Flooring Focus: Q&A – DesignCurial

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Although most of our time is spent in contact with it, flooring designs are an often neglected and unsung hero of interior spaces. FX canvasses a range of established experts for their takes on what makes for good flooring design


Words by Toby Maxwell

RARELY THE star of an interior scheme, the floor is all too often the forgotten component, and yet, thanks to that little thing called gravity, it is the part of any room that we are in almost constant contact with.

The subconscious effect of the flooring we walk on can significantly influence how an interior feels, while the make-up of the material used can have a direct impact on the health of the environment and its users. Besides, from a design perspective, failing to make the most of this huge area beneath our feet seems to be a huge missed opportunity to add some extra quality and style to a scheme.

In our flooring focus, we hear from a number of architects and designers on how they utilise flooring to achieve the very best results for their clients, sometimes encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zone to reap the rewards of new ideas and materials.

We also take a look at some projects that show just what is possible through a holistic approach to a space – one that includes the flooring not as an afterthought, but as a pivotal part of bringing all aspects of a design together.


Q&A: Bianca Yousef, associate at architecture and design practice 74, suggests innovation and collaboration on new flooring solutions could unlock a whole new set of possibilities

Bianca Yousef
Bianca Yousef

Which flooring materials do you particularly like working with and why?

Right now, it would be porcelain tiles, especially because of their durability and quality. There seems to be a great variety of shapes, sizes, colours and textures out there at the moment. As a designer, they’re pretty much worry-free to specify because you really know they will offer longevity, as well as good creative possibilities. Laying patterns becomes a great tool of expression to make a stand-out feature and introducing coloured grouts can be a small detail that ties an overall look together.

A cream porcelain tile from Solus Ceramics used for the entrance of a student clubhouse. Image Credit: GS VISUALS
A cream porcelain tile from Solus Ceramics used for the entrance of a student clubhouse. Image Credit: GS VISUALS

How do you keep up to date with flooring products on the market? Is there scope for using the latest material technology in projects or do clients tend to insist that you stick with established ‘tried and tested’ solutions?

As a studio, we really encourage reps to bring in physical examples of products. There’s nothing like touching and picking up a sample to test it out and we are always happy to have CPDs on new product developments too.

When it comes to client preferences, obviously different clients have different priorities, and for different jobs. Proven quality is always a strong element in preferences but, at the same time, clients value our opinions and trust us to recommend what’s best, so it’s half and half when it comes to making selections. Our responsibility as designers is to be really sure about what we’re recommending, both in terms of creative vision and conviction about the product’s qualities and suitability for purpose.

A meeting space with a Milliken carpet geometric pattern complementing the timber joinery wall. Image Credit: GS VISUALS
A meeting space with a Milliken carpet geometric pattern complementing the timber joinery wall. Image Credit: GS VISUALS

If budget was no object, what kinds of flooring materials would you love to use on projects?

The dream scenario would definitely be as bespoke as possible and for flooring to fit perfectly with the rest of an interior architectural or design scheme. It wouldn’t so much be a question of certain typologies of flooring, but about being able to match a look and feel, colour or texture to the rest of the scheme. In fact, it would be amazing if we could develop our own, totally new product with a supplier for a particular project – just as we already do with lighting design, for example.

A Bolon flooring area denotes a relaxation zone in this Salford co-working project by 74. Image Credit: GS VISUALS
A Bolon flooring area denotes a relaxation zone in this Salford co-working project by 74. Image Credit: GS VISUALS

Have you been involved in any recent projects that have provided particular challenges or opportunities for trying new ideas for a flooring solution?

We are working on a project currently – an amenities scheme for our PBSA client’s Future Generation project in Loughborough – with some really striking colour combinations, broken up by dynamic lines, where the colour immersion is 360° and where the lines split colours on joinery, upholstery and flooring. It is exciting and we are really looking forward to seeing the final result.
www.weare74.com


Q&A: Neil Dusheiko, director at Neil Dusheiko Architects, explains why the client’s story is always key to finding the right solutions

Which flooring materials do you particularly like working with and why?

