There are so many factors to consider when designing a space that often the flooring is left till last, instead of rather being part of the initial thought process right from inception of concept drawings and sketches. Flooring is one of the most important elements in any building and influences so many factors that will ultimately have an impact on whether the space was a success or not. Many beautiful spaces exist yet they don’t function as they should, simply because the flooring finish is wrong or completely impractical.
It is important to realise that that although our first interaction with a space is a visual one, the first physical contact a person will have with the space will be the flooring. The finish that is underfoot will immediately have an impact on our psyche even if it is subconscious. The way we interact with an interior also plays a hug part on the floor, for eg. Walking into a beautifully designed space and and having to walk extra carefully because of a surface that isn’t suited to formal footwear. In a similar fashion there is nothing worse than walking into a beautifully designed reception where the floor is all scratched and scuffed because the design didn’t take into consideration that staff from the factory or other work areas use the main reception to access the office area.
When it comes to floor finishes sometimes functionality has to override the trends that all the publications are publishing. A great example of this, is this industrial styling we have seen over recent years where the design aesthetic is based on exposed brickwork, reclaimed wood, rusted metal and of course concrete floors. Now whilst this is good for a retail space and even a restaurant it is completely unsuitable for an office environment for a variety of reasons. To start with, the lack of quality acoustics are not conducive to a working environment nor is the fact that concrete is cold and heating bills in winter will be greatly elevated. It will also be quickly worn down in the areas where people are seated due the the constant movement of the chair castors. Carpets are certainly the most practical application for the actual working areas within a work environment. This doesn’t mean that an innovation hub or brainstorming area within the same office can’t have a more “trendy” approach.
Wooden flooring has also been popularised over recent years, especially engineered flooring due to peoples regained appreciation for “real” wood. As beautiful and hardwearing as this product is, it is not always the best solution for formal areas where people may be wearing high heels and stilettos. The perception is often that because a product is expensive and made from authentic materials that it will be the best option when in fact in this scenario a good quality LVT (Luxury vinyl tile) would be the more practical choice, whilst the overall look would be hardly altered. The noise level would also be more conducive to LVT than it would with the engineered option. This whole model would however be easily reversed in an upmarket luxury lounge though.
The difficulty is the fact that with so many technological advances, there are new flooring finishes and products continually hitting the market. Keeping up with all the technical aspects is virtually impossible. For this reason alone it has become vital to start looking at the flooring detailing right from inception so that time can be spent on gaining all the necessary technical data to ensure that the flooring is correctly executed throughout the various areas. Early planning will also assist in ensuring that you achieve an aesthetic that enhances the entire design instead of having a purely practical solution that doesn’t cohesively bind the final design.
The retail industry is one where a lot of experimentation and innovation can still occur. There is certainly no shortage of shopping malls springing up, yet we find most stores fitted with generic tiles, used purely for their longevity. The focus in retail is creating a customer experience that is far superior to simply shopping online. So, based on this we will see a greater focus on design of these retail spaces. Flooring will be key and we can expect to see a host of applications that stand out from the norm. This is a great area of opportunity for both the flooring suppliers as it is for the designers and architects. It will be vital to really understand the nature of the business and aspects such as type of merchandise and foot fall, will play an important role in the type of flooring used. Once the technical details have been realised there is no limit to the creativity that can be adopted for exciting retail upgrades.
Mixing of different types of flooring is also becoming increasing important and used to change the overall feel and experience of the space. We are seeing LVT combined with carpet tiles and more luxury carpeting being used in combination with screeded concrete or even engineered flooring. It is this kind of experimentation that will only be successfully executed if it forms a more important part of the overall design and planning process.