Q: We have converted a spare bedroom into a sitting room, and we want to do something special with the floor once we raise and toss out the "ancient" wall-to-wall carpet. Any suggestions?
A: Historically, floors have been designed with just as much decoration as the other surfaces in a room. In fact, it's difficult to identify any treatment more intricate than the patterns and colors found in Persian rugs. Mosaic marble and ceramic tile floors are also noteworthy for their elaborate patterns.
Monochromatic carpeting and single-material floor surfaces will always be appropriate in certain circumstances. But even in those instances, it's not uncommon now to see a plain floor being made to serve as a background for a richly decorative covering. Simple floor surfaces are also often accompanied these days by contrasting borders of distinctive materials or bright colors.
This is a real change from the conception of flooring as mainly functional. No longer is this surface regarded as an afterthought, to be addressed once all the other design selections have been made.
At the same time, the revived interest in floor pattern has not emerged at the expense of practical factors such as durability and ease of installation and maintenance. Contemporary consumers won't accept the loss of those advantages. Seeking to satisfy both aspects of demand, manufacturers are producing long-lasting ceramic and stone pavers as borders or inserts for all-wooden floors.
Subtle patterns can be created by combining glazed and unglazed ceramic tile of the same basic color. Variations in light and texture are what produce this pleasing visual effect. The tiles are also subdued enough to permit the use of area rugs as an additional decorative floor covering.
Expensive and high-styled solutions are not the only examples of this welcome trend.
The photo, for example, shows a floor designed by artist Veva Crozer for the Greenwich (Conn.) Junior League Showhouse. Using Armstrong solid-color vinyl tiles, Ms. Crozer transformed the floor into a stunning background for this sun-drenched room. The basic blue-and-white color scheme, accented by red and green tiles, was inspired by the flooring in an 18th century Russian palace. In this case, a simplified design made use of cost-effective, easily maintained material.
Geometric floor patterns, especially in large sizes, readily lend themselves to many kinds of room treatment. Here, the setting includes small, overall designs, properly scaled and colored to complement the floor. Florals, mini-prints, stripes and vinelike patterns all work well in combination with the geometric floor covering.
Classical accompaniments would also be most appropriate in such a setting. That, after all, is a motif regularly seen in the many historic houses that feature colorful geometric floor patterns.