We don’t have a predetermined agenda for our work; every residential project we do is about allowing the inhabitants to connect better with each other and the natural world around them. The starting point of all our projects is really our client’s narrative. What makes each individual unique and special will translate into the project we make. So we never start by saying ‘we will use a timber floor or concrete floor’ – it’s more organic than that.

A collection of images from the Danish Mews housing project. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSEN
A collection of images from the Danish Mews housing project, showcasing the entrance, a bedroom, staircase and hallway. In each example, the architect has sought to maximise lighting and the use of warm and natural materials across every aspect, from floor to ceiling. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSEN

When we are choosing though, we do always consider the way they interact with the senses. The smell of materials, the tactility, the sound of spaces. How these pervade and occupy a space, creating an atmosphere and forming new memories of a place. As a result, we mostly tend to work with expressive natural flooring materials because of their visceral qualities.

At our Danish Mews project, we opted for Dinesen Douglas floor planks which add a subtle warmth to the interior and sit comfortably alongside timber battens and exposed Douglas Fir beams and other natural materials we used throughout the house.

How do you keep up to date with the latest flooring products on the market?

showcasing the entrance, a bedroom, staircase and hallway. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSENA collection of images from the Danish Mews housing project, showcasing the entrance, a bedroom, staircase and hallway. In each example, the architect has sought to maximise lighting and the use of warm and natural materials across every aspect, from floor to ceiling. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSEN

We stay up to date through regular CPD sessions on materials and construction detailing. We love reading about the work of our peers too; we love seeing what has been achieved, not to copy their application, but to understand where there is insight we can adopt for other projects. We often work on old buildings that have moisture inside of them so we prioritise the best products that don’t trap moisture and are most sustainable. We are always learning more about sustainability and encouraging our clients to pursue these options.

If budget was no object, what kinds of flooring materials would you love to use on projects?

In each example, the architect has sought to maximise lighting and the use of warm and natural materials across every aspect. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSENA collection of images from the Danish Mews housing project, showcasing the entrance, a bedroom, staircase and hallway. In each example, the architect has sought to maximise lighting and the use of warm and natural materials across every aspect, from floor to ceiling. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSEN

We tend not to think in terms of cost. Even though budgets are always discussed with a client: just because they have a considerable sum, it doesn’t mean we automatically choose the most expensive material we can find.

At each site we explore what the site requires in terms of material language and usage. For example, questions emerge around whether additions need to express visual sympathy or tension with the existing site. Our Gallery House project, for example, introduced reclaimed bricks that ran from the new kitchen area out onto a rear terrace area. Such a simple material, yet it had a pronounced effect on the feeling of the space. In terms of dream materials, clay-works is one we’ve yet to work with.

How can designers look to exploit the potential of creative flooring, both in terms of design ideas and material choices, in a range of different applications?

from floor to ceiling. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSENA collection of images from the Danish Mews housing project, showcasing the entrance, a bedroom, staircase and hallway. In each example, the architect has sought to maximise lighting and the use of warm and natural materials across every aspect, from floor to ceiling. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSEN

Exploring sustainable options is a great way to find new creative flooring solutions. Not only is it good for the environment, but it will likely steer you away from the methods typically used. For example, we’ve seen a lot of interesting polished cork flooring solutions which we’d love to try in domestic settings. These can bring the warmth and sustainability of timber, but open up a whole array of colour options.

Our approach to design – always starting with the client’s story and lifestyle – tends to form an excellent basis for finding new materials and ways to use them. At our Storyteller’s House, for example, the slatted stair refers to the fire escape stairs which offer backdrops to some of film history’s most critical scenes.

Designers can also find new ways of deploying materials by challenging norms. For example, while we will always be looking for waterproof, slip-resistant surfaces in bathrooms, do we have to default to tiles? Are there other options we could choose?

The central stair core at the Danish Mews House Project, designed to receive a lot of natural light. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSEN
The central stair core at the Danish Mews House Project, designed to receive a lot of natural light. Image Credit: STÅLE ERIKSEN

Have you been involved in any recent projects that have provided particular challenges or opportunities for trying new ideas for a flooring solution?

