Unlike other elements in decorating, such as wallpaper or paint colours, a floor’s primary function is practical. Whatever surface or covering you choose, it must be able to withstand the rigours of daily use.
Obviously some areas of the house will take more traffic than others, hallways and corridors being prime examples, while certain rooms, such as kitchens, need floors which can be washed frequently yet will be free from any risk of tripping or slipping.
So the first consideration when choosing flooring must be practical. This will determine whether you choose a soft or hard surface, and whether it should be one which can be easily cleaned. From there you should consider the overall look you are after. The same rules regarding patterns and colours apply as elsewhere in the house, namely that light colours, small patterns and plain surfaces make an area seem larger, while dark colours and busy patterns have the opposite effect.
Flooring materials can be divided into two broad groups: soft and hard. The first category includes carpets, rugs and natural floor coverings, such as coir and sisal, and the hard category includes marble, stone, bricks and tiles. In addition there is vinyl, wood and cork.
Good quality carpets can be hard-wearing and they also act as good insulation, both in terms of heat and sound. However, they are more difficult to clean than a hard floor which can be mopped down, and are not waterproof, so are not good choices for a kitchen or bathroom.
Materials range from pure wool and wool-synthetic mixtures to totally synthetic. How hard-wearing they are is determined by material, density of weave and length of pile. Very dense, short pile carpets in an 80 per cent wool/20 per cent synthetic mix are very tough, as are cord carpets, which are made from goat, calf and cow hair woven into a mix of materials. All carpets need an underfelt or underlay, unless they are foam-backed.