While I have not always been a fan of the sheepskin rug, my latest room design has made me reassess my stance. In designing my bedroom, I found myself drawn to heavy, dark, wooden furniture, mixed with a soft, light, duvet cover, and muted, yet colorful paintings. To add depth to the room I used a variety of textured pillows and grey velvet curtains, but still something was missing. It needed a bit more warmth; it needed rugs.
In one corner of the room I laid a large area rug, serving to connect the bed, dresser, and bookcase, but it left large parts of the wooden floor bare. I can’t explain why, but I was fairly certain that sheepskin rugs, rugs that I had admittedly snubbed in the past, would add the perfect touch of warmth to the room. However, I had absolutely no experience with sheepskin rugs; I didn’t know where to buy one, what to look for, or how much they would cost. I literally knew nothing, other than the fact that they exist.
Driven by my ignorance, I started to do a bit of digging and found that researching sheepskin rugs wasn’t the easiest of tasks; I couldn’t find a single “go-to” article. As a result, I spent a substantial amount of time compiling information from multiple sources. While my research was interesting, it was time consuming and doesn’t need to be repeated over and over and again. Thus, in an attempt to make life easier for other sheepskin rug novices, I have created my own version of a “go-to” article for all of you.
I began my search by doing what any good researcher does, I typed “sheepskin rug” into Google. I got 523,000 results. Awesome and not at all overwhelming.
So it turns out sheepskin rugs:
A. are extremely popular (clearly I am slow to jump on this particular bandwagon);
B. come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes; and
C. fall within a vast range of prices.
From the initial results, it was fairly obvious that there are a wide variety of rugs out there, and it was going to take me a little bit of digging before I settled on my rug. Before I began to look at individual retailers and prices, I needed to know what I should be looking for in a potential rug and how to determine the quality.
Determining the quality
When looking to purchase a sheepskin rug, the following factors should be taken into consideration:
- The density, loft, and length of the wool: high-grade sheepskin tends to have a high wool density, making it quite thick. The wool’s loft refers to its ability to stay upright; the wool on high-quality rugs won’t flatten or mat easily, in comparison with lower quality rugs that tend to flatten, tangle, and/or mat quickly. High-quality rugs also tend to have long wool that retains its density and loft, whereas low quality rugs have thinner, shaggier wool.
- The color of the wool: high-quality rugs have a natural, creamy, ivory color, whereas the lower quality rugs may have discolorations and imperfections in the wool. If you decide to purchase a dyed rug, make sure that the color is even throughout the wool, without flaws.
- The feel of the wool: high-quality rugs are soft and luxurious, whereas lower quality rugs may feel rough, thin, and cheap.
- The tanning process used: tanning is the skilled, labor intensive process, in which the hide of the sheep is preserved. Tanning is a skill that has been passed down through generations at most farms that specialize in sheepskins. It is the tanning of the sheepskin that adds to the value. Buyers should note that unless the retailer specifies that an Eco-friendly tanning process is used, then it is highly probable that harsher chemicals are used to preserve the hide. The use of harsh chemicals in the tanning process doesn’t necessarily lower the quality of the sheepskin, but if the hide is not properly cleaned and preserved then an unpleasant stench can remain, thus lowering the quality.
- The feel and smell of the leather (hide): the underside, leather, of the rug should be smooth and free from defects. The leather should not be cracked or wrinkled from the tanning process. The rug should not smell of the harsh chemicals that are sometimes used during the tanning process. While the majority of sheepskin rugs will have a slight scent, it should not be noticeable or overpowering.
- Origin of the sheep/lamb: many retailers will advertise that their sheep/lambs are from Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, or the United Kingdom. From what my research has shown me, there isn’t much difference in Australian or New Zealand wool and wool from the United Kingdom and Iceland also comes highly recommended.
- Meat by-product and Eco-friendly sheepskin: for those of you concerned with the purpose, upbringing, and handling of the sheep/lambs and their skins, you should note that there is a difference between rugs advertised as meat by-product rugs and those marketed as Eco-friendly rugs:
- Meat by-product rugs: these rugs come from sheep that were raised for the meat and/or wool industry. Their pelts, considered a waste by-product of the meat industry, are then turned into rugs, giving use to as much of the animal as possible. However, just because a retailer advertises that their sheepskin rugs only come from meat and /or wool industry sheep that does not mean that their rugs can necessarily be classified as Eco-friendly.
- Eco-friendly rugs: in order for sheepskin rugs to be classified as Eco-friendly, the rugs must meet the following standards: the manufacturer must meet EU directives concerning environmental preservation and protection, the pelts should be bio-degradable, and the tanning agents used should be environmentally friendly and should not contain harsh chemicals like arsenic, bleach, and formaldehyde.
Now that I knew what to look for in a rug, I began to research potential retailers and prices. This also proved to be a minefield.
