Design: Lay out your own floor show
Wherever you put your lino, it doesn't have to look dull.
Friday 09 October 1998
Pictured is Khakhria's studio floor in the Oxo Tower on the South Bank which she designed herself. Her passion is lively geometry; she can make the tips of ellipses loom through space as if they are in motion - a sort of Op-art effect.
But you can also show her your own designs. A cloudscape, perhaps, that will lighten chores in the kitchen. Or your school badge with a rude motto. Or a snakes and ladders board for playful kids and tipsy adults. So long as the design is not too fussy, Khakhria will interpret it in simple shapes and show you a coloured cut-paper collage. She then sends it to a linoleum manufacturer where it is fed into a computer and cut by a high-powered water jet.
When it arrives back at your home or office, the design looks like a jigsaw. It needs a craftsman to lay a roll of lino and then insert the bits into it using sharp hand-tools. (There is a limit to what computers will do). If your floor is uneven, you may need to have a latex screed laid beforehand.
Khakhria will steer you away from making ghastly mistakes that are difficult to live with. But if you really want to lay a Modigliani nude, invent your own coat of arms, or immortalise your budgie in lino, it's up to you.
She says: "You really don't want a floor that you can't escape from. It should keep refreshing you and not dominate you. You should feel affectionate towards it."
A commission of hers under discussion is a conservatory floor with the client's self- portrait embedded in it. The client, however, has said she is shy of immortality.
Colour is a very important element. Devi Khakhria's own studio floor features fantasy dinner plates that she designed after graduating from the Royal College of Art. There is a pleasing empathy between the bold blues and chestnut browns. Even good amateur draftsmen usually need her advice about colour co- ordination.
She has designed linoleum floors for the communal areas of offices as well as for homes - including a bathroom floor featuring aquatic micro- organisms such as the spirogyra that fascinated her during her O-level biology courses.
The lino Khakhria orders is, she says, "as tough as old boots": it will withstand lighted cigarettes - though not stiletto heels. It takes six to eight weeks from a project's initial design to completion. The lino, including cutting and fitting, costs pounds 125 plus VAT per square metre. Khakhria oversees all stages of the work: her fee is from pounds 500.
Devi Khakhria's studio is at Unit 208, Second Floor, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London SE1 (0181-948 1606)
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