When it comes to customised flooring installations, interior designers and other stakeholders in the flooring market often have to take a completely out-of-the-box approach to meet a client’s specifications. Unique requirements and unconventional ideas can make designers more creative and solutions-oriented than ever before.

For this article, we interviewed a few leading interior designers in South Africa to find out the process they follow when embarking on a project that requires custom floor specifications.

Danie Rossouw of Mariano Rossouw

Mariano Rossouw is a dynamic, progressive interior design studio based in Cape Town. Their international practice provides a luxury interior designer and architectural design service for residential, commercial and hospitality properties.

Danie Rossouw of Mariano Rossouw says that one of their clients had a unique flooring specification for a project.

“A residential client asked that we use only three different flooring types – wood tiles, matt tiles and carpeting, for the project. These three flooring types had to be introduced throughout the house in a seamless manner so that the design language was incorporated into the flooring of the whole house,” says Danie.

The colour palette of the specified flooring was very neutral, which required the design team take an out-of-the-box approach to create visual interest within the interior spaces. The client also wanted the indoor and outdoor tiles to have exactly the same finish and have characteristics suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas.

To kick-start the design process, Danie and his team investigated the solutions of 15 different suppliers. After visiting multiple showrooms, he contacted a tile and flooring broker that helped him scrutinise the market for the best solution. They also spent a great deal of time collecting inspirational images of flooring to identify the right solution. Executing this job was not without its challenges.

“A simple design is quite often the most difficult to execute to perfection as it needs to be 100% correct to work. The tiles were imported from two different sources so timelines, stock and colour variation were an issue as they were made from natural materials. In addition, translating the precision of the design to contractors was difficult at times. We needed to carefully and continuously manage stock and the detailed drawings of the floor layouts had to be very specific, right down to the last millimetre,” says Danie.

An unconventional and innovative approach that the design team employed was incorporating and blending wood and natural stone/cement resin tiles together by crafting inlays in both of them, adjacent to fully laid areas. The final result was a unique and innovative flooring installation that pleased both the designer and client.

When tasked with a complex, custom flooring project, Danie says that collaboration is key. “First listen to the client – communication is the most important part of the process. Decisions can’t be made and accurate design cannot be executed without constant communication and feedback from the client,” he says.

Key takeaways and insights gained from this project were the importance of obtaining a very clear brief, giving contractors as much information as possible and providing ongoing daily project management.

“One incorrectly laid tile can have a massive knock-on effect across the rooms being tiled, so you need to be very involved with the execution of the project,” concludes Danie.

Rudolph Jordaan – A-Pax Design

A-Pax Design prides itself on creating spaces for people. The company’s services go far beyond soft furnishings and decoration and focuses rather on a holistic psychology of flow, services and behaviour change. A-Pax Design delivers a service that asses the needs and wants of a client and interprets that within a given budget.

Rudolph Jordaan of A-Pax Design says that their firm was approached by the directors of an early child development business that focuses on stimulating babies’ senses. Babies are very susceptible to learning and the environment had to be conducive to their approach to children’s development.

“I had to make sure that everyone was on the same page concerning what the client wanted to achieve. The house that needed the fit-out had high volume spaces, so the heating and cooling requirements had to be carefully planned. We also had to understand the flow of traffic within the space,” says Rudolph.

Problem scenarios need to be fully explained and understood by all parties involved. To achieve this, visual records, meeting minutes and reports should be used.

“Even though a client might have an idea about a certain flooring material or finish, the responsibility still lies with the designer to inform clients of all the pros and cons of each item. Consider the durability, maintenance and adaptability of your chosen design and make sure the client understands this completely,” says Rudolph.

One of the challenges that the project had to overcome was the fact that the concrete tiles were much thicker than convention tiles or timber flooring. The flooring was installed during the initial building phase, so a difference in floor levels would be obvious if another flooring product was installed on top of the existing ones or if the current surface was removed and replaced.

