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At a socially distanced gathering some weeks ago, I heard a very peculiar thing: linoleum (or lino) flooring is coming back into fashion. Having grown up in the 1980s, there are some lino patterns that still haunt my dreams. Can it really be cool again — or have I been misled?
People are right, I have seen a fair amount of linoleum flooring popping up on Instagram and online recently. As I advised in a column about kitchen floors last year, you have to forgive and forget linoleum’s grim reputation. These days it is easy to find well-designed, durable and ecologically friendly options.
Plus, it is comfortable underfoot, inexpensive and can be used in conjunction with underfloor heating. What makes linoleum particularly exciting for me is the fact that, with a little imagination, some really fun and unique design schemes are possible.
Take, for example, the fitness room I designed at Hotel Les Deux Gares in Paris this year. The floor is linoleum, a classic chequerboard pattern of bright red and chalky white. I combined this with a psychedelic floral wallpaper from Svenskt Tenn: it’s all about the eye-searing contrast between the two, the swirling natural forms of the wallpaper and the blocky geometry of the linoleum tiles.
A similar combination would work well in a kitchen. Think outside the box when it comes to colours. I love the idea of yellow and white tiles, for example.
What I do not like is linoleum imitating natural materials such as wood or stone. I’m sure some good options are available these days, but I remain unconvinced. Much better to focus on strong, bold blocks of colour and geometric patterns.
Look to Harvey Maria: this West Sussex-based company’s vinyl tile designs include several bold patterns such as Dovetail, designed by Neisha Crosland. (I like the bright orange colourway most of all.) The tiles are waterproof and slip resistant, so perfect for bathrooms and kitchens.
Pattern Meadow Green is another delightful design — cream stylised flowers on an olive-green background — and would look brilliant in a sun room.
I’m also into their studded rubber flooring, which comes in 10 colours. I can imagine this looking fantastic in a laundry room or boot room or other utilitarian space. Harvey Maria’s range of solid colours is good too: get creative and mix these up. A kitchen floor of crimson and lilac checkerboard tiles? Heaven!
If you are thinking about returning to lino, where else should you look for inspiration? After its beginnings in the 1980s, Sinclair Till became quickly known for its bespoke linoleum designs, from simple borders to complex inlays. All designs are hand-cut, meaning a truly artisan floor can be achieved. I particularly like the company’s geometric Box Tile and Checkerboard Spot Tile designs.
Finally, check out Forbo, whose linoleum floor coverings under the Marmoleum brand are regarded as a highly sustainable choice. It is worth noting that vinyl and linoleum flooring are quite different. Vinyl flooring is manufactured in layers from synthetic materials, whereas linoleum is made from a mix of renewable materials. (Linoleum floors may not be as resistant to scratches and dents as vinyl floors, but both are easy to clean.)
Forbo’s Marmoleum is made from 97 per cent natural raw materials including linseed oil from flax plant seeds, wood flour and jute.
Regular modular tiles are available, but what excites me about Forbo is the idea of producing one’s own bespoke flooring courtesy of the company’s Aquajet cutting technology. With this technique, the possibilities are endless. See, for example, the psychedelic floor Forbo created for the Discovery Lounge of the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, which is based on a Morris design from 1875.
So, my advice? Embrace linoleum, but go for bold colour and pattern. While researching for this column, I came across an image of a student reception featuring lime-green walls and a candy-pink linoleum floor made by Germany’s Armstrong DLW. I can’t be sure that this was the intention, but the effect is very 1980s municipal and pure Wes Anderson. I applaud vigorously.
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