Where to buy your rug and how much to spend
For me, the most frustrating aspect in my search for sheepskin rugs was the vast difference in pricing. A genuine sheepskin rug can cost anywhere from $30.00 to $2,000.00, depending on the size, style, and quality you are looking for. Of course, the main factor in the price is the size of the rug, followed closely by the manufacturer/retailer, and some would argue quality, of the rug. Here is an idea of what you can expect to spend depending on the size of the rug you want:
- Genuine sheepskin rugs consisting of 8 or more pelts start at around $600.00 and run up to $2,000.00.
- Genuine sheepskin rugs of consisting of 4 to 6 pelts start at around $300.00 and run up to $700.00.
- Genuine sheepskin rugs consisting of 1.5 to 3 pelts start at around $150.00 and run up to $300.00.
- Genuine sheepskin rugs consisting of a single pelt can start at $30.00 and run up to $200.
Luckily for me and my wallet, I was only looking for two single pelt rugs to frame my bed. Single pelt rugs tend to be the most popular size on the market and come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and of course prices.
Ideally, I was looking for an Eco-friendly retailer and found the following retailers specializing in high-quality, meat industry by-product and/or Eco-friendly sheepskin products:
- Overland: $99.00 (Eco-friendly)
- European Sheepskins: $99.00 (Eco-friendly)(not pictured)
- Ecowool: $104.00 (Eco-friendly)[i]
- Kiwi-Sheepskins: $109.95 (sheepskins are bi-product of meat industry sheep)[ii]
- Oliver’s Farm: $160.00 (Eco-friendly)[iii]
- Langley Chase Organic Farm: Approximately $172.00 (made from organically registered stock, but skins are not sold as “organic”)[iv]
- Black Sheep White Light: $179.00 (Eco-friendly)[v]
Unsurprisingly, the price of the rug increases when the retailer is Eco-friendly. If price, rather than the source of the rug is your primary concern, the following large-retailers provide alternative, budget friendly, options:
The rugs I chose
After researching and weighing my options, I actually decided to purchase two different types of rugs from Ikea. I bought the genuine Ikea sheepskin rug for $29.99 and randomly decided that I would also try out the Faux Ikea sheepskin rug for only $9.99.
I bought the genuine Ikea sheepskin rug because I wanted to try a real sheepskin, but I wasn’t willing to invest $100.00 or more in a rug that I was unsure of. For me, if I wasn’t willing to spend $100.00 on an Eco-friendly rug, then I certainly wasn’t going to spend $99.99 or $79.00 on a large-retailer rug of mysterious origins. Thus, I was left with either Walmart or Ikea, and since I do love Ikea, it was the obvious choice.
My decision to buy the faux rug, stemmed from the same budget-mindedness as my decision to buy the genuine Ikea rug. The faux rug looks very similar to the genuine rug, and since both were disappearing into low-traffic areas of my apartment, I decided to see how noticeable it would be that the rug is a fake (it is very clearly fake).
Taking my Ikea rugs home
I adore my sheepskin rugs, both real and fake. They add an enormous amount of warmth and texture to the room, and the genuine sheepskin rug is lovely.
Genuine Ikea sheepskin rug: ($29.99)
I really do love my genuine Ikea rug. The soft, warm, fur feels wonderful on my feet first thing in the morning. For the price, the quality is fairly good; it has a nice ivory color and a luxurious feel to it. It also fits perfectly into my room
While I have read a few reviews complaining that the Ikea genuine rugs have a strong unpleasant odor to them, I haven’t noticed anything. I will say that if you put the rug to your nose, it does have a vague scent, but nearly every sheepskin rug does. The only negative thing that I have noticed about the rug is that it is beginning to mat. Though I have been able to brush the matting out, I am hesitant to recommend the rug for high-traffic areas.
Faux Ikea sheepskin rug: ($9.99)
The faux sheepskin rug works for my purpose; however, it does look fake. It is bleach
white and very thin; the shape is much longer than the genuine sheepskin and it is not nearly as soft. I have the faux rug at the end of my bed, where no one really walks, so it serves. But I would not recommend buying one unless it was for a low-traffic area, or if you are morally opposed to genuine sheepskin (but even then, I would have to think there are better quality faux rugs on the market).
For those of you who are just experimenting with sheepskin rugs and want to keep the costs down, I highly recommend an Ikea rug (just smell it before you buy it).
However, if you are certain that a sheepskin rug is what you want and you are planning on placing it in a high-volume traffic area; I recommend purchasing from a retailer that specializes in sheepskin. The cost is significantly higher than Ikea, but for $70.00 more, you can purchase a high-quality, Eco-friendly rug, that will last you a lifetime.
Hope this helped!
[i] Ecowool is based in New Zealand. Any items purchased from foreign companies are subject to custom fees and taxes upon delivery.
[ii] Kiwi-Sheepskins is based in New Zealand. Any items purchased from foreign companies are subject to custom fees and taxes upon delivery.
[iii] Oliver’s Farm is based in the United Kingdom. Any items purchased from foreign companies are subject to custom fees and taxes upon delivery.
[iv] Langley Chase Organic Farm is based in the United Kingdom. Any items purchased from foreign companies are subject to custom fees and taxes upon delivery.
[v] Black Sheep White Light is based out of Canada. Any items purchased from foreign companies are subject to custom fees and taxes upon delivery.