Rip up those ceramic tiles and transform your space with a fabulous new floor.
Rip up those ugly ceramic tiles and transform your home with a fabulous new floor. Tinkering with accessories is fine if you’re happy to just tweak your look, but a more extreme makeover requires more extreme measures. Start from the bottom and work up — fit a new floor.
A word of warning. New floors can be expensive to buy and disruptive to install. And don’t be surprised if your sofa and curtains look out of place with the new deck, adding yet another layer of cost and hassle as you replace the entire living room. Many would say this is a bridge too far in a rented home, and I tend to agree, but if you’re there for the long haul or own your place, the investment of time, effort and money will be richly rewarded.
As every panda knows, bamboo is technically grass, not wood. This matters because it takes just five years to grow a mature bamboo tree, whereas the life of cherry and oak trees is measured in decades and centuries. This has earned bamboo a reputation for being eco-friendly, with the LEED green building code awarding extra points for bamboo flooring. However, critics argue that bamboo farmers destroy vast swathes of natural forest to make way for new plantations, and point to the chemicals used in the laminating process. Whatever its green credentials, bamboo is winning fans for its look and feel. It tends to be pale, more like beech than oak, and doesn’t have the knots that come with hardwood. It’s tough, too, measuring about 1,300 on the Janka hardness test. It’s also cheaper, typically half the price of a comparable hardwood floor.
• Where to buy? Most Moso bamboo is grown in China, so head to Dragon Mart in Dubai (www.dragon mart.ae). As it becomes more mainstream, many of the big-name retail flooring specialists are also selling and fitting bamboo.
• Why not try? For an alternative eco-friendly wood option consider reclaimed timber such as old wine barrels. Import this from international suppliers such as Olde Wood (www.oldewoodltd.com).
Glass works best as a feature within a floor, rather than the floor itself. Technically, there’s nothing to stop you using glass for every square inch of floor space (modesty dictates that most people, though not all, use frosted panels for upper floors).
However, the effect can be a bit overwhelming, and it’s incredibly expensive. It is much better to go with a conventional floor throughout, with a small glass feature in a hallway or common area. You see this quite often in restaurants – transparent glass panels roughly the size of a table forming a large display cabinet on the ground. Fill it with whatever you like – natural elements such as sand, pebbles and water are popular, but I’ve also seen a train set whizzing below my feet, which I guess works for a certain audience.
• Where to buy? The UAE is home to specialists who can safely make and install glass floors, although typically they focus on commercial rather than residential projects. Try www.multyglass.com as a starting point and then shop around.
Leather floors often scare people who worry about their resilience. Those fears are largely misplaced; Canadian company Torlys offers a 35-year guarantee for leather floors installed in homes. Fans claim they actually improve with age, as natural patinas form on the surface. I’m not entirely convinced by those arguments, and wouldn’t recommend leather for an entrance hall where people trample around in heels all day, but they’re a sumptuous option for bedrooms where we’re often barefoot. Prices are roughly in line with a good hardwood floor.
• Where to buy? Kens & Company in the UAE has a good range of leather tiles for floors, walls and doors (www.kensandcompany.com).
We’re a little too hasty in the Gulf to dismiss carpet as being warm, cosy and completely unsuited to the climate. Perhaps we’re still haunted by the hideous carpet designs we grew up with in our parents’ homes. Either way, it’s time to get creative with carpet. Take the Danish firm Ege, which has an office in the UAE; think designer and edgy rather than dowdy and Eighties. As well as its own collections, the company will print your own customised design and make a carpet to fit your home. Being Danish, everything is done with a nod to the environment. Not cheap.
• Where to buy? Ege has an office in Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai (www.egecarpets.com).
• Why not try? For a similar effect without ripping up the floorboards, try a custom rug from Swedish designers ByHenzel (www.byhenzel.com).
Lino vs vinyl
There’s only one winner in this contest: linoleum, by a mile. On the surface, they can look the same. Both fall into the category of what’s loosely described as “resilient flooring” – that is, something between carpet at the soft end of the scale and the rock-solid extreme Brazilian cherry at the other. But linoleum is made from natural ingredients such as linseed oil and pine resin, whereas vinyl is synthetic and gives off harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds, or nasty gases).
• Where to buy? Both are pretty commonplace. Try www.wetaruae.com.
Poured floor with inlay
This is another opportunity to stamp your mark on your property by getting creative with your own design. Begin by selecting a concrete in the colour and finish you want. Before you tip it all over the floor, lay out text, patterns or abstract forms in a hard material such as wood or metal, which the concrete will swirl and set around.
• Where to buy? Preferred offers a baffling array of colours and finishes in concrete flooring from offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (www.preferred.ae).
• Why not try? For a different look, use transparent or translucent resin instead of opaque concrete.
Transitional spaces are a great way to add a new dimension to your home. Traditionally we thought of the living room on one side of the patio door and the terrace on the other. No more. Bring them together with a floor that transcends both spaces. Slate works well, but you can also experiment with limestone blocks or pebble inset into concrete.
• Where to buy? For a wide range of stone finishes sourced from the likes of Yemen, Jordan and India, try Natural Stone (www.natstones-uae.com).