At our recent Danish Mews project, we wanted to make sure that despite the tightness of the footprint and prevailing constraints that the house received a lot of natural light. The central stair core is glazed and top-lit to help with this.

We wanted to bring the timber flooring through the entirety of the house, but there was a risk that in its solidity, a timber stair would block out the light. We designed instead an open stair with solid timber planks. This brings light deep into the first-floor level where the main living spaces fill the entire floor, giving a sense of expansive space.
www.neildusheiko.com


Q&A: Colm Murphy and Georgia Koufidou, designers at Peldon Rose, on why material selection is as vital for flooring as it is with any other aspect of a scheme

Colm MurphyPeldon Rose
Colm Murphy                                                         Peldon Rose

Which flooring materials do you particularly like working with and why?

We like working with a range of materials, and the particular material will depend on the context and the design concept. For example, we will specify a solid finish in a building entrance whether it be a stone tile or a hardwood floor, whereas carpets will be specified for quiet zones and meeting rooms, including the circulation outside meeting rooms, to absorb noise of people walking by and enhance acoustics.

How do you keep up to date with flooring products on the market? Is there scope for using the latest material technology in projects or do clients tend to insist that you stick with established ‘tried and tested’ solutions?

As designers, we are always researching new materials and trends, and we love visiting design exhibitions such as Surface Design and Clerkenwell Design Week as part of this research so that we can both see and touch new materials. We also receive regular updates from our suppliers and host CPDs in our design library as a way of keeping up to date.

Clients trust us to specify new innovative products, and we will always accompany this specification with the credentials to assure them that it is suitable for the job, including sustainability credentials, as this is always one of our main considerations in everything we do.

If budget was no object, what kinds of flooring materials would you love to use on projects?

We consider the experience of the end user when specifying materials and we want them to feel the quality of our considerations, so solid stone, hardwood timber floors and plush carpets where you can feel the quality below as you move through each space. The use of stone and hardwood timber is a great way to get natural materials into the office evoking a feeling of well-being and bringing that homely feel that we’ve become accustomed to after working from home.

Material selection is vital for any floor design, particularly in off ice spaces where acoustics need to be considered, such as with the use of carpeting near meeting spaces to dampen excess noise
Material selection is vital for any floor design, particularly in off ice spaces where acoustics need to be considered, such as with the use of carpeting near meeting spaces to dampen excess noise

How can designers look to exploit the potential of creative flooring, both in terms of design ideas and material choices, in a range of different applications?

The floor must be considered in the context of the overall concept and provides an opportunity to be creative. We don’t have a generic approach to flooring and enjoy using it in unexpected ways and surfaces by pushing the boundaries of what a flooring material can be and how it can be used. We’re always looking to expand the technical properties of the material in different applications and have used flooring materials on vertical planes, even wrapping around to the ceiling.

Sustainability is always key so we enjoy working with materials that have a great story behind them with a high recycled content, cradle-to-cradle credentials, and net-zero carbon footprint. Luckily, this is becoming more widely available from carpet tiles made from recycled fishing nets and we’re seeing more and more cork within floor finishes, whether it is the surface itself or the acoustic backing.

Have you been involved in any recent projects that have provided particular challenges or opportunities for trying new ideas for a flooring solution?

As designers, we constantly come across challenges and part of the fun is getting creative to tackle these challenges. An obvious one is where we have raised-access floor and have specified a solid surface as a flooring material but need to retain access so we will need to consider this.

A recent opportunity that we had when we were working with a wine company that wanted to achieve SKA Gold on the project, was to use cork as an obvious flooring choice for both its sustainable credentials and the relevance to the project. We wanted to use cork for some time, so we were excited to have the opportunity to try it with the floor.
www.peldonrose.com


Q&A: Nigel Tresise, director at Align, says that guiding sometimes risk-averse clients towards new possibilities has become an important design task

Nigel Tresise
Nigel Tresise

Which flooring materials do you particularly like working with and why?

I really love the texture and warmth under foot of Marmoleum. It is a natural product and the CO2 absorbed through photosynthesis when the raw materials are growing is less than the CO2 exhausted during the production process, so it’s also truly carbon neutral.

