It wasn’t so long ago that all floors were covered in either hardwood or wall-to-wall carpeting. This tradition seems to be changing with our growing concern for the environment. There are too many trees being chopped down, and synthetic padding and carpet glues are considered invisible villains.
The flooring industry has worked creatively to design and construct alternatives using renewable resources that are both beautiful and affordable.
Bamboo and cork floors and natural fiber carpets are a trend that is here to stay. Not only do these materials have time-tested durability, but their natural colours and textures traverse all decorating styles.
Bamboo is, in fact, a grass that functions as timber. The plant is not harmed by harvesting and regrows into maturity in four to seven years. (It takes a red oak tree 120 years to mature). Bamboo flooring is available naturally and in pre-finished colours such as amber and cherry, and it accepts many different stains so you can match it to your home’s furnishings. It can be installed like hardwood and sanded and refinished as well.
Cork is one of the best sound-proofing materials and is used for this purpose as a substrate on walls and ceilings as well as floors. To harvest the cork, the outer bark of the cork oak tree is cut away, but the tree is saved, and regrowth occurs in ten years. The cell structure of cork is waterproof and airtight which makes the product durable and resistant to moisture, decay and damage. Cork tile floors have natural shade variations that add to their unique appeal. They are an excellent choice for kitchens and bathrooms as well as playrooms. Seal natural cork with either beeswax or water-based varnish. Tiles and planks come finished and ready to install.
A new floating floor system consisting of planks that click together with a tongue and groove construction is taking the flooring industry by storm. Along with wood, both cork and bamboo laminates are available in this system and can be cut and assembled in intricate designs or simple motifs so you can create your own style. Because floating floors do not require glue or nails, they can be picked up and removed to another location, which is beneficial for renters or people on the move.
Carpets are also going au naturelle. Popular sisal is made from the rope-like fibers of the agave cactus spun into yarn. These fibers are naturally flame retardant, anti-static and sound absorbent. Sisal carpets are a good choice for allergy suffers as they repel dust. Sisal is available in a range of qualities; the better quality is softer and a more luxurious choice for bedrooms where bare feet can explore the soothing texture.
There are other natural fiber rugs to look for. Seagrass, hemp, cornhusk and bamboo are combined and woven into patterns that show off their innately beautiful colours and textures. The fibers are smooth and comfortable to the touch, are durable and repel water.
If you are adventurous, it’s possible to design your own look with these natural carpets. They can be stained, you can stencil a design that will be soaked in by the fibers, or you can paint over carpets that have already been sealed. Add colourful borders by introducing another fabric, such as linen, but make sure the fabric is as durable as the rug. Experiment with the many choices of natural flooring and floor coverings. Their inherent beauty will inspire you.