FX talks flooring with Mark Davison, head of design at Yoo
As head of design for hospitality and residential design brand yoo, Mark Davison has worked closely with the great and the good of the high-profile design world.
The company itself was co-founded by some of the biggest household name in design, Philippe Starck, but working on yoo projects internationally and with yoo creative directors Starck, Marcel Wanders, Jade Jagger and Kelly Hoppen, puts Davison in something of a unique and highly enviable position.
Davison's background is rich in development projects of all shapes and sizes. After graduation, he was instrumental in the launch of Manhattan Loft Corporation. As a founding team member, he worked for five years helping the company become one of the most influential in the industry.
As creative director he was closely involved in all Manhattan Loft Corporation projects and was responsible for every design issue, from building development to corporate design.
He then formed MMM Architects in partnership with two college friends and in three years saw the practice boom, largely thanks to the huge interest in MMM's specialism in the loft phenomenon which then took the practice into high-end residential projects incorporating all the latest in home technology and sustainability.
In 1999, Davison was asked to help set up yoo with Philippe Starck and property developer John Hitchcox. His experience of pure architectural design and hands-on experience at the cutting edge of the development environment has given him an unusual and valuable insight into the commercial machinery of the property industry.
Q: How have flooring trends changed for the type of clients you work for? Is there a particular shift in terms of aesthetic style or material preferences?
We predominantly work in hospitality and large-scale residential design, where flooring must be of a high quality, durable and aesthetically pleasing. We are moving away from broadloom carpet - particularly in hotel rooms - and going towards timber or stone flooring with area rugs, which gives a more residential feel. We are using more patterns in timber flooring, such as herringbone, and we try to use engineered and FSC-certified products. But I think there will always be a demand for stone, as it suggests a level of luxury. However, we try more and more to use stone which area available locally to the project, to reduce our environmental impact.
Q: What type of flooring do you specify most often?
Probably stone. It suggests a certain level of luxury, while living up to the performance requirements needed in high-end projects.
Q: What's the best value to be had in the flooring market right now?
I would say the porcelain tile industry has come a long way with such a variety of sizes, colours and textures available at a good price point. You can be very creative with what is on the market today.
Q: And if money was no object, what types of flooring would be on your spec list?
Leather floor tiles, silk area rugs and underfloor heating, for softness and warmth underfoot.
Q: How integral to the success of a project is the flooring?
The flooring is very important. A high-impact floor can be your first introduction to a project. We like to use patterned tiles in key areas, such as the entrance, to draw people in and set the tone for the project. Practically speaking, the flooring must also perform, standing up to high traffic, providing slip-resistance where necessary and comfort underfoot.
Q: What should architects and designers consider as the golden rules for getting the flooring part of any project right?
Firstly, consider who you are designing for and how the space is to be used, what is the look and feel you want to achieve? Where will you create impact in the flooring and where should the flooring be quiet?
Secondly, you should consider the function of the space you are designing: Is this a public or private space? How durable does the flooring need to be? How should it feel underfoot?
And last but not least, consider choosing products that are local to the region in which you are designing or at least are environmentally responsible.
Lodha Evoq, Mumbai
'The flooring for the main living areas and master bathroom of these apartment and hotel suites were a key ingredient of the overall design. Some were designed to a classic style while others were more minimal. The main flooring specified was arabescato stone, but this was modified to venetino marble ,which is more readily available locally and so was far more cost-effective.
'The look is very similar, it creates a light but warm atmosphere throughout the whole apartment. We typically specify the finish to be honed (or matte) but the Indian market is predestined to glossy surfaces, which it sees as more luxurious.
'In the bedrooms, we used 200mm-wide timber floor boards - merbau for the classic apartments and white stained oak for the minimal apartments. We usually specify real wood to achieve an authentic look and feel, but our client wanted a laminate, as they have in their other projects.
'We felt this was not luxurious enough and had to find a happy medium. We agreed on stained bamboo. This has a real timber surface and can be stained to match the merbau or white oak.
'For the public areas, we wanted the main overall flooring to be a natural stone. We specified locally available granite (oyster grey) in a honed finish, which has a soft light-grey sheen and a minimal texture. It was important to us to have a flooring that created a homogenous, monolithic effect. This echoed the geometric and minimal architecture of the space.
'The joints were specified in a colour to match the stone so that it appears to be an almost seamless, concrete-like flooring. In a typical lift lobby, we specified an area to be inset in the flooring which creates a very subtle 'rug-effect'.
'All skirtings were designed to be invisible - the recessed skirtings are metal boards powdercoated to match the wall colour.'
This article was first published in fx Magazine.