What lies beneath
What lies beneath

There are so many floor coverings, it's easy to be floored by which ones to choose for your rooms. Susan Griffin does the groundwork for you.

article advertisement

If you’re looking to rejuvenate a room where better to start than beneath your feet?

One of the largest surface areas, the floor has as much, if not more impact than the walls because people have constant contact with it.

“Don’t leave the choice of flooring until last,” says Inga Morris, of Crucial Trading, a carpet and rug design company. “Your choice of floor covering is a design statement in its own right and can have a massive impact on the look and feel of a room.”

But it’s also important to factor in functionality by taking practical considerations into account. Will there be a lot of foot-traffic? Is there likely to be contact with water and spillages? Do you have young children or pets? Would you prefer carpet or hard flooring?

If you don’t consider all aspects when purchasing flooring, you’ll end up having to replace it sooner than you expected, which is going to cost time, effort and money.

So what are the options?

Choosing a quality carpet

Nothing feels more warm and cosy between your toes than carpet, particularly in the bedroom. It also provides great insulation which adds to the energy efficiency of a home.

The look and function of a carpet depends on the fibres it’s made of and wool continues to be recognised as the preferred option, on its own or blended with nylon and polypropylene.

As a guide, The Carpet Foundation recommends a blend of at least 50 per cent wool, ideally 80 per cent, and in the case of loop pile carpets, only 100 per cent wool should be used.

“Purchasing a carpet can be a challenge when faced with a sea of similar products all making similar claims,” says Rupert Anton, of The Carpet Foundation. “Our Quality Mark is the only assurance initiative in the UK carpet industry and is your guarantee the suitability claims made by the manufacturer are true.”

The Perfect Match

Wool-rich carpets are particularly important in high-traffic areas like the hallway, landings and family living rooms as it wears well and looks cleaner for longer.

In a more formal living area, or at least one that isn’t likely to be subjected to the messy paws and prints of pets and young children, Rupert suggests ultra smooth velvets or textured loop pile carpets.

The bedroom is your own personal sanctuary with a lower footfall, so be unashamedly decadent and opt for soft, deluxe textures, which will feel incredible under bare feet.

“One of our most popular carpets is the soft Natural Berber Twist, which is 80 per cent British Wool and one you can sink your feet into for a taste of real luxury,” says David Cormack, of Cormar Carpets. “Choose natural flecked shades such as warm creams and cosy caramels, which will add instant warmth to a room.”

Colour and design

To lighten a room, or make a smaller area look larger, it’s a good idea to opt for a neutral tone. But this doesn’t have to mean light brown and beige. Why not consider grey, subtle green and off-white hues for instance?

If you want to make a style statement, go for darker, textured and uneven tones, which are also a more practical choice.

“In 2010, we launched floor coverings with bold colours and textures,” says Inga Morris, of Crucial Trading. “When we launched the Mississippi range, our first striped flooring collection, the colours were muted, but as the years passed, more colours were added and now we’re finding consumers are buying stronger and bolder colours.”

Hard Flooring

There's a host of hard flooring options, from solid and engineered wood to vinyl and laminate that are easy to maintain, hard-wearing and lend a clean, sleek look to any room.

Colour and Design

In high-traffic areas, flooring needs to be tough and both solid and engineered wood are proving popular, particularly in oak.

“I think people are using hard wood options in smaller areas in the house and then realising the benefits, so laying them down in larger areas,” says Adrian Lee, managing director of Flooring Supplies. “Engineered flooring is quite an unusual product. Unlike solid wood, the consumer gets a surface layer of their chosen timber, whether that’s oak, maple or beech, which sits above a mid and base layer of wood board.

“It’s more eco-friendly than solid wood, plus it’s easy to install as most of the new products lock together. There’s no adhesive required and most can be sanded down around three to five times.”

It’s worth noting the lighter the wood colour, the more light will be reflected, which means scratches and scuffs will be more evident. And if you think lighter colours are too stark, you can always use rugs in complementing tones and textures to soften the look.


An economical way to achieve the impression of real wood is laminate, as it creates less noise under foot and can cost as little as £5 per square metre. It’s created by the image of wood grain being laminated on to a board backing, so there’s an endless list of options – though there’s been a growing interest in textured finishes and bevelled (angled or rounded) edges.

As a word of caution, laminate is scratch-resistant and chip-proof but once damaged is non-repairable and will have to be replaced - unlike timber which can be sanded down.


The kitchen and bathroom are both regularly used and require hard-wearing floors but neither solid nor engineered wood or carpet are viable options as splashes and leaks make timber warp and carpet rot.

“The best flooring for the kitchen is going to be durable, easy to clean and made from a material that won’t absorb odours,” says Adrian, who recommends two popular vinyl brands, Amtico and Karndean.

Vinyl floor covering is made of a plastic material that’s cushioned for comfort and provides insulation. It’s also water-resistant. “We’ve found many of our customers hanker after natural wood in their kitchens but need a practical flooring option that’s easy to keep clean, can withstand the occasional spill and won’t warp,” says Jacci Marcus, of Karndean. “Our flooring has no cracks or gaps where dirt and germs can lurk, so it’s ideal for an area that calls for high standards of hygiene.”

Vinyl also comes in a wide range of colours and effects, from marble and slate to stone, terracotta and ceramic. Just make sure the sub-floor (i.e. concrete or floorboards) is prepped before laying vinyl because if the floor’s not levelled and smoothed out first, it may begin to crease.

Stone Flooring

Stone flooring is also a popular choice for the kitchen. It’s tough, durable and water-resistant but will retain heat better than tiles. There are many options available including slate, limestone and granite. Each provides a unique appearance so it’s important to decide what mood you’re going for. Is it a more rustic or elegant feel? Ask an expert to guide you through the many designs.

As for the floor’s upkeep, stone is porous, so you’ll need to treat the flooring every three to five years with a sealant and clean it daily with a pH-neutral cleaning product to keep it in top notch condition.

Top Tips

  • If you’re looking to change the flooring in your entire home, begin at the bottom of the property and work your way up.
  • Achieve a cohesive look by using the same flooring for the hall, landings and stairways.
  • Do your research. Look at lots of samples of colours, textures and finishes.
  • Choose a reputable retailer who will work with you to get the best result. They will measure your room, check for moisture, assess your subfloor and discuss how you want your floor covering to work with your lifestyle.


previous article
next article