Design professionals on their favourite flooring materials

Design professionals tell us their favourite flooring materials and the schemes they most fondly remember. Reports by Toby Maxwell.


Jacqueline Senior Associate, Buckley Gray Yeoman
The right flooring is a very important piece in a project. It is one of the largest elements of a space and can help define mood or character. The flooring has a very demanding set of requirements; it has to have the appropriate personality and style but also needs to be very practical to meet the demands of the user, the client and even the cleaners.

Jacqueline Senior Associate, Buckley Gray Yeoman
Jacqueline Senior Associate, Buckley Gray Yeoman

I'd like to think that I don't have a regular 'go-to' flooring, but select the appropriate flooring to fit the project brief. Having said that, I think that timber flooring is beautiful and suits so many styles of interior. There are so many different types and tones of timber flooring, and so many options in regard to laying the floor, that it really is an extremely rich and versatile flooring solution.

As for best value, there is no value in a material unless it's fit for purpose. The question of a floor's value can't simply be quantified by cost per square metre. As with all elements in a purpose-designed space, the flooring is selected to marry with the functional, aesthetic and economic aspirations of a certain project.

Entrance matting is elevated to an art form in this bespoke concrete floor for the Buckley Building in central London
Entrance matting is elevated to an art form in this bespoke concrete floor for the Buckley Building in central London

There are some remarkable projects where the flooring has become the big gesture of the space. And yet there are others where an existing battered screed floor does the job perfectly and allows other elements in the place to sing.

We have recently finished the Buckley Building in central London where we installed a polished concrete floor which turned out marvellously. We selected a gallery standard polished floor and had it installed by experts at Steyson.

Due to the angled geometry of the building at the main entrance, the incorporation of a conventional matwell proved a challenge. A bespoke design was conceived, based on the tactile paving found at pedestrian crossings, to form a series of matwell discs. This was developed with Intramatting Systems to provide customised stainless steel grommets within which to secure the entrance matting discs, which sit in core-drilled holes in the floor. These look random but have been laid out to an ordered grid. The result is a simple yet very elegant flooring solution.

Hannah Chalmers-Stevens Associate, Barr Gazetas
Without good floor finish choices, no project will be successful. It is difficult to maintain floors that are too light in colour or those with the wrong slip resistance. Most of our projects are commercial, so we specify a lot of good-quality ceramic tiling. The choice for this has become almost limitless over the past five years.

On one project, the Brooklyn Bowl live music and bowling venue at the O2, London, we had a local artist, Ed Sumner, paint signage artwork on to our timber floors. The artwork will become distressed with heavy foot traffic over time. It would have been great to have had more floor artwork like this throughout the venue if the budget had allowed.

The distressed 'warehouse' theme runs throughout the venue, which fits with the Brooklyn Bowl brand. The original venue was an old warehouse building located in Williamsburg, New York.

Hannah Chalmers- Stevens Associate, Barr Gazetas
Hannah Chalmers- Stevens Associate, Barr Gazetas

The public toilet areas are located on the new mezzanine floor, so we made the decision to expose the new concrete slab in its raw state. A low-viscosity, transparent, solvent-free two-component methacrylic resin by Silikal was applied to the top of the concrete.

This creates a polished concrete effect and accentuates the pleasing inconsistencies within its surface.

Methacrylic resin adds a warm sheen to this concrete floor inside Brooklyn Bowl at London’s O2
Methacrylic resin adds a warm sheen to this concrete floor inside Brooklyn Bowl at London's O2

The concrete itself has an interesting appearance, but there are also a number of added paint splashes, oil stains and textures which have been sealed under the resin to emphasise the industrial feel and give the impression that it is much older than it is. This illusion has been created throughout the venue with numerous different artistic techniques.

The dimmed incandescent light fittings also contribute to the look and feel of the concrete floor, giving it a softer tone than if it was under a colder light.

Kathryn O'Callaghan Head of Interior Design, The Interiors Group
The new innovative materials that are making waves in the flooring industry are giving designers more variety and scope than ever. The Luxury Living carpet tile range by Interface has an amazing texture which gives it depth. It's very unusual to find a tile of a flat colour that can create so much interest.

If money was no object, I would probably specify the huge lengths of natural timber from Dinesen. I first saw this product in the Saatchi Gallery in London and I vividly remember being in awe of its simplicity and beauty. The Douglas fir is elegant and light, but best of all the planks are available in extraordinary dimensions - up to 15m long.

Kathryn O’Callaghan Head of interior design, The Interiors Group
Kathryn O'Callaghan Head of interior design, The Interiors Group

We designed and built the London headquarters for Entertainment One. As one of the world's leading film companies it wanted a reception area to reflect the business going into the future.

I specified Bolon tiles from the Wing range, using two colours laid in varying directions so the grain picked up the light in a different way. We used the Wing design with the blue accent to reflect the Entertainment One corporate colour. The wings were set out to direct and lead the user through the space from the entrance of the reception through to the meeting suite. Working with the client on this arrangement was wonderful.

Kathryn O’Callaghan Head of interior design, The Interiors Group
The London headquarters for Entertainment One.

Shortly after we completed the design, Bolon Wings won an FX Award for Surface of the Year, which was the icing on the cake.

Maria Cheung Head of interiors, Squire and Partners
We build a lot of residential apartments where we typically specify stone floors in common reception and lobby areas, as well as within the apartment entrance halls and bathrooms. We specify timber floors to living/dining rooms and broadloom carpet in bedrooms. We often use borders and metal trim inlays to accent timber and stone floors.

Porcelain tiles are versatile, robust, easy to maintain and can offer excellent value. The super-large format (up to 3m x 1.2m) tile with a cementitious industrial feel from Domus's Industrial range can rival a concrete floor. Patricia Urquiola's range of Victorian encaustic-inspired tiles, Azulej, uses inkjet technology to provide beautiful and durable patterns.

Maria Cheung Head of interiors, Squire and Partners
Maria Cheung Head of interiors, Squire and Partners

However, regardless of materials, a floor that has been carefully conceived and executed with great craftsmanship will always get my vote. One of my favourite projects was the feature staircase at 8 Stratton Street, Mayfair, London, a listed building. We found a quatrefoil motif repeated in the external decorations of the late 19thcentury facade as well as in the internal stone flooring, timber newel posts and window ironmongery. We loved the subtlety of this motif and wanted to use the same device to connect the listed building to the new extension. We developed the motif into a pattern that we repeated in various large areas, and also in the listed building staircase carpet runner.

staircase at 8 Stratton Street, Mayfair, London, a listed building.
Staircase at 8 Stratton Street, Mayfair, London, a listed building.

We added our own decorative motifs to the staircase carpet using 21st-century printing techniques. Our adapted quatrefoil pattern was laid out in a line at the front of each step to provide decoration as well as the contrasting nosing required by building regulations.

We provided the bespoke carpets with our highlighting pattern which we passed on to our soft flooring subcontractor, who added the leather trims to either side of the carpet run. For a traditional finishing touch, we used classic brass stair rods.

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