Designer Hollie Bowden’s top flooring tips ― from wooden floors to cork tiles


looring is your foundation. Think of it like the grounding of your home, with everything else layered on top. For this reason it’s a good place to start when planning your renovation. The first step is to look at what is already in place – you can save a lot of money if you have inherited flooring that’s in workable condition or that just needs a touch up.

Wooden floors

If you’ve got wooden floorboards but they are not in the best nick there are a few options.

Do your floorboards look like they’ve been stripped from an old barn? And not in a good way? Try asking a flooring specialist to refresh them with a new finish. A clever pigmented oil can take the sepia tone out of yellowy pine floorboards, which will otherwise wash out a neutral scheme of creams and browns.

Painting boards is a great, simple option. Black paint will really dial up the drama. Gloss paint has a cool, contemporary feel. Be sure to use the right kind of paint, varnish or stain. Also DIY sanding an entire floor is messy and laborious unless you’re very handy.

Painted black floorboards dial up the drama

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Just patch up? You’ll find plenty of pine to match your own flooring pulled out of late Georgian and early Victorian homes from the army of salvagers around London.

Noise is one of the most common reasons people ditch Victorian floorboards. A runner will really dampen the noise if you’ve got teenagers running up and down the stairs like a herd of elephants.

Rubber and lino

Rubber is a great material, especially for 20th century buildings. It’s soft underfoot, but still has the dramatic, uninterrupted look of poured resin. There’s tons of colors on offer and it’s seriously cheap.

Or buy lino online that you just roll out — my partner laid ours in an hour. You’ve got to be a little bit practical to do it, but anyone armed with a YouTube tutorial can have a go in a standard-shaped room. I no longer worry about my kids falling off when they’re scooting around the kitchen.


We recently put marmoleum from Forbo in a 1930s house and it suited the scheme perfectly. It has this slightly utilitarian, industrial twist, and doesn’t visually fight with other materials.

Carpets are covetable again

I absolutely love carpet. It’s luxurious, soft, and easy to live with. Sisal is forgiving and has that organic look, which speaks to the Japanese wabi-sabi inspired minimalism that people are loving at the moment. It doesn’t have to be all Grandad-y ​​beiges and creams. I love Sinclair Till and Tim Page’s ‘Claremont’ range, or try Crucial Trading for a really inexpensive option. Wool carpet isn’t 100% stain proof so accept that you might need to replace it at some point down the line. Obviously colors and darker shades are more forgiving.

Cork tiles are affordable and wipeable

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Put cork in it

Cork tiles are really cool, plus they’re affordable and wipeable. We used them in a recent project and ended up buying more for our studio. Cork is a little like rubber, with more depth and texture.

Temporary solutions

If you can’t touch the floor, a rug can be a game changer. There are so many great dealers in London, and I think people would be amazed at how cheaply you can pick up a really nice big antique rug that will cover all sorts of rental home flooring sins. Work out the ballpark dimensions in case you come across something you like when you’re out and about.

Whichever option you go for get a physical sample of the material to see it in the space first. Most suppliers will happily send you a piece, and you’ll have the peace of mind that you haven’t ordered a big quantity of the wrong thing.

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