An office meeting pod designed to create a domestic haven. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER
An office meeting pod designed to create a domestic haven. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER

How do you keep up to date with the latest flooring products on the market? Is there scope for using some of the very latest material technology in projects or do clients tend to insist that you stick with established ‘tried and tested’ solutions?

There’s often a pressure from clients who are risk averse and tend not to be early adopters of new technology but we have recently expanded our team to include a sustainability researcher to keep us up to date on new developments. We’re also moving towards clients not just accepting a box-ticking approach to sustainability and expecting a much deeper justification and analysis of product claims.

The bubbleHUB co-working space features a glass panel in the floor, displaying the original Victorian era cobbles beneath. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER
The bubbleHUB co-working space features a glass panel in the floor, displaying the original Victorian era cobbles beneath. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER

If budget was no object, what kinds of flooring materials would you love to use on projects?

I love wood floors (in the right setting) and some of the reclaimed decorative parquet products that are around now are wonderful.

The Spark44 White Collar Factory features a floor marker line of red flexiglass to divide the room. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER
The Spark44 White Collar Factory features a floor marker line of red flexiglass to divide the room. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER???????

How can designers look to exploit the potential of creative flooring, both in terms of design ideas and material choices, in a range of different applications?

We tend to start our design schemes from the ground-up and so the flooring scheme tends to kick off the creative process. Functional parameters are crucial to ensure the floor will perform from the perspectives of acoustics, durability, slip resistance and so on, and once we have zoned out the operational elements, we can start on colour, texture and materiality.

A close-up of the red flexiglass. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER
A close-up of the red flexiglass. Image Credit: GARETH GARDNER

Have you been involved in any recent projects that have provided particular challenges or opportunities for trying new ideas for a flooring solution?

We’re currently working on a manufacturing facility that requires really high levels of slip resistance. The standard options for these areas have been traditionally quite boring so it’s been really fun pushing the boundaries on what we can achieve visually whilst still maintaining the operational requirements.
www.aligngb.com


Q&A: Sarah Dabbs, associate at SpaceInvader, says the floor should be considered a canvas on which to fully express the creative potential of a project

Sarah Dabbs
Sarah Dabbs

Which flooring materials do you particularly like working with and why?

I have a personal preference for what I call hard finishes – materials such as composite and porcelain tiles, stone or poured floor finishes. These types of finishes are generally used sparingly on a scheme for a number of reasons (cost, acoustics and so on) but they can be very impactful in small doses and can really set the tone of a scheme.

Floors and walls in colour unity in this award-winning design by SpaceInvader. Image Credit: SG PHOTOGRAPHY LTD
Floors and walls in colour unity in this award-winning design by SpaceInvader. Image Credit: SG PHOTOGRAPHY LTD???????

How do you keep up to date with the latest flooring products on the market?

I keep up to date through a number of methods, including publications and online media, company representative informative visits and CPDs, as well as through research looking to find new, exciting or sustainably produced materials. As a business, SpaceInvader places a very high premium on finding and using new products with compelling stories around sustainability issues. As a studio, it is part of our culture to share new products and materials with each other to enhance instances of specification of these products in our schemes.

Our clients obviously vary wildly in terms of the reasons they’re undertaking their projects and these reasons will often drive things such as specification. They may even state a preference for sticking to ‘safe options’. In these cases, we always listen carefully to our clients’ reasons and try to offer alternatives they may not have considered but which we feel would meet their needs. In doing this, we always try and arrange a site visit to view installations and talk to end users to see if they have experienced any issues with a particular flooring product that may affect our client and influence the specification. A big part of our role as designers is to bring people on the journey and to allow them to make informed decisions supported by our knowledge and ongoing research.

Natural materials have been used extensively in this indoor garden space, including terracotta tiles. Image Credit: NEIL SPENCE
Natural materials have been used extensively in this indoor garden space, including terracotta tiles. Image Credit: NEIL SPENCE???????

If budget was no object, what kinds of flooring materials would you love to use on projects?

