8 Apr 2010

Fashionable curiosities

I’m currently updating my book, something I do every couple of years or so. It involves reading quietly through the 250,000 odd words of the text and making a few additions, deletions and amendments.

I’m currently buried in the section on floor coverings and it starts out with an overview of carpets. As I am reading it, it strikes me that almost no one fits carpets anymore. They have gone right out of fashion, ditched in favour of hardwood and tiles.

Yet the best material for carpet is…..sheep’s wool. Use sheep’s wool as an insulation material, and you’ll be a trend-setter. But put it on your floor, and you’ll be seen as some sort of weird throwback to the 1970s. Why?

It’s not just carpet. What about cork tiles? I use to love cork tiles and I fitted dozens of Wicanders Cork-o-Plast floors in the 1980s in various kitchens and bathrooms. But when was the last time you saw someone laying a cork tile floor? Or even saw a cork tile for sale? They are right out of fashion and yet cork is a natural and wholly sustainable material, just like sheep’s wool.

And timber? Everybodies’ favourite sustainable material, surely? Well, only in the right location, it would seem.

Untreated timber boarding is everywhere on the outside of new homes but almost completely absent from the interiors. Back in the 80s, it was the other way around. Matchboarded walls and ceilings (here's one I viewed this morning!) were de rigueur in fashionable bathrooms and loft conversions. But now they all look just so dated. How strange is that?

So whilst we might think that we live in an era when natural and sustainable materials are the height of fashion, on closer inspection it seems to me that it’s all much more about fashion for the sake of fashion, and that sustainable logic has little to do with it.

But then again, I used to covet coloured bathroom suites. Not everything in the past was rosy. Somethings were avocado.


  1. you can still get cork tiles at B&Q

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. I think there is a little more to green interiors than carpets and cork flooring. It is way of thinking about what to install in houses, where it comes from and where it is going to finish.

  3. Have a friend who recently put in a cork floor - I love the stuff. Good point - hope it comes back big time: good for cork trees. You may just have caught the cusp and return of carpet and cork happening as we speak.....

  4. Good points.

    And for a few years there has been a trend from tiled bathroom floors to... tiled bathroom floors with electric heating beneath them to counteract their coldness.

    How much more logical and sustainable it would be to use cork. It might also help to save the cork industry too, which, together with the habitats it supports, are threatened by the increasing use of plastic wine corks.

    By coincidence, the cork industry is launching a marketing campaign this month - although the UK construction industry is not one of the target markets: http://www.realcork.org/artigo.php?art=699

  5. yes. cork. gulp. my favorite were the dark chocolate coloured 'luxury' tiles.. the smell when you first opened the box!

    maybe not so fashionable i agree but wool/wool mix carpets are still my preferred choice even today for creating the luxury feel - and cost less/m than hardwood or good quality laminate.

  6. Adrian LeamanApril 19, 2010

    When we asked for lino in Pocklington Carpets the other day, they said 'you mean vinyl'. No, we really did mean lino, which we found harder to get hold of than we expected. Don't forget lino, the real stuff.

  7. I don't know about the UK but I come across loads of wooden ceilings and walls in properties renovated by the Brits in France. You'd think the fashion had never died out! I suspect that these chaps are trying to recreate the (80s) England of their youth.

  8. I too have laid Cork o Plast in bathrooms, kitchens and kids bedrooms. It is so nice to look at and incredibly durable and more importantly, warm to the touch. I have also followed the trend to lay ceramic tiles in another bathroom (without underfloor heating) and regretted it. I found this blog when researching for cork tiles to replace those installed in a bathroom 33 Years ago. They still look pristine but due to refurbishing the bathroom I need to lay a new floor covering and so will continue my research to find what I want.

    Philip Edwards.