The Dirt on Area Rugs

My Interview with Linda Murillo- founder of Lilypads Creations

Area rugs have always been an important element within the interiors I design.  They bring color, pattern, texture, and warmth to a room.  They anchor and provide grounding for furniture groupings, which helps to define large, open plan spaces.  An area rug can be the focal point of a room or the perfect background piece upon which other furnishings shine.  There are many different materials and weaving methods for rugs, but my favorites are always visually lush, soft and squishy on the feet, and invite you to sit on the floor.  It’s my fervent professional opinion that every home should have spaces where you can comfortably sit and hang out on the floor.

Whenever I’m working on an interiors project and it comes time to design and select the area rugs, I call Linda Murillo of Lilypads Creations in Miami, Florida.  She specializes in designing and creating area rugs, and graciously answered all of the questions I threw at her.

TJD:   Hi Linda! Please give me the Lilypads Creations backstory.  What is your background and how did you get started producing area rugs?

LM: I have been interested in textiles and fibers since I can remember.  I studied commercial art in college and worked in other creative venues for many years.  I had an opportunity to live in Costa Rica and needed area rugs in my home.  An artist friend introduced me to a hand-tufted manufacturer who took my paintings and turned them into area rugs.  When I moved to Miami, the rugs became a visual focal point in my home and often the center of conversation.  At that point, I decided to pursue a business designing and offering my custom area rugs to the interior design industry.

TJD:   What are the most common area rug constructions and rug materials?

LM: It depends very much on where the rugs are going.  Hand-knotted wool and wool and silk are very popular for residences and commercial lobby areas. They have a great look and feel.  Hand-tufted wool rugs remain popular as well, and are often used for high traffic commercial spaces, children’s and family rooms.  They are great looking, durable, and easy to maintain.  For contemporary spaces we produce endless types of textures.  From chunky felted wools to delicate handwovens.


TJD:   What are some of the more unusual or little known materials that are being used for rugs today and what are their properties?

LM:  Some of the new materials are banana silk, aloe, linen, and alpaca.  These are not necessarily new materials, but old materials used in a new way in area rugs.  Surprisingly, most of the materials we use at Lilypads are the traditional materials which have been used in textiles for centuries.  They tend to be the ones which are the most beautiful and practical.  An example is the wool which is used in Nepalese rugs.  The sheep are grazed at such a high altitude that the wool has a high percentage of lanolin.  This lanolin is a natural stain guard and fire protector.

TJD:   Padding vs. No Padding- When is it appropriate to not use padding and when is it definitely recommended?

 LM:  I always recommend using padding on thin pile rugs to add softness and small size rugs so they do not move. Thick shags usually do not need a pad as they are soft and heavy enough not to move. 

TJD:  What types of padding are best for stone floors, wood floors, and tile floors?

LM:  We recommend the same “natural” latex padding for most projects because it is good for various floor surfaces and rugs and the least synthetic in its production.

TJD:  Shag rugs are still so popular.  They’re fun and inviting, but how do you clean a shag rug?

LM:  Yes, shags give a great look.  Usually a shag gives a field of color with subtle texture.  This look works great for many design styles.  Cleaning depends on the type of shag.  Routine cleaning is usually done with the beater bar of the vacuum turned off so you get a suction pulling dirt from the rug. You do not want a vacuum which rotates on top of the shag.  It will shred it.  Any rug should be periodically professionally cleaned by a recommended rug cleaner.

TJD:  Which rug materials are best suited to the heavy abuse and wear dished out by kids and pets?

LM:  Wool is one of the most durable fibers.  People often come to me looking for a nylon or a sisal rug which they perceive to be more practical.  I am not a big fan of sisals, although I love the natural look.  They feel hard on bare feet to walk and sit on, and absorb rather than repel stains, making spills impossible to get out. How a rug looks and how long it lasts usually comes down to the care of the rug.  Whether a rug is nylon or silk, if your child drops a juice box on the rug, you need to get it up right away. 

TJD:  The commercial carpet industry has done a lot to move carpet manufacturing closer to a closed loop system of recycling old materials to make new carpets, lowering VOC’s with different dyes and adhesives, and having carpets recycled again at the end of their life span.  What are you seeing happen (if anything) in the residential area rug industry to make rugs more “green” in terms of earth-friendly materials and social/corporate responsibility for the people that actually make the rugs?  Is there a “fair trade” movement going on in the rug business (similar to fair trade coffee and other artisanal trades)?

LM:  At Lilypads we have focused on the aspect of fair labor practices in our manufacturing. Many of our manufacturers are in third world countries.  There are various organizations which oversee the rug industry to use good employment policies, such as not employing children and regulating the hours people work.  Several of our manufacturers have schools which are incorporated into the factories for the children of the employees.

As far as materials go, we use mostly natural materials.  Our manufacturers in South and Central America work with local indigenous tribes to source and process materials in a way which is beneficial to them and their environments.   We are always striving for the most effective methods of processing for our planet.

TJD:  What is the most important thing people should consider when buying area rugs?

LM:  Machine-tufted rugs can be a great alternative for custom area rugs.  They tend to be less expensive because the rugs are made by a machine rather than by hand.  Often machine-tufted rugs are overall textures or designs rather than free-hand designs. They can be custom-colored and sized so you have the advantage of getting what is needed for the space, great quality, great pricing, and sometimes in less time. 

You have to get the size and design right, but if the color is not correct with the other design elements in the room, the rug will not add to the feeling of the room.  Color is key!

TJD:  Thank you, Linda! Check out the great color combinations of these rugs Linda and I worked on together.

hand-knotted wool rug   machine-tufted wool- multicolored stripe rug