We turn to industry experts to discover all there is to know about innovative, customised and frequent flooring specifications.
To cover a topic as broad as innovative, customised and frequent flooring specification may be a hefty task but, in true FLOORS in Africa fashion, we approached industry experts to share with readers everything there is to know about innovative and customised flooring, and what, according to their wealth of industry experience, are some of the most frequently specified flooring types, based on both their preference and knowledgeable opinions.
This resulted in an in-depth article filled with varying opinions and a wealth of invaluable information.
1. What innovative flooring solutions are available to the industry this year?
“The ongoing trend in the market seems to be wood vinyl flooring. It is a durable product that works well in different applications. It gives a warm and soft feel to an area, with a natural grain look. There are also other vinyl products that are innovative and provide more spec for design, especially with different colour applications.” Dewald Kruger from Architects Office.
“Hexagonal and Herringbone geometrical patterns are very high in demand although the colours in busy patterns are kept uniform. It is popular to tile or install vinyl flooring in a herringbone pattern. A seamless look in flooring is also in high demand: the latest will be the return of terrazzo flooring with small chips of marble or coloured glass. Polished concrete flooring and epoxy flooring also fall under the seamless category and, with necessary expansion joints, these finishes lend themselves to continuality and a minimalistic look. A unique option is 100% natural porcelain that comes in 3 650 x 1 250mm lightweight slab sizes with a thickness of 6mm and 12mm. Take note, however, it’s not for projects with budget limitations.” Letsi Galvin, Founder of Urban Concept Interiors.
“Eco-friendly resin and epoxy flooring systems are definitely one solution and, for a warmer look the new vinyl timber look-alike floors that imitate the real deal are another option as they perform far better for commercial applications and in wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. Digital printing on carpets and tiles now enables customisation and branding on an office floor.” Lisebo Mokhesi, Co-owner of INK Design Lab.
“It is my opinion that designers are moving away from traditional flooring such as square carpet tiles to carpet tiles that come in a variety of colours, textures and configurations. Carpets are now becoming features in collaborative spaces and are used as a tool to ‘demarcate’ a space without necessarily having to build something physical around it. A growing trend we notice is in the shape of a carpet or space usually accompanied by a ceiling feature above. Floor finishes are now being used as tools in space making rather than just finishes for space decorating.
Turning to tiles, although grey tiles are still very much in trend we are seeing a lot of colour and patterns/mosaics from suppliers. These tiles are also available in a variety of geometric shapes as once again we are moving away from the basic geometric shape to something more dynamic such as a hexagon or triangle. With regards to timber, even though it is a ‘nice to have’, we seldom specify it in commercial interiors due to the fact that it has poor sound reduction qualities, is expensive in comparison to other flooring products and not suited for areas with heavy traffic. For this reason, timber has been replicated through an array of tiling and vinyl products giving designers the opportunity to specify something that is aesthetically pleasing, durable and easy to maintain.” Carin Wolfaard, Boogertman + Partners Architects.
“At the end of last year I discovered cork flooring and carried out a lot of research on it. According to my research, it can be used in a commercial as well as a residential application. Cork is a sustainable product with a warm feel and I am excited to see what can be achieved with it.” Nadine Engelbrecht Architects.
2. How do you go about implementing innovative approaches when specifying a floor type? What influences these decisions?
“We used vinyl in a recent project. We used the wood vinyl on the walls and ceilings to create a ‘timber box’ effect. As such, we always try to think ‘outside the box’ when we create spaces and use versatile products to help us in creating innovative spaces.” Dewald
“Flooring plays a major role in a project; it is the base in any design and building. The function of the room needs to be taken into consideration, whether it is a low- or high-traffic area. The success of a design – both visually and in terms of practicality – can often be accomplished by the correct flooring choice. Budget, traffic, durability and practicality are the deciding factors of a floor finish. Whether the client is looking for a warm, soft feel or a low-maintenance hard floor, the decision is based on personal preference. In commercial or industrial projects, the practical properties of a floorcovering will influence the choice of said floorcovering. Tiles are hardwearing and low in maintenance but the acoustic and anti-slip properties need to be taken into consideration when making a decision. Carpets are often considered in office areas to reduce noise levels and to hide the dirt.” Letsi
“Like everything meant for commercial application, innovative qualities need to be assessed according to the amount and type of traffic the product can handle. Specifications should therefore offer assurance of commercial suitability. If in doubt, the application should be limited to very small areas, preferably with little traffic. Should the type of innovation chosen pass the test, then there must be a fit between the floor and the overall design aesthetic, the client’s brand offering and/or culture. It must feel comfortable and not forced.” Lisebo
“The following pointers influence our decisions:
1. The client
2. The budget
4. What’s available / new / trending
5. Function of the space
6. Ease of installation”
“In current times, it’s important that floors are low maintenance, easy to clean and simplistic. It is always important to obtain cost-effective solutions that inspire innovation, sustainability and quality design.” Nadine
3. How do you respond to customised requests from a client?
“We usually present alternative ideas to our clients. The challenge is always to create something different that is cost-effective yet still striking.” Dewald
“There are several floor finishes available that lend themselves to customisation. There are rarely any limitations other than durability, quantity and price that influence the customisation of a floor finish.” Letsi
“With excitement! That usually means the client is ready to explore the latest available technology and this also tests one’s adaptability as a designer.” Lisebo
“In the domestic market I work in, customisation is limited, yet possible. For example, in polished concrete floors a variety of concrete mixes can be chosen to achieve different appearances. The placement patterns and edge details in tiling and carpets can also be designed to create a unique finish.” Nadine
4. How have technological advancements influenced your approach to specify products that are customised in terms of installation and product choice and how do you make your mark on a project to deem it customised?