“To overcome this challenge, we installed a thin screed layer above the very stable concrete tiles to make a visual focal point. Other innovative approaches on this project included the use of brass and ceramic inlay details embedded in a coloured screed to create a one-of-a-kind floor design,” says Rudolph.

Rudolph says that one of the key ingredients to meeting a custom flooring specification is weighing up the costs of the solutions.

“Thoroughly analyse the cost of the material, design and specialist input with the time needed to complete the installation to perfection. A rushed design and installation will never give you the results you’re looking for. An initial sample at extra cost will save you a lot of future despair,” advises Rudolph.

Dorothy van’t Riet – Dorothy van’t Riet Design & Décor Consultants (DVR)

“Design is a journey”
Dorothy van’t Riet Design & Décor Consultants (DVR) is a creative firm of designers, specialising in interior design, interior architecture, as well as décor and styling. Dorothy van’t Riet, founder and creative director of the company, says that one of her recent projects was a new build, residential project with unusual circular architecture.

“This unconventional house was not the normal home of squares, rectangles and horizontal planes. The architecture of the house has rounded forms and circular spaces, making it an interesting and sometimes a challenging project. This gave DVR the opportunity to find creative solutions,” says Dorothy.

The circular architecture impacts all other structural elements, materials and finishes in the interiors making this project brief unique and unconventional. The circular, double volume entrance foyer is the core of the house from which everything else flows. The clients’ vision for the entrance foyer was that it should reflect style and beauty.

“DVR embraced the circular architecture. We presented the client with a comprehensive design concept for the entrance foyer, working with the “circularness” of the space,” says Dorothy.

DVR designed and proposed a circular domed ceiling with a light, though detailed balustrading and a magnificent crystal chandelier enhancing the double volume shapes and spaces. A medallion pattern for the floor was designed to reflect the bulkhead shape and the chandelier. The size of the floor pattern medallion had to be proportionally correct for the large space and large enough to be in a balanced relationship with the domed ceiling, balustrading and grand chandelier.

Precision and accuracy was required in designing the medallion. We worked closely with our marble supplier. It was clear from the onset that the design and colours of the large floor medallion would impact the design of the rest of the double volume entrance foyer, and the adjoining spaces.

“Designing the floor medallion and choosing the colours of marble was a creative process enjoyed by ourselves and the client – a bit like a puzzle,” says Dorothy.

She adds that it’s very important to take note of the client’s needs and expectations with regard to all aspects of the interior design, including custom flooring specifications.

“Although some briefs can be different from the norm, there is always a solution. The role of interior designers is to not merely finding a good solution, but rather to present the client with a creative, innovative solution with impact,” says Dorothy.

“For me the client is part of the journey of design. I believe it is important to show the client the various design options and then to issue clear detailed drawings to the supplier or contractor,” concludes Dorothy.

Customised flooring ideas

• Think large format with soft flooring: Thanks to computer yarn technology and custom tufted carpets, bespoke broadlooms can be produced on multiple rolls. Designers have to work closely with installers to make sure the seaming details and placement are all executed according to plan.
• Get colourful with epoxy: With epoxy flooring, the sky is the limit. Consider fiery patterns, ripples of colour or sparkles, spots and stripes. Virtually any type of epoxy and polyurethane can be used in conjunction with other flooring materials, such as layers of printed vinyl, to create reflector enhancers and unique patterns and effects.
• Extending natural stone to more exterior finishes: Custom-cut stone tiles can be used to create different outdoor finishes such as tumbled effects. You can also take the flooring one step further and use the same material for special-cut stone drains or other exterior elements to create an integrated finish.
• Using various wood species: By carefully selecting different hardwoods with specific thicknesses, you can create intriguing but perfect transitions to other flooring types such as carpeted rooms. You can also use different shades of varying wood species to create unique motifs.
• Layer it with vinyl: A great custom flooring idea for vinyl is to use different layers to incorporate a specific image (such as a company logo or a specific design) on top of a themed background. Digital printing, combined with different finishes, allows you to layer these looks on top of each other.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.apaxdesign.com, www.dvr.co.za and www.marianorossouw.com for the information contained in this article.