Interior design necessarily involves a dichotomy between practicality and comfort. The relationship between the two is something that people always struggle with because it’s so crucial to the sense of place that makes a home.

That’s what it’s all about, really – making a house into a home. The house is a practical space; the home is a comfortable space, but you can no more ignore the one than the other in your interior design.

Even though practicality informs comfort and vice versa, the two are often at odds with one another when it comes to the topic of style. We all want our homes to look great at the same time as being functional and comfortable places to spend time, so style becomes the kind of framework into which matters of practicality and comfort need to fit.

If you like, style is a recipe with comfort and practicality as the two primary ingredients. Getting them to work together is the real challenge for aesthetically astute homemakers.

Rugs provide a very clear example of the practicality-comfort schism at work. Part of you just wants to curl up all snug on the softest and warmest rug in the range, luxuriating in the texture of the fibres and hunkering down for the evening. Another part of you just wants a rug that’ll spruce up nicely after a party and that won’t just disintegrate as soon as it experiences a little rough treatment from the underside of your shoes.

So, we’re pitching soft rugs up against hardwearing rugs to see which options are best in terms of interior design, depending on the setting, of course. Who’ll come out on top – the lovers or the fighters?

The Lovers

There are a bunch of really soft, really cosy rugs on the market. Flokati rugs make the case for wool. Shaggy rugs make the case for synthetic materials. Sheepskin rugs make the case for skins and pelts. They all have one thing in common: a deep and softly textured pile.

So what makes these rugs so great? Well, it’s pretty obvious that they feel lovely to the touch, but they are also very psychologically appealing in the sense that just looking at them makes you feel a tad warmer. Is there something practical in that? Well, you could certainly argue that there is – soft rugs could take a bit of the pressure off your central heating, thereby saving you a little cash.

Anything else practical about softer rugs? Well, their texture could even save you a bit of floor space. People are generally pretty happy to sit on rugs with a nice deep pile, so if you’ve got one in the centre of your room you might feel less inclined to invest in loads of seating – a real bonus if you have a compact lounge and space is at a premium.

As you might expect, the softly-softly approach advocated by Flokati rugs and their cosy cronies is all about using tact to coddle you into submission. But what are they up against?

The Fighters

They’re up against the toughest, meanest rugs that the industry can offer. When you’re after something hardwearing, you’ve got a few options – natural rugs that laugh in the face of the deepest pile, washable rugs that never kowtow to care concerns and kitchen rugs that make a gruelling sport out of the quotidian trample.

Wipe-clean or machine-washable, coarse-fibred or flat-weave – these rugs are all about standing the test of time and they’re fixed to forego the fancy fillips and filigree to fulfil that objective. These are rugs that have your utmost convenience in mind but is that all they manage to achieve?

You’d have to answer no. The fact is that natural rugs made out of fibres like jute and sisal are also part of a greener way of decorating – so they might add to your spiritual comfort at home. They look great too, especially if you want an Eastern aesthetic at home – something uncomplicated and relaxing.

The fact that you can get coarser rugs means that you can also add a splash of colour and texture to places like the conservatory and the kitchen, making them more comfortable without getting the associated grief of rugs that look worn out way too soon.

Longevity is definitely a virtue in interior design because rugs that are hard to clean and hard to maintain might undermine your efforts with their inchoate tattiness, eventually degenerating into threadbare decrepitude.

The Setting

A good battle is nothing without a backdrop. Perhaps it’s best to let your design tactics and rug choice be dictated by the environment.

In your lounge, you might prefer the softly-softly approach, whereas in the conservatory you could practice a bit of brutishness. If your family home plays host to kids and pets, then you might have a case for using coarser rugs all over the house except in the bedrooms. Conversely, if you have an adult-humans-only policy then you could be the coddled Kublai Khan of your own downy texture-dome.

But surely the key point is to achieve a kind of balance. Comfort and practicality can be used both to spur and temper your stylistic drive. Get them to engage in a gratifying dialogue instead of shouting over one another and you’ll end up with a really tasteful and attractive home.