Rather a long time ago, when Tim and I renovated our first home in West London, we heard about a new little company which had a very different attitude to vinyl flooring. If anyone had mentioned the word vinyl, in fact, I think we would have run for the hills, since our experience of the material thus far had been (generally sticky) ginger-coloured false tiles in desperately cluttered and dark kitchens, or perhaps some peeling mould-ridden offering abutting the shower in student lodgings. Instead, this company, which turned out to be Harvey Maria, marketed themselves as ‘No More Boring Flooring’ (complete with url) and used new exciting techniques to print photographic images onto floor tiles.
We were rather smitten, and opted for a bold water image for our tiny bathroom:
Vintage Harvey Maria tiles – they don’t make them (exactly) like that any more
You can still get a version of this tile from them now, called Pacific. I think they work best when set against a bright white, with not too much else going on — remember you’re after a dreamy Maldives holiday vibe, not Brentford Leisure Pool.
Water is not the only evocative image: you can go for grass, or even some good old Brit beach pebbles:
Clench those toes: Harvey Maria ‘Stones” vinyl tile
Although I have to admit the soles of my feet ache just looking at all those knobbly cobbles. I think I’d have to wear flip flops.
Since then further advances have been made in vinyl floor technology. The company Murafloor offers a bespoke photographic flooring service, not unlike the wall murals I was telling you about a few months ago. Browse their website for inspirational images, like this lunar aspect:
One small step for man… ‘Full Moon’ flooring from Murafloor
Submit your room size and shape, and they’ll create a sheet of flooring exactly to fit. If their broad range of ideas isn’t enough for you, there’s always Shutterstock for the full gamut of stock photos. Of course, this all comes at a price, and whilst it is certainly eye-catching and individual, it’s not the budget way to create a glamorous room.
And so we reach the third and final episode in my tour of vinyl flooring. Pattern. It’s not pretending to be wood or stone, and it’s as vibrant or as plain as you need.
How about this Friesian print tile, which makes for a quirky alternative to a cowhide rug:
I herd you had a new floor… it’s udderly brilliant… a mooving sight… (stowed heads for a lie-down after dreaming up all those bovine gags)
To break up the pattern a little, a plain wood strip frames these cow tiles into groups of four. It contains the random splodges of black and helps to structure the floor space.
This technique works for any busy design, so if you’re thinking of being daring with your flooring, but need to keep the craziness in check, that’s where having a vinyl floor can really help. You’re essentially achieving a mixed-materials look with just one material. This example below looks at first glance like a patch of ceramic tile surrounded by a dark wood:
In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland
Once you have got to grips with the potential in this mixing and matching, a world of colour, texture and pattern is open to you. Take a look at this eye-catching suggestion from Amtico, using slashes of bright orange set against a fabric texture and a darker relief. The resulting pattern is full of energy and depth:
Cutting and sticking/ Amtico’s Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles
There are of course some patterns which don’t leap out quite as dramatically. This spotty offering by Cath Kidston seems at close range to be a little eye-boggling:
Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone
But installed in a small space and viewed as a whole, has a pleasingly simple and regular format.
Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone
Why not add some texture with this rubber flooring featuring retro spots:
Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint
It might look a little like living on Lego bricks (though obviously not as painful if you tread on it in the dark).
On the subject of textured floor you can also consider the treadplate pattern — we have a very low-budget version from Carpetright which has been incredibly good natured and hard-wearing in the boys’ bathroom:
Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright
You can’t buy it from there any more, but a quick internet trawl has brought up Flooring Supplies Direct who supply something similar, and the firm LSI who make a version too (the aluminium shade is called Armour).
Another texture to get the vinyl treatment recently is leather.
Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather
Strong and dark furnishings show this one off the best: it wouldn’t do so well with chintz.
Just as encaustic and highly decorated ceramic tiles are blossoming on the walls and floors of many a fashion interior, so vinyl is following. Check out this magical two-tone tile from Murafloor, which looks stunning set against a bare concrete wall:
Dark arts/ Morocco by Murafloor
Or this from Zazous, channelling retro charm:
I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous
Do you dare? It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Finally, for the room which just needs a splash of colour, why not put down your paint brushes, give the walls a rest, and treat your floor to a bold and bright shade instead?
Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria
So many options, so much flexibility. I hope you’ve enjoyed my flooring tour, and that it’s given you some new inspiration.
Remember: vinyl is no longer the ugly sister of the flooring world — maybe now it’s her turn to go to the ball….
[As you might well know, this is a concluding statement so wildly at odds with my daily life that it is akin to speaking a foreign language. Nevertheless, sometimes only a princess metaphor will do. Just sometimes.]