Do you wince when you see grimy kitchen mats? And if you decide to get a newer model for your home (or a friend’s home), do you wince again when you survey the uninspiring assortment of mats at the local house wares store?

I don’t know about you, but the images of ducks done up with blue ribbon are just a little cutesy for me.

What to do? Many of the kitchen mats currently available lack a certain style quotient, to put it mildly, but they may save your back and prevent your legs from aching as you do your kitchen chores, especially on hard tile floors.

Moreover, these mats will soak up water drips and hold scraps of peelings or crumbs that fall to the floor. This way you can shake out the mat rather than walking through the wet mess and spreading it all over the kitchen.

They’re a fantastic idea, but do they have to be so ugly?

Well, after looking around a little more thoroughly, I found many more ugly ones, but — surprise — a few very attractive ones.

One product I noticed was a natural-looking woven vinyl mat, complete with elegant woven edges. There are a few different manufacturers, but one of the most price worthy rugs I saw are from a Toronto-based company called The Tate Group, formerly MacFABhome. They can be bought at selected retail locations across Canada — or to inquire about retail locations.

These rugs range in price from $24 to $300 depending on the size of the mat, and are backed by cushy rubber backings. There are six standard rectangular sizes, which run from the smallest (doormat) at 20” x 28”, to the largest (large area rug), at 54” x 96”. Also included in the selection is a hall runner, which measures 28” x 84”.

The natural woven look of these mats come in several different textures, including a coarser weave, a tighter weave, and several different patterned weaves. And they come in a variety of muted colours, including reed, terracotta, black walnut, twig, sand, midnight and praline. Check to take a look at the colours, or better yet visit a retail location to check the look and feel more closely.

I noticed other similar synthetic products, such as the Chilewich mats from a New York-based company. They’re equally lovely with more of a selection in terms of colour and pattern, and the mats can be customized to fit a specific space. However, be prepared for a higher price tag; they range from $360 for a 3’ x 5’ mat, and up to $600 for a 5’ x 10’ mat. Bindings around the outside are extra.

They’re carried at retailers like Elte in Toronto. Check for more information about other retailers across Canada.

Of course, natural mats of grass and straw can be lovely as well, and they might do just about anywhere else. But not in a kitchen. Cleaning is a necessity here, and natural grass or straw just doesn’t stand up to the abuse. Vinyl rugs are water and stain resistant, and can be used both indoors and outdoors since they are resilient to mould and mildew. They can be wet mopped and vacuumed, and tough stains can be treated with mild detergent and a little elbow grease.

Just don’t put them on a heated floor, or you may have a goopy mess on your hands.

– Sylvia Putz is a journalist with an interest in decor and design. She’s written for the TV show Arresting Design;

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