Area Rugs & Carpets: One Interior Designer’s Devotion to Softness Underfoot

Austin Interior Designer Amity Worrel Dives into the History, Types, and Benefits of Area Rugs and Carpets — All in the Pursuit of Comfort

Area Rugs

Would you rather wake up and step onto a plush, warm carpet that carries you through your morning routine or be jolted awake as your feet hit cold, hard concrete? Is there even a moment of hesitation when selecting carpet as a flooring material? There definitely isn’t for me. 

I’m devoted to the pursuit of softness underfoot — it’s the ultimate luxury, really. Whether through wall-to-wall carpeting or custom-cut area rugs, I always advocate for comfort in the home. Unfortunately, trends have moved away from plush carpets, reverting back to cold hardwoods only or concrete all of which I love but not without the addition of something soft. Why would anyone want to go back to the days of hard floors after we’ve spent centuries developing soft, underfoot luxury? It beats me.

Area Rugs Amity Worrel

In this special edition of our Interior Design Glossary, I dive into the history, types, and benefits of area rugs and carpets — all for the love of luxury. 


The Carpet Conundrum 

If you follow interior design trends (I don’t), you’re probably under the impression that carpet is out. Wall-to-wall carpeting often gets a bad rap, and it’s the first thing to go during a renovation. Let’s call it the carpet conundrum. The trouble here is that low-grade carpeting is actually very unpleasant to live with. Its synthetic fibers collect grime in rooms where it should have never been installed. This low-grade carpet is ruining the luxury reputation of high-grade textiles. 

I am a huge fan of carpets and area rugs when they’re nice quality. Carpeting is an absolute joy when properly sourced and installed in private home areas where shoes aren’t worn, like bedrooms, dressing rooms, and studies. Plush padding or even rough seagrass weaves feel like a foot massage as you make your way through the space. Not to mention, carpets absorb sound to make for a quiet, peaceful space. 

Carpets - Austin Interior Designer

It is true that this flooring isn’t low-maintenance. It requires upkeep and replacement, but it’s more than worth it if you can afford the time and cost. If wall-to-wall carpeting isn’t for you, area rugs are always there. Of course, these are best when custom-cut to fit the space, and many options are available. 


A Brief History of Area Rugs and Carpets

Before we had rugs and carpets, early flooring options were limited to wood, stone, and even dirt. The earliest rugs are believed to have been made over 5,000 years ago, with the oldest example dating back to 500 B.C. The Pazyryk Carpet was discovered in a Siberian burial mound in 1949 and is the oldest preserved example of an early rug. It’s woven from dyed wool in a double-knot style and features motifs of deer and warriors. 

Rug-making techniques continued to develop throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Because early wool weaving and knotting were done by hand, the process was very labor-intensive and valuable. Many rugs were displayed as wall hangings because the idea of walking across such a luxury item was inconceivable for the time. Instead, the floors would be covered with rush mats. These woven fiber mats were reserved for nobility, while lower classes made do with loose straw floors. But, of course, the noble ladies couldn’t have straw catching in their gowns. The notion of luxury had sprouted. 

The carpet industry began in the U.S. in 1791 when William Sprague started a woven carpet mill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His company produced woven rugs at scale. Carpeting became more accessible, and rugs were stitched from multiple panels to create a wall-to-wall effect. 

Rugs and Carpets

Around 1949, E.T. Barwick Mills introduced the modern tufting process for carpets and was also the first to use synthetic fibers. Coinciding with the development of the American suburbs, carpeting became a go-to option for builders and designers because of its new level of accessibility. 

Carpeting remained a popular luxury material throughout the 1970s and 1980s. However, it began to fall out of favor in the late 1990s due to overuse and a rise of low-grade options that didn’t uphold the promise of luxury. Today, homeowners are reevaluating their relationship with area rugs and carpets, recognizing their unsurpassed comfort and high value when properly made and sourced. 


Types of Area Rugs and Carpets 

From Moroccan Berber rugs to indoor-outdoor fiber blends, the types of area rugs are almost endless. The types of rugs out there include: 

  • Wool Rugs
  • Sisal Rugs
  • Oriental Rugs
  • Jute Rugs
  • Tufted Rugs
  • Shag Rugs 
  • Nylon Rugs
  • Poly Blend Rugs
  • Recycled Fiber Rug
  • Knotted Rugs
  • And so many more 

I recommend shopping for rugs in person to truly get a sense of the material and how it will feel underfoot. Pattern and color are important, but the texture of the textile will make an undeniable difference in how your space feels. 

Patterned Rug - Amity Worrel

One of the most unique types of carpet I’ve come across is linen. During my early interior design career, I worked in NYC and had a very fancy client who insisted on linen wall-to-wall carpeting in their primary bedroom. They wanted that casual, worn look in the same way a linen garment shows wrinkles but still looks chic. At that time, I had no idea that linen carpet existed, but I was completely enamored with its beauty once I saw it. The material wears with all its beautiful imperfections to a pattern of footprints enjoying the softness. It was an eye-opening experience to see what folks consider luxury and an amazing opportunity to explore even more carpet materials. 


Area Rug Benefits You Can’t Deny 

I’ve harped on it long enough now that you already know area rugs bring a sense of comfort, luxury, and quiet to your space. However, the investment in quality rugs could actually earn you even more over time. While working at Christie’s auction house, I learned that certain rugs are a solid financial investment. Rug dealers would descend on the auction house for rug sales, and bidding would become fast, furious, and very competitive. Quality rugs not only hold their value, but increase in value over time. 


Measuring for Area Rugs

One of the biggest challenges folks have when selecting rugs is properly measuring and sizing them for the space, especially for custom-cut rugs. (Which is great for me as an interior designer, I know.) However, the aspiring rug collector should know a thing or two about proper sizing. I recently came across Ernesta Rugs, and they supply a very detailed guide of rug sizing considerations by room. Of course, every space is different, and there are times for breaking the rules. But this guide provides a good base and can save you lots of trouble when making a decision at the rug store or antique market. 

Rug Sizing - Austin Interior Designer

A Designer’s Devotion to Softness Underfoot

I’ve lived with many different flooring options underfoot, from polished concrete to parquet to cork. I can confidently say that the softer the material, the happier I am! Yes, carpets need to be regularly cleaned and will never be as durable as their hard surface counterparts. However, I think it’s worth the little extra work for a bit more softness (and luxury) in your life. 


Trust me, your feet will thank you! 

Amity Worrel

Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.



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