Make a show of your lowest surface with some standout flooring
SWING THE 70S
To many, the 70s were unlovely years, full of boring brown that was counteracted by shaggy, swirly excess, but 70s style is taking on a whole new dimension in the flooring game.
Retro rugs: You need only check out websites such as 1stdibs.com, beloved of style aficionados like Tom Ford and Kelly Wearstler, to confirm that certain rugs from the 1970s are hot property. Circular hemp rugs with a floral motif, so happening in the hippie era, are back in vogue.
"When mothers and daughters come into the store together, the daughters think the rugs are really cool," says Annie Loveridge, owner of The Ivy House.
"But the mums often take more convincing, as they remember the rugs from the first time around." The Ivy House sells rugs by Armadillo & Co made of hemp organically grown in Bangladesh and hand-woven in India. The Dandelion rug is a best-seller, but if you really want to step back to the 70s, Marigold with its more open florets is the design for you.
Carpet tiles: When US interior designer and popular blogger Emily Henderson said, "Perfection is boring, let's get weird," few expected her to revisit the much-maligned carpet tile.
But when her studio needed a quick makeover, she turned to an updated classic – black and white carpet tiles in a plaid design.
The new product is softer and more versatile: we've recently seen subtle blue and white plaid carpet tiling in a nursery, a jazzier blue-striped version used by Manhattan designers Bob and Cortney Novogratz in a teenager's bedroom as well as a playful black and white approach in a holiday home.
They are easy to lay yourself, so DIY decorators with enough dexterity to use a Stanley knife could find inspiration in Carpet in a Box fabric floor tiles from EcoFloors.
These are perfect for apartments, have an extra-thick pile, and are modular so you can fit them to suit. They are backed with a dry adhesive that suctions the tiles to any hard-surface floor so no messy glues are involved. Of course, you could go for the neutrals but we particularly love that you can pick and mix shades like pink, yellow and orange from the Color Works palette and lay them in a way that expresses your personality.
Retro texture: Tailorart from Tile Space is a porcelain tile made to look and feel like fabric by using raised surface patterns that hark back to the 70s, combined with muted, retro colours. Some are more low-key than others. One design has a chevron motif while another is reminiscent of the tartan-style blankets of the childhood bach.
Bespoke flooring puts the power of choice into the hands of homeowners. It can feel overwhelming, so it pays to be guided by the experts.
Cut a rug: Armadillo & Co's Marle collection of rug templates has four customisable designs and 47 marled wool colours to choose from. Celebrate an irregular composition with an Origami rug (above) or take a more structured route with Fold, Pleat or Tuck. Each panel in these designs can be in a different shade so you always end up with a rug that's completely you. From The Ivy House.
Which wood: Timber flooring has come on in technological leaps and bounds since the heady times when solid native timbers graced our villas and bungalows. Today's options are far more plentiful, says Gaius Piesse of family-run business Forté Flooring, and there are many considerations. Wide or narrow plank? Distressed or textured? Pale Scandi-style or dark? The company specialises in engineered timber flooring mainly made of European oak.
Why oak? Because it takes stains easily and is very durable. But the raw product is just the beginning. Oak can be brushed to reveal the texture of the grain or rough-sawn to make it look distressed and then it can be custom-coloured in many tones.
Pre-finished engineered floors are less expensive than bespoke but still include technological advancements to keep the floor stable.
Some tips from Gaius: In bigger open-plan rooms, wider plank floors look better. Plus, given the choice, never float a floor but rather glue it down. "So much better for the feel of quality: a floating floor tends to have a hollower sound."
Did you know? Solid timber floors can shrink, cup and crack whereas engineered flooring is made up in a cross-hatching of timber layers around a central core of (usually) birch plywood for stability. In general, the greater the number of layers (say, 10) and the thicker the top layer, the better the quality.
MOROCCAN ON THE MENU
The textures in hand-knotted rugs are evocative of faraway climes. Sleek and chic is out; knobbly and rustic is in, particularly in designs with a North African flavour.
Feast your eyes: Atlas, in the Latitude collection by Armadillo & Co from The Ivy House, has a simple diamond design on a Natural or Limestone background. It models traditional Moroccan berber-style Beni Ourain rugs (usually woven from undyed wool) yet is modern at the same time.
Another take on this Moroccan theme is Mulberi's Keira rug in charcoal. Made of dyed black jute with a diamond-like design, it's a statement piece with "big knotted loops, which are really textural," says Lillian Baker from Furtex.
The company's Mikki rug also harks of an exotic African destination. The graduated tone moves from natural jute to rich brown and the rug is a textural feast woven with "big strips of leather in the weft, sort of rag-rug style." Moorish Tile from Artisan Flooring is a hand-crafted rug that is inspired by a classic Moroccan tile design, and so guaranteed to stay in favour forever.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
Geometrics never go out of fashion and lend unmistakable energy to a decorative scheme.
Hail to the hexagon: Its six-sided, honeycomb shape is still going strong. The Forum tile was initially created in 2004 by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron for the Forum Building in Barcelona. They acknowledged it as a modern take on architect Antoni Gaudí's famous Trencadis mosaics. Each hexagonal tile is divided into six triangles that tilt slightly downwards to an off-centre point, which causes the tiles to reflect light in different planes. From Gallery 4.
Herrings: The humble herring lends its name to the herringbone pattern. We're used to seeing that distinctive broken V in fabrics (think classic tweed) and in parquet flooring but the timeless form is also now translated into carpeting. Jermyn Street, from Cavalier Bremworth, gives more than a passing nod to finely tailored men's suiting. Hard-wearing and functional, this carpet is made from 100 per cent New Zealand wool.
Patched in: Caprice Deco from Tile Space is a patchwork tile with geometric designs that come in either black and white or pastels like terracotta, pale blue and grey. The tones and energetic designs mean the porcelain tiles can be laid any which way, and will still look the business.
Cemented: Gallery 4's handmade encaustic cement tiles have similar properties to marble in that the tile gains a patina over time and is durable with a waxy finish. The colour is set into the top layer with a mix of white Portland cement, sand, marble powder and mineral pigment. We think the Candycane collection is fun, particularly with the yellow accent.
The beautiful grain of timber is much emulated in flooring, both in vinyl and tile – for example, the Blendart range at Tile Space (pictured page 149). But carpets too can take inspiration from wooden goodness. Soft on the eye and underfoot, Woodgrain from Cavalier Bremworth (above) is a solution-dyed nylon with colours ranging from pale Ashwood to the dark Grey Gum. It has a cut-loop pile that has been treated to be stain and fade-resistant.
Tip: If you choose nylon carpet, look for a brand that is guaranteed antistatic. (Too late for that? You can buy spray-on antistatic products).
Concerned about your environmental impact? Consider engineered timber, which only uses approximately a third of the amount of solid hardwood resource compared with solid timber.
If it's a superfibre you're after, triexta (marketed as Sorona) is more eco-friendly than other man-made carpet fibres because it was developed by DuPont by processing natural corn sugar. It has a similar appearance to nylon but is cheaper and offers better stain resistance because it doesn't absorb liquid easily. Whether triexta will ultimately oust its predecessor (nylon was also created by DuPont) is yet to be seen.
- NZ House & Garden