We lay down the latest materials and trends, putting the best in carpets, tiles rugs and floorboards right at your feet.
A is for Alternative FlooringLINOLEUM is tough but at the same time tactile and warm, making it comfy underfoot. Made from natural, sustainable materials such as linseed oil and natural resins, it's hygienic, too: it has antimicrobial properties and doesn't harbour dust mites. Hard-wearing, high-quality modern VINYL, a world away from old-fashioned sheeting, can now replicate the look and feel of almost any material, from natural products such as timber and limestone, to a contemporary zinc finish. Its qualities of softness, warmth and relative quietness make it good for homes with young children or elderly people.
B is for BambooMade from a renewable resource (see 'Sustainability'), bamboo flooring is a durable and stable product with similar characteristics to quality hardwoods. It's usually supplied as prefinished boards, available in a variety of colours and stains.
C is for CarpetsTextured designs have become increasingly popular in carpets, with grey, deep blue and earthy green colours now challenging ever-popular neutral shades for dominance. Another trend, says Michelle Parker, Product Manager at Cavalier Bremworth Carpets, is matching carpet to hard flooring in different parts of open-plan spaces. "For example, a slate kitchen floor is matched with a charcoal plush pile in the living areas that run off the kitchen," she says. "This has meant a colour trend in palettes that mimic marble, terrazzo, timber and slate." Parker also notes that purple tones are making a comeback, from soft lilac and muted mauve tones to jewel-like aubergines.
D is for DesignersNoted fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Akira Isogawa, and interiors whiz Greg Natale have recently collaborated with rug houses to produce artworks for the floor. The result is a treasury of incredible colour, pattern and embellishment.
E is for Engineered TimbersEngineered floorboards display the rich appeal of traditional or exotic timbers in their top layers, bonded to a multi-ply base for stability. This layered construction is an efficient way to make use of beautiful but slow-growing timbers.
F is for Floating FloorsA floating floor is a system of boards not directly attached to a sub-floor with nails or glue. Instead, each piece is fitted into the next (see 'Quick and Easy Installation') to create a stable surface. "It 'floats' over the existing structure," says Kendall Waller, National Technical Manager of ReadyFlor. The boards can even be laid directly over another surface, such as linoleum or tiles."When laying a floating timber floor in an area where noise minimisation is important, an acoustic underlay can be installed underneath," says Waller. Premium Floors' Quiet Step Combi-lay system, which incorporates high-density foam, reduces footstep noise by up to 30 per cent. To maintain a floating floor, use dirt-trapping mats at each entrance to prevent sand, dust and grit from being tracked inside. Place protective felt pads under the legs of tables, chairs and freestanding whitegoods. Regular dusting, mopping and vacuuming will stop dirt from accumulating on the floor surface and scratching it.
G is for Graphic DesignTraditional carpet manufacturers are getting daring with design. Brintons brings fresh and contemporary pattern into the home with its Stripes collection, which combines twist and plush yarns for textural and tactile drama.
H is for Hard-Wearing SurfacesQuality laminate flooring combines an extremely dense fibreboard core with a special dampness-impeding film and a protective overlay. The result is a hardy material that is resistant to wear, fading, scratching and staining.
I is for Industrial-Style FlooringCONCRETE is a highly durable product that offers long life, low maintenance, and can function as both foundation slab and finished floor. It's ideal for open-plan extensions, where it can be laid both inside and out. Eco-wise, it absorbs, stores and releases heat, reducing energy costs. For a chic terrazzo effect, quartz aggregate is added to the concrete mix. RESIN can be combined with recycled glass, mirror fragments and quartz granules for a shimmering floor covering that is easy to maintain and slip-resistant. Melbourne-based company Alternative Surfaces creates this cutting-edge look in a variety of colours, with a choice of quartz particles.
J is for Jargon in CarpetsTwist pile: carpet created from yarn that is twisted tightly, then cut to achieve a textured appearance. Looped pile: uncut loops, either of a uniform height or of different heights for a textured effect.Velvet or velour pile: a very smooth finish. Saxony pile: a dense, plush cut pile with longer tufts. Shag pile: a twisted pile with extra-long tufts and looser spacing with a shaggy effect.
K is for Key TrendsVINYL has become a hot item, and no wonder: this material gives you the means to create the impression of a swimming pool in your bathroom or a grassy meadow in a child's room, should it take your fancy. Vinyl specialist Tarkett Australia does amazing looks, from fun graphics to metallics. TRAVERTINE is still huge in tiles, according to Victoria Murray, Managing Director of Aeria Country Floors. Consumers love its timeless good looks, which get even better with age - new-generation sealers are easy to apply and will protect the stone for years.