“We always look for new products on the market. They are not always that easy to implement, as most people tend to stick with conventional products. We feel it is our duty to lead our clients and expose them to new advancements in products.” Dewald
“Technological advancements such as laser cutting can be carried out on linoleum, vinyl flooring, tiles and also carpets. On wood, engraving can be used to apply logos to flooring, while carpeting manufacturers weave customised carpets for large-area projects that are not for resale to any other company. Technological advancements in printing on carpets opened endless possibilities to carpet customisation. In previous retail and commercial projects, we had requests from companies for company logos to be applied to the floor finish. Hardwearing printed floor stickers are also available where promotions or routing can be customised in public spaces. This lends itself to an ever-changing floor pattern that keeps the space fresh and interesting. On a current project, directional signage will be painted on a semi-polished concrete floor by using a hardwearing epoxy paint applied by means of laser-cut floor stencils. Any method similar to the above-mentioned is how I believe you make your mark on a project to deem it customised, i.e. creating a finish that would otherwise not be readily available off the shelf.” Letsi
“Technological advancements mean there are more products available for specification and more scope for the client to express their individuality. A project is customised if it doesn’t just rely on the specification of a single innovative item, but uses that innovative item as part of a larger idea. All these parts make up the whole, and no single part will make the project work on its own. Whatever the design idea may be, it must be clear and legible and the materials used should not obscure or overshadow the idea.” Lisebo
“The variety or abundance of floor finishes available gives us an opportunity to step out of the mould and create custom designs for our clients. Each project is has new challenges and with these challenges we have the opportunity to specify out both new and old products in new ways. We use the concept of “mass production” in such a way that it has a customised look and feel by means of combining different configurations, colours and textures.” Carin
5. Why do you specify certain floorcoverings more often than others?
“Cost is usually a big factor, which is why we try to use the best product available within the required budget. It all depends on the application and look-and-feel we want to create. We also have maintenance and durability in the long run in mind for the client.” Dewald
“In general, tiles are the top finish often used because of their durability and easy-maintenance properties. One can create many different styles with tiles with patterned layouts and designs. Mosaics are available in an array of finishes that can be combined with floor tiles to create interesting designs.” Letsi
“We specify carpet tiles for their ease of use and replacement. We also often opt for polished concrete floors, resin and epoxy flooring systems for a modern aesthetic and for ease of application, durability and hygiene advantages.” Lisebo
“It depends on the client and the project brief. We try and push the boundaries in terms of specifying new products. Vinyl for instance is trending internationally but South Africa is still set on the idea of having carpeted offices and tiled circulation areas. We work on a range of projects for different clients and different spaces- we know what is tried and tested. We also prefer to work with products that are locally manufactured and sustainable as far as possible.” Carin
“I will always try to specify innovative products and accommodate new materials where possible. It is important that flooring is sustainable, environmentally friendly and easy to clean and maintain.” Nadine
6. How open is South Africa to new floor types, colours, patterns and technology in flooring?
“I think, with the exposure people get through the internet and magazines, they see more of what is out there and what the end product will look like. In our opinion they are more open to new ideas, patterns and colours.” Dewald
“In general, South Africa is on top of international trends and finishes by means of social media, design blogs and trade fairs. The problem that suppliers who import new products are faced with is the installation process. With new products usually come new methods of installation. A lack of training on this process often leads to the product being a ‘failure’. The blame is often directed at the product rather than the installation. This plays a big role in moving over to new finishes and may take years before successfully implemented. In addition, the weak Rand value is often a problem when importing new products. Affordability therefore also becomes a problem. The cost percentage of finishes on a project in South Africa cannot be compared to international standards, where land prices are much higher and spending money on finishes is not an issue.” Letsi
“This is definitely increasing, as many companies are now willing to consider new ways of showcasing themselves, and there are plenty of examples to see what is being done internationally. This move goes hand in hand with exploring ways to house and treat staff who spend the majority of their time at the office.” Lisebo
“A lot of what we specify is based on experience and whether we have the technology or workmanship to install the floor properly. For example, the more we specify vinyl floors the more we can promote the product and the client can in turn gain a better understanding of the benefits thereof. This leads to more installers gaining the experience on the installation of the product and so on. South Africa is slowly picking up on these new technologies and it is up to us as designers to specify innovative floor finishes. It is imperative that we keep the industry alive and fresh. By doing so we are able to create new spaces and revitalise old places.” Carin
“Most clients would like to have a unique solution and, as long as it is affordable, we would most definitely opt for new technology.” Nadine
Acknowledgement and thanks are given to the following individuals for the information contained in this article: Carin Wolfaard, Dewald Kruger, Letsi Galvin, Lisebo Mokhesi and Nadine Engelbrecht.