FROM THE GROUND UP – If you are renovating or designing your home from scratch, one of the most complex decisions you will make is flooring. Perhaps you’ve neglected to choose the style or pattern of your floors because you are overwhelmed with the choices or are focused on the “big picture” of designing your new house.

It is important, though, to consider the right material, colour and pattern early in the design or renovation process. For example, if you were to change your mind from wood flooring to tile midway through the process, it will change everything from the thickness levels of the floor to the height of the doors. Ultimately, it can delay the installation process and possibly cost you more money. Additionally, before purchasing tile and baseboards or contracting workers, you will need to establish the volume of traffic in each room and what activities take place there. A good understanding of your needs can help you match them with the right flooring material.

Pedestrian Crossing
All types of tile, from inexpensive glazed ceramic to tumbled natural stone, can be incorporated into your interiors. The key to beautiful floors is to choose the right tile for the right room. For instance, durable ceramic or porcelain tiles are ideal for high traffic areas, such as the kitchen. And, by adding glass tile inserts and stone borders, you can create interesting patterns that add colour and texture to your room. 

In the BVI, homeowners tend to gravitate toward materials that will remain cool. Even if exposed to sunlight, natural stone flooring can feel refreshing to the touch of your bare feet and it actually contributes to keeping your home comfortable year round. Marble is an elegant option for the dining room or foyer, or where there is little foot traffic. Given that marble scratches easily and shows water spots, it is not suitable for the kitchen or bathroom. 

For centuries wood flooring has been a hallmark of elegant living. Hardwoods, the product of leaf-bearing trees, are the most popular; although softwood products, which come from cone-bearing trees such as pine, are also used. Both are long lasting and come in a variety of colours and patterns to accommodate your desired tones and shades. Whilst making your decision, think of the atmosphere you want. If you are seeking an elegant, even luxurious look, buy the best grade wood – which is classified as clear and free of knots. If a more rustic look appeals to you, a lower grade will fit more appropriately and is more economical. The imperfections in the lower grades offer more character to the look and get better with age.

The preferred wood floor in the Caribbean is mahogany; however, bamboo has emerged as a popular choice of flooring by environmentally conscious consumers. This eco-friendly product has a unique appearance, rich color and is durable, which makes it a good alternative to hardwood flooring. Regardless of your selection, a properly installed wood floor will last a very long time and will mature to a mellow richness unsurpassed by any other permanent floor covering.

Slippery when wet
The outdoors plays a paramount role in everyday living in the tropics. These spaces are just as strong a reflection of your personality as your interiors are. A natural progression in residential design, particularly in tropical islands settings like the BVI, today’s direction is to raise the quality of the home exterior to the level of the interior décor. And, naturally, flooring materials are probably the most important selection you will make for your outdoors.

For those concerned with maintenance, especially if you have a seasonal home, unglazed porcelain is a great choice. Yet, if it is to be placed in the pool area, make sure that the coefficient of friction (the degree of slip resistance) is six or higher. Other attractive choices are travertine, coral stone, terracotta and slate. Sun exposure can age your outdoor floors, so choose your materials carefully and ensure level installation to avoid puddles later. You should provision for proper drainage of rain water to avoid mould and discoloration in your floors. Most importantly, they need to be sealed and professionally cleaned regularly.

Flooring plays a critical role in beautifying the appearance of your home. It is also a key component of good design. Fortunately, there are various types of high quality and durable products for the inside and outside that can suit your taste and budget. Whether your needs include hardwood floors for your interior or natural stone for your exterior, it is important to do a little homework. The end result will make you glad you did.

Debi Carson is the Senior Interior Designer of OBM International’s British Virgin Islands Office.

ABOUT OBM – For seven decades, OBM International has been the premier full-service design-consulting firm in Bermuda and the Caribbean.  Today, with nine multinational offices, projects throughout the world and a diverse team of experts, OBM is a global leader in luxury hotel/resort design development, architecture, master/town planning and interior design, with landmark projects in the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.

OBM currently has design offices located in Antigua, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Madrid, Miami, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks & Caicos Islands, a strategic alliance in the Bahamas, and a business development office in Bath (UK).