Have you looked at your flooring recently?
If like me you love natural wooden flooring and old tiled floors, you won’t resist lifting carpets while viewing houses, in the hope you can restore a neglected treasure, hidden beneath the carpets or vinyl. Floors are just one tiny element in house buying choices but, as repairs or replacement can be expensive, a good floor can be a real sales point. However in real life, when you pull up the old carpets in many houses unless you are very lucky, you will find that all you have underneath is chipboard or maybe concrete.
And yet the flooring in a room can make such a big difference to the overall feel, even if it’s not the first thing you notice or the strongest element of the design. Flooring helps set the background, in much the same way as paint colour and lighting, yet it is one of the things many of us do not always consider as fully as maybe we should.
In my first three houses, we had wall to wall fitted beige carpet
This looks amazing when new but is not always the most practical choice and needs a fair bit of looking after to keep it looking good. By the time we moved out several years later, the carpets were sadly in need of replacing as the effects of children and dogs had taken their toll. On the plus side it was a neutral colour, very light and warm under foot and soft for the children to play on.
How to choose the right flooring for your lifestyle
Traditional materials such as stone and wood will always prove resilient and long-lasting. After all, they have been in and out of fashion for hundreds of years, but they may not always be the most practical for your lifestyle, design or budget. Modern materials such as laminate, engineered vinyl and ceramic tiles can offer great cheaper alternative options. They may also offer easy care and harder resilience to dirt in some cases while retaining all the character of traditional alternatives.
Large areas can give impact to an overall design, and continuing, or flowing a flooring material between rooms or repeating the use of flooring materials can really pull the overall design together. At Gardeners Cottage in Blakeney, we used only two flooring finishes in the completed project. This reduced costs and wastage, both in the build stage and the final fit, but it also tied the overall coastal theme of the design together.
Starting with a blank canvas we needed to address the wear and tear of heavy traffic areas in a commercial holiday rental property, with the practicality of a weekly high season turnaround and clean. We achieved this by combining ceramic limestone effect tiling with engineered oak floor boarding. Both within a similar tone and colour pallet and both with strong texture effects, which helps break up large blocks and hide spills, scratches and general wear and tear. In fact, they have improved with age.
Decide on a colour and texture palette
By repeating the ceramic tiles from the entrance, through to kitchen and bathrooms and breaking to planked oak boards in living and bedroom areas, the canvas was set. Hard ceramics in high traffic and wet areas, softer wood in living and sleeping areas. Think of the flooring as the background set for a movie. It needs to set the mood without distracting from the main design elements, which can then hold the focus. if you want to soften the hard floors simply add rugs which can be purchased either new or at auction.
Tailor your flooring to your overall design
My approach in restoring a 400 year old farmhouse was very different. For a start, we were working with some very ancient and traditional materials, including Norfolk pamments laid on a lime mortar. At certain times of year and atmospheric conditions, these tiles literally breathe or sweat to be more accurate with damp patches and salt precipitates. Sealing these or replacing them with hard or nonporous alternatives would be disastrous, almost certainly leading to damp walls or worse, rot! The solution was to look to very traditional and reclaimed materials. In Norfolk we are blessed with an excellent selection of reclamation yards, offering recycled traditional floors both tiled and wooden.
Reclaimed and upcycled floors
The design approach was also very different. Unlike Gardeners Cottage, with its large flowing rooms, the farmhouse presented a plethora of smaller spaces, pantries, larders, corridors and walk-in cupboards. Most on different levels, with threshold steps between rooms. No possibility of flowing acres of crisp-edged tiling here. Our solution, repair, restore and where neither was possible, replace with a reclaimed alternative with an aged patina to keep the ‘been down for at least 100 years’ look. We also ended up painting the floorboards in many of the rooms and bathrooms. Chances are plumbers and electricians have taken their toll over years, painting boards can offer the best low-cost option for damaged or replaced floorboards. The effect can also lighten rooms considerably and re-touching high traffic areas work really well with modern floor paints.
What are the key interior trends for flooring this year?
Hard floors are again a key interior design trend this year. Think white marble and red cedar. Yes, OK maybe not seriously, I am joking, because, come on, your approach to choosing a floor really should be a long-term love affair, not just a fashion statement. Hard floors are expensive and messy to replace. Find your balance of practical and beautiful for a long-term relationship with a floor you love.
Flooring does not have to be boring
In summary, the flooring that you choose needs to reflect your lifestyle. If you have lots of dogs and children you will probably need to choose flooring that is easy to keep clean. But as our guide shows this does not mean that your flooring cannot be beautiful and practical. Alternatively, you could get a dog that does not molt or get muddy ( if such a thing exists), sell the kids on eBay, and hey, if Red Cedar rocks your boat, go with it!