braided rug in kitchenI am a big fan of braided rugs — these things are tremendously versatile, no matter what your decor. I have two Capel braided rugs that have now seen me through three houses: A 1912 Colonial-Revival with an Arts & Crafts flair… a circa 1985 McMansion (some day I’ll tell that story)… and my current home, a 1951 coolonial. Thanks to Gavin, who has now spotlighted a central Massachusetts company, Thorndike Mills, which makes two varieties of braided rugs and looks impressive indeed. .

braided rugIn a video on the Thorndike site, the brothers who now run the business say that in the 1960s, when they started, there were 35 manufacturers of braided rugs in the U.S. Now, they say, there are just four. If you want to buy American, here’s a chance.

Like many longstanding companies I feature on the blog, Thorndike Mills’ business really took off after WWII. Gary Garabedian started the company in 1933, making rag rugs on handlooms. From their website:

As World War II, came to an end, and the economy focused on Peace Time Consumer Goods, not only were Regional Department Stores becoming steady customers, but a well known National Chain, JCPenney commanded 60% of his production capabilities within two years time. 1957 was the year that the most dramatic change was to take place in the life of both Gary and Mary.  They took an enormous gamble, and with all their savings, built a new manufacturing facility. It was not to be an easy task but together again, they made the commitment, and the new facility was completed and occupied in 1959.

There are two basic styles of braided rugs: Those that braid yarns (just as you’d braid a Raggedy Ann’s hair) around filler to plump the braids up… and, those that braid pieces of wool cloth — the idea here, from true colonial days, was to recycle/reuse old wool clothing and turn it into rugs.  I think I prefer the second kind — the wool cloth made into braids — but honestly, I’d have to go upstairs to look at my Capels to see which I have.

Hey, they even have a video on YouTube.

Where to buy: These rugs are sold online by various retailers — even Walmart! For more information: Thorndike Mills.

  1. Marie Gamalski says:

    We had these in our rooms when I was a child to warm the hardwood floors. Ours were made from long strips of torn cloth…. they were beautiful, multicolored and crazy durable… you could even make out the different patterns of the fabric if you looked closely, similar to a quilt. I’m not sure where my Mother bought them, it could have been a regional thing….

  2. natalie says:

    i have a question. i need a small kitchen rug for just in front of the sink. what would be considered ‘period correct’? i bought a rag style rug, but i’m not sure. would a rag rug work? i’ve been trying to find pictures but i see no rugs!! 🙂

  3. pam kueber says:

    I want to underscore: I see braided rugs like these at virtually every estate sale that I go to here… they were ubiquitous. They also are not “popular” today, it seems — so they go dirt cheap at the sales I frequent. Also, I often see them in great matching sets…. And as we have discussed, sort of, they were Made to Last. So I think that with a good cleaning, they would be almost like new.

  4. Judi says:

    Great memories from the 60s of playing with toys while sitting on a large wool braided rug in our family room. We had to pick up our toys when we were done playing, but sometimes one of Barbie’s little high heels or a piece from the Erector Set would get caught in the rug. If Dad stepped on it, we were in big trouble!

  5. Shane Walp says:

    I’ve got my samples from Capel, and am looking into the one Gavin dug up. All my LR needs is a braided rug, and early 1950s Venetian blinds – already have a source for that, but Nikki won’t let me buy them yet 🙁 Oh, and a wall and a half wall covered in brick veneer yet. And period correct shelves bult.

    Maybe I’m not almost done.

    1. Gavin Hastings says:

      From my experience with 2″ V Blinds: make sure to specify tapes and cords. No wands. They will know what you mean. I have cherry in the bedroom (dust magnets), steel in the kitchen and bath and melamine-type in all the other rooms. I prefer the melamine. Super easy to get into the bath, not razor sharp and the paint does not wear off on the edges.
      I have Levelor and Bali, purchased in 2004-the quality is nowhere near the ones I purchased in 1990. Good luck!

        1. Gavin Hastings says:

          I think Winter White might be a better choice than stark white. These are a major one-time purchase. They all yellow out a bit. Some of the choices are already on the yellow-y side- alabaster, ivory, off-white: WW has a bit of blue. Good Luck.

  6. Gavin Hastings says:

    As Marvin Gaye & Tammy Tirrell said:

    “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby….aint nothing like the real thing….”

  7. G.G. says:

    My mom has had one of these rugs under the dining room table for as long as I can remember. There is a problem with her rug however – It stained the vinyl flooring very noticeably. You can’t see the stain when the rug is in place, but now the rug can’t be moved and if it’s ever replaced mom will have to find on even larger to cover up the stain.

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