Design: Lay out your own floor show

Wherever you put your lino, it doesn't have to look dull.

DESIGN YOUR own lino. Forget about the boring patterns of the Fifties; draw something creative, then let designer-maker Devi Khakhria transform it into a floor that will refresh you - or make you giggle.

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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