an instant color palette, is brilliant.

But it's not reality.

In the real world, of which I am a charter member, rugs happen last. Necessary furnishings — like beds, sofas, tables and chairs — come first.

Backing into the right rug after a room is already furnished is harder than parallel parking a bus in Boston. In fact, the chances of finding a rug that falls into place is about as likely as having your frequent flier miles actually apply to the trip you want to take. A lot has to click, namely colors, style, size, pattern and shape.

When you get to this point, you appreciate the wisdom of buying the rug first. However, because wisdom and behavior rarely intersect, home decorators find themselves where I found myself recently. Picking the rug last.

After four months, my teenage daughter and I felt settled into our new 130-year-old folk farmhouse. Except ... we could no longer ignore the bare wood floors in her otherwise furnished bedroom. Her storybook room overlooks some woods, and reminds me of the bedroom in the dwarfs' cottage after Snow White came through.

We mulled our rug options, then agreed a braided rug would suit our home's style. Plus I love the tradition and history these rugs suggest.

Long before the idea of recycle, repurpose, reuse was fashionable, our ancestors — we're talking pre-Target — braided rugs out of thriftiness. When dad's wool trousers wore out, or mom's apron, or grandpa's robe, they got torn into strips and braided into rugs.

Today's mills use the same handcrafted techniques, but (thankfully) have improved on rugs' color blends.

Donna Willis, head of customer service for Yankee Pride (, a braided rug company in Braintree, Mass., has worked for the company since it started more than 25 years ago, so knows her braided rugs.

Though most at home in traditional or country setting, braided rugs offer a handcrafted counterpoint to modern and contemporary interiors, she said, then guided me through the rigors of selecting a rug for my daughter's room. Along the way, she shared these no-fail tips for choosing the perfect braided rug for your home:

Material. Wool is the most durable and cleanable, said Willis, and best for heavily trafficked areas like entries and family rooms. Cotton is softer and its colors often more vibrant. Willis recommends these for bedrooms and bathrooms. Polypropylene, a synthetic material, works outdoors and in, won't stain or mold, and may be hosed off. Both cotton and polypropylene come in chenille, a texture that makes rugs fuzzy.

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