L is for LeatherMade from calf leather bonded to a fibreboard and cork base, leather floor tiles age beautifully, like a favourite leather sofa. This material has a natural elasticity, so indentations left by heels return to normal. Treated with a hard wax oil, the leather will repel and resist moisture. Expect to pay about $290/sq m. Market Timbers offers leather flooring embossed to look like crocodile or buffalo, as well as natural cowhide.
M is for ModernA favourite of designers and architects, including Tom Dixon, Giulio Cappellini and Renzo Piano, Bolon's woven vinyl flooring offers an array of colours, stripes and metallic finishes.
N is for Neatly FinishedColorscope Rug Concepts makes sisal rugs to any style, in a choice of textures and border materials.
O is for Oil, Varnish, Wax and Other Timber FinishesNewly installed timber boards need a protective coating for longer life and easier maintenance. Polyurethane varnishes provide a waterproof, hard-wearing flooring finish. New water-based varnishes emit less fumes during application and don't yellow the timber. Liming creates a pale, clean effect, ideal for emulating a classic Scandinavian look. Washes, such as Porter's Paints Wood Wash, highlight the grain of the timber as they add a soft patina of colour. Stains create an impression of character, with attractive depth of colour.
P is for Plant FibrePlant-fibre flooring comes in many forms, from fine jute to robust seagrass. Perhaps the most versatile is sisal, which can be dyed myriad shades and woven into many decorative patterns, such as jacquards and herringbone.
Q is for Quick and Easy InstallationPrefinished floorboards in engineered timber or laminate usually feature some variation on a tongue-and-groove system, so they can be fitted together easily. This type of floor can often be installed in a day. Bonus: minimal dust and mess.
R is for Recycled TimberA softly weathered patina, rustic nail holes and a tangible sense of history are just some of the charms of salvaged wood. "Recycled timbers come from trees that were a lot older - between 200 and 300 years old," says Chris Swadling, Director of Ironwood Antique Timbers. "The grain is a lot closer and tight-knit, and it has its own patina, which you can't get with new timber. Plus, of course, recycled is really good for the environment."
S is for SustainabilityForget the orange tiles of the '70s: CORK is now available in a range of attractive colours and finishes, as seen to great effect in Premium Floors' Cafe collection. Tough yet comfortable underfoot,cork has excellent acoustic properties as well as green eco credentials: the material is stripped from the outer bark of cork oaks without harming the living trees. WOOL is a great insulator that can help to conserve energy and save money. "It's a natural fibre that's biodegradable," says George Naguib, Technical Officer at Feltex Carpets. "We're also using a natural, biodegradable jute backing."
T is for Tile OptionsCERAMIC Produced from a blend of clays, which can then be glazed or left unglazed to show the natural colour that comes from the clays' mineral content. STONE Natural stone (limestone, slate, granite, etc) quarried from veins of raw material, excavated in blocks and cut to order, so each tile is unique. Tumbled stone tiles are scrubbed with abrasive blocks and an acidic formula for a rustic, time-worn look. COMPOSITE STONE Harder-wearing than natural stone, with much the same effect and feel. PORCELAIN An extremely robust and low-maintenance material. A great solution in wet areas.
U is for Under-Floor HeatingIrresistible on cold mornings, under-floor heating systems use electrical cables or piped water to diffuse heat across the floor surface. Best considered in the planning stages of a renovation or building project, although it may be possible to retrofit in some situations.
V is for Vacuum CleanersThese essential appliances are key to a clean floor. The Electrolux Twinclean range, from $699, is designed for optimal performance. Rotating brushes make short work of digging out dirt and pet hair deep down in the carpet. Bissell's Steam Mop, $229, cleans hard floors without the use of chemicals.
W is for Weathered FloorsWeather-watching takes on a whole new meaning when you're talking about antique-look finishes applied to new timber. Tokens of Living offers customised Altimago finishes, which allow you to specify the colour, finish and intensity of weathering effects on your floorboards. It's also possible to have dramatic inlays applied across the boards. This process has been developed in Europe, so it's designed to work with underfloor heating - no need to worry about potential warping.
X is for X-FactorCarpeting is all about making a style statement with a high feel-good factor. Fresh hues, dazzling patterns and textural weaves are the hallmarks of Hong Kong company Tai Ping, whose products are distributed in Australia through Korda Bros. Lavish use of silk, linen, wool, cashmere, jute and other fibres creates luxurious textures with exquisite looks. The carpets are handmade to order, which allows for endless variations in pattern and colour.
Y is for YesYes is the answer to the inevitable question of whether to buy new underlay when installing new carpet. Fresh underlay will increase the lifespan of the carpet and improve its feel underfoot, while increasing heat and sound insulation.
ZzzzzzzA dense, plush pile makes for a carpet so comfortable, you could easily curl up on it and drift straight off to dreamland.