Contrary to popular perception, it’s the flooring that is usually the largest single design element in any space. Zara Horner finds out why, and what to expect in 2018.

Getting the ‘fifth wall’ – the flooring – right is fundamental to the success, or otherwise, of any space.

The largest single aesthetic feature of the interior design in particular, flooring choices need to be exactly the right colours, tones, and textures to co ordinate with various lighting conditions, foot fall and space usage. It is from the choice of flooring that every other design element of the space flows.

Carpet-less flooring was once held to be more hygienic and easier to maintain but with technical advances in fibre manufacture and cleaning treatments this is no longer true. Although of course bare wood still has its place, and tiles and concrete – exterior staples – are increasingly popular for interiors.

It would seem that when it comes to flooring and carpet choices in 2018, variety is the spice of life as nowadays the importance of flooring as a design element is more highly recognised and understood. Latest carpet blends combine wool with everything from silk, linen, cotton and paper.

For Kim McMurray, global marketing director at carpet manufacturer and distributor Royal Thai, carpets are: “extremely important. We believe carpet brings confidence to a room or space.”

Axminster carpets are the company’s premium global hospitality brand drawing from a library of over 10,000 hand-tufted, machine-tufted, proprietary patterns and yarn colours. Using high-quality yarn blends such as New Zealand wool and nylon the “sturdy and stylish” carpets have been designed and engineered specifically for high-traffic areas.

“Axminster’s singular weaving process creates durable carpets that offer more variety in colour and pattern than any other process,” McMurray explains.

Vintage appeal

Two buzzwords ‘vintage’ and ‘nostalgia’ informed all design last year, and that is expected to continue in 2018. Clients want carpets that are tactile and comforting, sometimes with an aged patina. Many designs are now inspired by archive collections.

“In the cyclical worlds of fashion and interior design, influencers and designers have always looked to previous generations for inspiration,” McMurray agrees.

“Given this long-standing practice of reinventing the past in fresh new ways, it’s no surprise that even while we continue to push the boundaries of design today, our encyclopaedic archive remains more relevant than ever,” McMurray adds.

The trend of geometric patterning has been making waves since 2015 and looks set to continue this year with carpet manufacturers using understated colours and going stronger on pattern to accentuate the geometry believing bold statements exude contemporary luxury.

Go hard?

While carpets enjoy an enduring popularity hard floor surfaces such as concrete, tiles and wood, offer a clean, modern finish to interiors, and are paticularly popular in our region because of the climates. It all depends on what the area is going to be used for, the furnishings in the space and design, as well as budget.

Hard floor zones around food and drinks areas in particular make maintenance easy. But an important benefit of carpet in these spaces is acoustic. Carpeting can make the environment quieter and more relaxing, which means guests may stay and pay longer!

It is generally held that public areas such as these, with high traffic numbers, are more successful if bold, large-scale designs are used. Large spaces can accept large designs, and stronger colours show soiling less.

The most intensive traffic area in a hotel is the lobby or reception area. If carpet is used here it must be exceptionally durable and well constructed. Often hotels opt for large rugs on hard flooring and choose hand-tufted custom designed carpeting, while expensive this is a practical choice.

Manufacturers do caution clients against assuming that the heavier the pile weight or length, the better the product. The wear of a carpet is determined by fibre type, blend and yarn integrity. The ratio of pile fibre density to height needs to be considered to give the best pile regain, appearance retention and foot support/comfort.

The feel of it

Texture is all-important and new technologies allow for all sorts of innovations such as variable pile height, mixed cuts, and loop piles. Tailored geometrics which give the appearance of a patterned carpet are popular.

McMurray says texture is an aspect of carpet choice clients are keenly aware of. “We have developed Accent Textures, a portfolio of innovative techniques that can be explored to elevate unique carpet creations. With fully customisable pattern and colour capabilities, these textural finishes inspire any designer to confidently include additional accents into designs without compromising the high-performance aesthetic in hospitality interiors.”

McMurray predicts this year the practice of neutral colours, with a dash of vivid colour for impact, will continue.

“The latest example of this is in our newest collection, Rei, by Omar Khan. Rei comprises 10 individual collections, each applying the edition’s dominant theme in a series of variations around similar concepts inspired by Japanese philosophy and the natural world.

“Collections such as Ma, from the Japanese word for ‘gap’, ‘space’, or ‘pause’ contain designs whose muted tones of Navaho, moss and mist are streaked with brilliant veins of metallic colour that express an emptiness on the verge of breaking open to brighter possibilities, like a promise yet to be fulfilled.”

Obviously no one carpet is the ideal solution for all needs. While clients are paying far more attention to environmentally friendly, sustainable manufacturing techniques, some things never change and stain repellent coverings that are easy to clean, affordable and durable remain top of the list.