Ever since I was a teenager, Grand Designs was one of my favourite TV programmes. Even before I got into interiors or ever considered it as a career I was obsessed with watching Kevin McCloud help all those adventurous self-builders construct their dream homes. I myself would spend many hours dreaming of the day when I could buy myself a plot of land and erect my own home, fully designed to my specification. I found the prospect of choosing every single element of my home immensely exciting.
Fast forward 19 years and I actually can’t think of anything worse. Unless money was no object, I now know that this would actually be a nightmare for me. Since we bought our flat and have engaged in a few small scale renovation projects I have become acutely aware of the fact that building a home from scratch is definitely not for me. I have found our minor projects extremely stressful. I didn’t enjoy the process at all, I found the decision process to be a massively heavy burden and I couldn’t stand living with the mess. I’ve also realised that my husband and I have very different approaches to home renovations and they cause a lot of arguments. In fact, we never really argue about anything other than home renovations.
Weirdly I don’t have a problem with other people’s home projects. If friends or family ask me for recommendations for their home I get all excited and have loads of suggestions. It must just be that I am too close to my own home to be able to make these decisions. The situation is not helped by the fact that I have Champagne tastes and a tap water budget. It takes me forever to make decisions as I’m constantly worried about making the wrong choice. Luckily my tastes don’t change quickly so when it takes me three years to choose a new bed (I’m not joking!) it will still go with my decor.
I think being so indecisive comes down to the fact that, as a writer, I love doing loads of research. I want to know everything I can about a given subject. But when it comes to shopping for your home, this is definitely not helpful. But, the plus side to this is that I can share all my research with you guys. Every time I look into new products for my own home I like to share that in a post for you so that you don’t have to spend hours researching like I have.
So today’s post will be looking at natural flooring. I’d ideally like to replace all the flooring in our flat and I’ve written about our flooring dilemmas a few times already. Our living room is currently carpeted with a cheap carpet as we knew when we moved in that it would go through a lot in the coming years what with baby-led weaning, potting training and fun with play doh. I’ve been deliberating whether or not we should go for laminate floors, vinyl flooring or whether we should stick with carpet and if we do stick with carpet, what kind should we go for.
Well our living room is heavily focused on nature. We have moss green walls, botanical wallpaper on one wall, a brown leather sofa, industrial looking wooden furniture, a cork board on the wall, a sheepskin rug, botanical cushions, and many, many plants. So I’m thinking I either go for wood or wood effect flooring, or some kind of natural flooring. I love the idea of materials like sisal, coir, seagrass and jute but I actually knew nothing about these materials or how practical and durable they are for a family home. All I knew is that they look really good and would fit in perfectly in my living room.
In order to find out more about these natural flooring options I have been working with Kersaint Cobb, a company that sells flooring made from wool, sisal, seagrass, jute, coir and wood as well as Moroccan runners. I’m hoping to receive some small samples of these materials so that I can get a much better idea of how suitable they would be for our home and because I always like to have a good feel before making any decisions.
So let’s take a look at some of these natural flooring materials in turn.
Coir is actually a natural fibre that is extracted from the husk of coconuts. It is typically used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes and mattresses, upholstery padding, finer brushes, string, rope and fishing nets. It has been used for centuries as a natural floor covering because it is incredibly strong and durable which makes it perfect for areas that get a lot of wear and tear. Coir is a very low maintenance material and simply requires regular hoovering. An added benefit is that coir is resistant to insects due to the natural oils in the fibres which act as a repellent.
There are some downsides to take into account though. As coir is a very coarse fibre it may not be as comfortable underfoot as other flooring materials and it may not be comfortable to sit on for long periods of time. You also have to be a little careful not to use in in rooms that are prone to humidity like bathrooms and kitchens as it is susceptible to excess moisture.
It can also be weakened by strong sunlight which can make the fibres brittle. Despite these restrictions coir is a great alternative to carpet, it is full of character, extremely durable and does not contain as many chemicals as traditional man made carpets do.
Jute is a plant that is native to the tropics and 85% is cultivated in the Ganges Delta. It is derived from the Cochorus which is a tall and spindly flowering plant. It is one of the most affordable natural fibers after cotton. It also has impressive environmental credentials being 100% bio-degradable and recyclable. Jute also has low pesticide and fertilizer needs.
When it comes to interiors, jute is a lot softer than other natural flooring options as the fibres are much finer. This means that jute carpets are very soft underfoot, making it an ideal carpet for bedrooms for example. It also has good anti-static and insulating properties, as well as having low thermal conductivity and great acoustic insulating properties.
On the downside, raw jute doesn’t dye well so colour options are limited. Also, jute carpets can experience fibre loss quite quickly in high traffic locations so should be reserved to areas that get less footfall. Jute is also susceptible to water marking.
Seagrass is a textural material grown in many shallow coastal waters around the world. It is not actually a grass but due to the length and shape of the leaves it has acquired the name seagrass which has stuck. The majority of the seagrass used in carpets in the UK comes from paddy fields in China. The dried leaves of the plant are spun into a yarn which is then used to make flooring.
Seagrass is less susceptible to water-marking than other natural carpets, but it is still not advisable to use use it in kitchens or bathrooms. Also, whilst it can be used on the stairs, it is prone to becoming slippery due to the natural oils that are secreted. Seagrass is only available in its natural colour which has slight variations depending on when it was harvested.
Sisal is derived from a succulent plant called Agave Sisalana. It is a native species of Mexico but is farmed sustainably across the world. Sisal carpets are much more hard wearing than jute carpets making them ideal for use on high traffic areas such as stairs and landings. Unlike jute, sisal fibres dye really well so colour options are more extensive. Sisal is rougher than jute although it does soften with regular footfall and maintenance.
Wool is another wonderful natural fibre. It’s environmentally friendly due to the fact that it is organic and renewable. Wool carpets are also biodegradable and can be recycled into other products, rather than sending them to landfill at the end of their life. They also have a lower carbon footprint as less energy is required to manufacture them compared with similar synthetic products.
Wool also has some really beneficial properties. It is a great insulator, it is naturally fire retardant and will not melt, it’s easy to clean and feels wonderful underfoot. It is also very hygienic as it resists dirt and dust making it non-allergenic and therefore great for allergy sufferers and asthmatics. It is extremely strong and very durable which makes it the ideal carpet material for busy family homes or households where animals live.
Personally, I like the idea of using natural materials at home and I think the benefits are really compelling. I love that they are eco-friendly, renewable, sustainable, biodegradable, recyclable and durable. The fact that they don’t give off harmful emissions and are better for allergy sufferers is a big bonus. I like the fact that they combine everyday practicality with rustic charm and can be used in all kinds of homes from traditional to contemporary.
As far as I can tell the only disadvantage that I would need to deal with is the fact that many of these materials are susceptible to water and may be watermarked following a spillage. Although I believe you can treat these materials with a special carpet protector which helps to repel dirt and stains. My girls are still very young at the moment and quite clumsy so this may not be the right choice for us right now, but I will definitely consider natural flooring when we do decide to replace our carpet.
What about you guys? Would you consider these natural flooring options? Perhaps you already have one of these flooring types in your home? If you do be sure to leave a comment and let us know how you find it.