After years of bare boards, colourful floor coverings are now back on top, says Gabrielle Fagan, but tread carefully.
Carpets are enjoying a revival – and it's giving us the perfect excuse to have fun with the floor again.
"We're not moving house as much, therefore instead of sanding floorboards and adding rugs that we can take with us, we're investing in permanence like carpet," says interior designer Andrea Maflin.
"And as floors are probably the first thing you notice when you enter a home, it's a great space to express your personality. We're all familiar with feature walls, but why not feature floors?"
Modern carpets are alive with imaginative designs, interesting textures and are following fashionable trends by featuring designs ranging from chic florals through to geometrics.
"I'm a huge fan of carpet," says TV presenter and design expert George Clarke, for Fun On The Floor.
"I have it fitted throughout my home as it's banishes draughts, is easy to care for and hygienic."
Flooring should always be first on the list when decorating as it creates the whole mood and atmosphere of a room, advises Kelly Butler, design manager at Brintons, a luxury carpet manufacturer.
And she points out that as well as being seductive, underfoot carpet also has insulating properties which make it very energy and cost-efficient for the home.
"Its sound barrier properties are also perfect for busy households as surface noise is reduced dramatically," she says.
But don't panic, there's no need to wave goodbye to those polished wooden floors that have ruled the home roost for so long.
You can still follow the craze for carpet by taking a "mix and match" approach. Select an area which you "zone" or define with carpet – a dining area or seating area which will have the benefit of giving you islands of luxury.
Rugs, the classic decoration for hard floors, are still playing their part, and have paved the way for a return of carpet to the heart of our homes.
If you feel floored by the selection of carpets and natural floorings available, here's some advice.
Using pattern underfoot is a clever way to bring impact to a room, and it can be easily complemented by subtle, plain furnishings.
"Contrary to popular belief, pattern can actually make a room look bigger as the eye perceives more content," says Kelly Butler.
"Do remember that light colours for floors as on walls will make a room seem larger, while dark colours will make it
seem more cosy and intimate."
Step lightly into pattern with subtle florals from Brintons range which includes a Chrysanthemum in Crimson, 63.83 per square metre, and Eggplant Rosette, 55.66 per square metre. All Brintons carpets have at least 80 per cent wool.
Go retro with a swirly pattern, Rococo, 66.39 per square metre, or pick up on plaid with Border design, 63.83 per square metre.
Stripes are emerging as the most popular pattern for the floor, according to Roger Oates, whose company specialises in runners for stairs and halls.
"Stripes are timeless but they can have a contemporary edge depending on the colour combinations used.
"You can be bold with widths and colours, to create drama, or use fine lines for a more classic or subtle effect. Used
on stairs they can look stunning set against old oak or even stone."
They can also be a boon in smaller rooms, points out Mike Richardson, general manager of Kersaint Cobb.
"Linear stripes can help to enlarge the appearance of a room, and this is especially effective in hallways as the stripe draws the eye along the design and appears to elongate the area."
A Kingsmead carpet in Impact Plum stripe, in polypropylene, 9.99 per square metre, from Fun On The Floor would make a punchy statement.
Alternatively, turn stairs into stunners with a Newbury Crimson striped runner, 108 per square metre from Roger Oates.
"People often think about using colour for walls and accessories, but using a bright coloured carpet can make such a bold style statement and instantly enliven a dull room," says George Clarke.
Natural floorings made from plant fibre are increasingly finding favour.
Kersaint Cobb's Coir, made from coconut shells, is available in a subtle Panama shade from 13.20 per square metre. For more formality and luxury, its wool Pampas Herringbone carpet is from 47.50 per square metre.
B&Q's Sancerre carpet comes in a rich coffee shade, 29.98 per square metre, but if you're really brave and never allow dogs or children over the threshold, an elegant choice for a bedroom or low tread area is a Domo carpet made from Polyamide, in Palace white, 29.99 per square metre, from Fun On The Floor.
Man-made carpets include acrylic, polyester, polypropylene and nylon, which is the most hard-wearing.
Always have new underlay fitted before laying your carpet, as it will wear more evenly and increase its life, advises trade body The Carpet Foundation.
Get a sample of carpet that you can take home and view in different lights, and always have a room professionally measured if you're choosing fitted carpet to avoid an expensive mistake.
TAKE THE FIRST STEP
B&Q: 0845 850 0175/www.diy.com
Brintons: 0800 505055/www.brintons.net
The Carpet Foundation: www.carpetfoundation.com
Fun On The Floor: www.funonthefloor.com
Kersaint Cobb: 01675 430 430/www.kersaintcobb.co.uk
Andrea Maflin: www.andreamaflin.co.uk
Roger Oates: 01531 632 718/www.rogeroates.com
YP MAG 29/1/11