Honestly, in the past I’ve worked on schemes where budget really was no object – often resulting in the use of materials like rare marble. This is not my favourite thing – I would much rather use innovative and highly sustainable materials in a way that makes them look bespoke and more expensive than they actually are. This, I think, creates a more interesting challenge for a designer and it always brings a smile to my face when people then say ‘Wow, that looks amazing. It must have cost a fortune’. For me, that’s a job well done.

How can designers look to exploit the potential of creative flooring, both in terms of design ideas and material choices, in a range of different applications?

It’s a bit of a cliché, but I would say don’t stick with the tried and tested options. Look to use materials in unexpected places and different ways. It’s like hanging a rug on the wall; perhaps not the original design intent but the re-interpretation elevates it into something more.

Again, I think it always goes back to making things look bespoke. If a floor looks like it could be any office, anywhere, that’s a missed opportunity. The floor is a big canvas and should offer more than just a support or backdrop for furniture. I like to layer flooring within a space to define areas and break up a space into smaller, more intimate ones that offer greater benefit to the well-being of the end users rather than just being a place to walk, stand or sit.

Zoned furniture arrangements given added clarity by carpeted areas
Zoned furniture arrangements given added clarity by carpeted areas

Have you been involved in any recent projects that have provided particular challenges or opportunities for trying new ideas for a flooring solution?

I have a project on the drawing board at the moment in which we are looking to use Foresso flooring. This was selected as an alternative to a traditional terrazzo finish, which the client was keen on. It has a great sustainability story and a shallower depth in cross-section that suited the constraints of the site well. I am looking forward to seeing it installed.
www.spaceinvaderdesign.co.uk


Q&A: Rob Lessmann, founder of Design’d Living, celebrates the varied nature of flooring

Rob Lessmann
Rob Lessmann

Which flooring materials do you particularly like working with and why?

I love working with engineered wood flooring. There are so many types of grains and finishes available which can be laid in a range of patterns and styles and it works well with underfloor heating. The flexibility of it and the ability to be able to refinish it makes it a great product to lay throughout the entire lower floor of a home.

How do you keep up to date with the latest flooring products on the market?

We like to visit trade shows where new trends are often showcased. However, we do find clients like the traditional look and feel of wood floors as they bring warmth and structure into a home. We are always online looking at new ways to lay these and speak regularly with our suppliers to see if they have any new trends or products coming to market. For us, it’s about realising the client’s vision and finding the right quality materials and products to achieve that.

If budget was no object, what kinds of flooring materials would you love to use on projects?

I would use a mixture of solid wood flooring and ceramics on the ground floor but would always have carpets in bedrooms as they soften the space, especially silk-cotton blends as they can be very soft on the feet. We would also look at laying carpets within hardwood flooring as you can cut custom made shapes into this. It gives you the best of both worlds and creates a real point of difference, offering an alternative to large rugs.

This image Residential design scheme by Robert Lessmann of Design'd Living
Residential design scheme by Robert Lessmann of Design’d Living

How can designers look to exploit the potential of creative flooring, both in terms of design ideas and material choices, in a range of different applications?

Flooring has a range of elements you need to consider. Colour is important as the space can be made very dark if the floor is too dark but, equally, this can also create an amazing mood and depth to a space. Texture; how will the floor feel underfoot? Will it add texture to the space that can be felt, or will it create a textured feel through grain, pattern or colour? Laying patterns; do you use a large format finished to create the illusion of a larger space or create patterns like herringbone to add some shape into the room? This all depends on the size of the room and how you would like the floor to work for you. The beauty of flooring is how it can totally transform a room; from a Scandinavian haven, through to a deep and dark textured, architectural space.

Have you been involved in any recent projects that have provided particular challenges or opportunities for trying new ideas for a flooring solution?

Generally speaking, everything is achievable with flooring. You just need to do your research on how the space is being used and what type of environment the floor is being laid in. This will then narrow your floor selection and how you specify the type of floor used in this space. With new products coming on to the market all the time, the traditional hazards like a product being too heavy, or not suitable for high-traffic areas have been replaced by a huge number of options that can deliver the same effect, just in a more suitable material for the space.
www.designdliving.co.uk



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