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Natural Selection

Natural flooring sources materials from all over the world allowing homes to become transformed by unique textures and tones...

As consumers become ever more confident when undertaking home furnishing projects, the sheer variety of flooring is allowing the public to experiment further in the quest to create the perfect home.

Gone are the days when the main factor for a flooring project was price alone. These days, the desire to create rooms that complement our lifestyles, has led to a dramtic shift in priorities.

Natural flooring, in particular, has a dedicated following thanks to its diversity, warmth and ecological benefits.

Wool or natural plant fibres can be weaved to create a multitude of textures and shades to suit any room - whether it be a soft, warm carpet to settle down upon in front of the fire - or a tough, rugged mat to shuffle the snow from your boots - the options are seemingly unlimited.

Thanks to the diversity of such source materials as sisal, seagrass, jute, coir or even paper, the natural flooring market has become the popular choice for anyone wishing for simplicity and sophistication. By manipulating, weaving and blending the fibres used to create carpets or rugs, the transformation of any room is instantaneous. The natural warmth of the flooring creates a feeling of class, comfort and space.

The different fibres have unique qualities to suit particular rooms. Some are hard wearing and more suitable for hallways or areas with heavy footfall, others are softer and more luxurious, ideal for lounges or bedrooms. All, however have the versatility to create stylised themes, whether it be rustic or contemporary.

Seagrass was one of the first ranges introduced by Staffordshire-based Crucial Trading and to this day, remains one of its most successful products.

Coir’s coarseness is ideal for complementing soft interior furnishings, especially in areas such as halls or stairways. Its rugged qualities are particularly suitable for the more rustic look and the fibre’s properties offer both durability and aesthetic appeal.

The days of coir simply being used merely for brushes and sacking are long gone. As a result of its increased use in a number of sectors, including the flooring market, the coir fibre industry is an important factor in some areas of the developing world.

While sisal and coir have the strength to withstand tough treatment, at the other end of the spectrum jute is one of the finest and softest of all the natural fibres and can create warmth and natural lustre to complement any surroundings in the home.

Because its natural fibres are incredibly fine, it is ideal for light-wearing areas where luxury and comfort are desired, creating a feeling of relaxation and with a tweed appearance that is soft underfoot.

When it comes to colour, our concern for the environment and quest for ecologically friendly resources is influencing both the design and manufacturing processes of many flooring companies. Trends indicate that carpets with a natural look and feel are fairing extremely well while the naturals market is traditionally very neutral with the lighter beiges remaining a firm favourite with consumers. The possibilities when mixing natural fibres together are seemingly infinite, combining texture and strength and ethnic living and neutral, understated designs in one go. With this in mind, wool, already a material with any number of possibilities, has become even more diverse.

For a company like Pownall Carpets, the exciting qualities of wool have led to the introduction of a whole host of colours and varieties.

Rustic Charm utilises wool to the maximum, comprising 100% wool and available in 32 colours across eight designs. The tufted carpet is available in four and five-metre widths and in two qualities - Rustic Charm, grade four for heavy domestic, and Rustic Charm Supreme, grade five for extra heavy domestic.

Phil Bevis, marketing manager of Pownall Carpets explained the importance of choosing the right carpet: ‘Carpet is essentially a fifth wall to any room and the correct style and colour can create an air of elegance and sophistication.

’Over the past couple of years we have seen carpet become more and more influenced by fashion trends, making statements rather than simply blending into the background. Our research has revealed that while consumers are increasingly opting for coloured carpet, beige is still the number one choice.

Perhaps beige’s ability to adapt to all room schemes is its major selling point, combined with the ability to create the illusion of a bigger room.’

Wool matches all this criteria and has an elegance that appeals across the board. It is less harmful on the environment than most types of flooring. It’s comfort and warmth extends throughout a multitude of markets - flooring, clothing - and it has the benefit of being a commodity that can be sourced from almost anywhere, be it the UK to New Zealand.

Wool, as with all natural flooring products, gives us the opportunity to express ourselves through our homes. With so many choices and so much scope for individuality, it is a testiment to the success of natural floors that we can take refurbishment so much for granted. Trends indicate that this success will continue for a long time to come - naturally.

Seagrass is a hard wearing fibre grown in Chinese paddy fields. The fields are flooded seasonally before being harvested, dried and spun into the strong yarn. Its natural colourings, green, beige and brown are dependent on when the seagrass has been harvested. The resulting fibre is water and stain resistant, although it is difficult to dye.

Sisal is the hardest wearing of all the natural floorings. Made from the leaves of the agave sisalana, the pulpy leaves are crushed, washed, dried and graded to extract the fibres before being spun into yarn. This yarn is then used to create an array of weaves.

Coir fibres are made from the outer husk of the coconut. Once the husk has been removed, it is softened in water and pounded to remove the woody portion. The remaining fibres are combed and dried before being weaved into the coir yarn.

Jute, one of the most luxurious natural fibres, is made from the stems of the tropical herb corchorus, a member of the linden family and closely related to hemp.The jute fibres in the middle of the stalk are harvested, washed and dried, before being spun into yarn.