Flooring | carpet and the return of cork - Misc. NZ
Flooring | carpet and the return of cork

Flooring | carpet and the return of cork

Words by Mackit Architecture

In the early stages of designing Habitat, we knew that we wanted to showcase a range of natural materials. For flooring, this meant selecting products that are derived from natural fibres or materials. We have specified a combination of carpet, for the bedrooms, and hard flooring for the hallways and open plan space. There are a huge range of hard flooring options, and as our Habitat project is about trying new techniques and products, we knew we wanted to use a material that we hadn’t used before - as well as something with a great ethos behind it. We were really inspired by mid-century interiors, such as the below Craig Ellwood image, and the more we looked the more we found cork floors catching our eye again and again.

As well as having the aesthetic we were looking for, it turns out cork is also one of the most sustainable flooring products around, as it’s harvested from the cork oak tree without harming it – and it actually grows back every few years.

The structure of the timber is almost like honeycomb, with natural air pockets that make it softer underfoot than other timbers or tiles. It’s also really practical and hard wearing, naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, as well as having the capacity to be refinished multiple times, unlike some other hard flooring alternatives. Cork was definitely ticking all the boxes for us!

There is a huge range of cork products being produced in all sorts of shapes, sizes, textures and colours - many of which you wouldn’t know were cork by looking at them! However, it was important to us that our chosen product did really look like cork – you know, the kind your Nana used to have. Speaking of which, have you seen a ‘retro’ cork floor lately? You may have noticed how long lasting they are, another bonus! So cork it is - we love the look of it, and think the warm tones will work really nicely with the other dark charcoal/grey timber features we have throughout the house.

Decision made! Simple... right? Not so fast, the decisions don't stop there. Cork can come in a ‘floating floor’ option that clicks together (rather than being glued down) and is made up of a thin layer of real cork on a ply substrate. While this is easy to install (a builder could do it) this kind of system can be prone to movement and so can’t guarantee that seamless cork look we are after. We got in touch with the team at Creative Flooring who produce the ‘Cork Concepts’ range of products imported from Portugal, the home of cork.

After explaining our vision to them, we learned that a glued down 6mm cork tile option would ensure the best result. The tiles come either pre-finished or raw/natural. Pre-finished means that several

coats of varnish have already been applied before installation, and only one final coat is required once installed. It’s a quicker option, however it is not as easy to get a seamless finish with these. To achieve this "seamless finish" we keep mentioning, Creative Flooring recommended their 300 x 300 x 6mm unbevelled natural tile. After installing, this gets coated and sanded 4 times to ensure that seamless, top quality result. We can’t wait to see it come to life!

For carpet, our team were unanimous that wool was the way to go. Our aim of using natural materials aside, we find it a superior product. Over the past decade, wool carpet has taken a bit of a hit – thanks in part to the clever marketing of companies making synthetic alternatives. They claim their carpet is literally ‘rhino proof’ (read the fine print though!) but what they don’t tell you is that wool is naturally water repellent and stain resistant.

Again, think "retro" - wool has been a go-to material for a huge variety of purposes for decades, and has a proven track record showing its functionality and durability. It is incredibly easy-care, and of course supports one of New Zealand’s major industries.

We are naturally spoilt for choice when it comes to wool carpet in NZ, with more and more new textures and colours being released every year. We wanted a loop pile for its modern appearance, and a neutral tone such as light grey/beige. There are some great options from Cavalier Bremworth (plus you can order free samples on their website) but eventually we decided on a Feltex product called Heathland in the shade ‘Bracken’ which has warm caramel undertones.

One of the main reasons for choosing this particular carpet, is that it comes in a 4m wide roll - typically carpet comes in a 3.7m roll. This means there won't need to be any joins in the downstairs bedrooms (reducing wastage) and also means we can get a carpet rug made that will be large enough for the living room.

Meanwhile on site, the lower floor framing is complete and the second floor subfloor is starting to take shape - we can't wait to be able to stand up there and see the stunning view to the Tararuas! We are also finalising the kitchen material choices and bathroom fittings and fixtures. More on that next time!

Our tip: The earlier you can decide on your choice of flooring the better – that way you can keep an eye out for specials (most flooring companies have big sales a few times a year) and hopefully get a good deal!

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