Property: Walking on water made easy

You may crave a wooden floor but fear the effect on

your neighbours. Good news is at hand. Cork tiles

have gone upmarket, and you can cover your floor

with pretty designs.

Choosing flooring must be one of the few home decor decisions that is likely to have as much impact on your neighbours as it does on your own property. Ask any flat owner.

The noise of adults, boisterous toddlers and dogs clattering around overhead on fashionable wood strip flooring can be intensely irritating. In fact some leases stipulate that floors must be carpeted to minimise un-neighbourly nuisance.

But there are stylish alternatives to wall-to-wall carpet.

Cork tiles - once as appealing as kipper ties and Hessian wallpaper - have been reinvented dramatically and have moved upmarket.

Art school graduate Alice Balfour was twiddling her thumbs waiting for Sotheby's to offer her a full-time job when she came up with her Great Idea. Despite grumbles from her father at being barred from using his own loo for two days, she set about re-decorating the lavatory floor. Alice laid cut-out pictures of gold coins and medals on a red cork background on the floor and varnished it. Everyone admired the result, including an old friend who told her she had great ideas but was hopeless at business.

While Alice spent two years developing her product, the friend, Mark Findlay, went off and did an MBA business course. Now the pair design, produce and sell Harvey Maria floor tiles and have moved from a kitchen- table operation into proper offices and a fully fledged business.

Their decorative tiles are unlike most others you are likely to see.

Imaginative and amusing, the Outdoor and Manor collections have a cork base and photographic laminate finish, while the Eastern collection has a hand-painted and lacquered finish.

The Manor collection includes Library, hand-cut letters on paper textures, and Gallery, Dutch Old Master portraits set in a traditional 15th century floor tile design.

"The Old Masters tiles were inspired by the time I spent working on an arts course at Sotheby's," says Alice, a trained silversmith.

Access to old catalogues with pictures by Vermeer produced the idea for the Old Master tiles. They look perfect in a hallway, especially in a Victorian house, but some buyers have been sensitive about treading on the portraits' faces.

These tiles cost pounds 38.18 per pack of nine (a square yard). The Outdoor collection comprises clever photo-montage designs of pebbles, sand and shells, a grassy meadow and glittering sea with ghostly underwater fish (pounds 34.66 per pack). The tiles are quite warm and - as well as providing a degree of sound-proofing - a great deal more forgiving than ceramic or terracotta, should a bottle of wine be dropped on them.

Harvey Maria will accept commissions from buyers who would like to choose their own photographic image under UV lacquer, but that is likely to be an expensive option for a domestic customer.

It is also possible to have a wooden floor that deadens sound. Wickanders makes a rubber-cork underlay that can be fitted underneath its own wooden flooring.

Wickanders claims it significantly reduces impact sound. It also makes tongue and groove interlocking planks with an inner cork core. Wood-O- Floor is a floating floor, designed to fit over the top of an existing floor without being fixed to it, which avoids having to dig up tiles or slabs. The range includes maple, cherry, beech and red oak finishes. Wickanders advises using a professional fitter (it will supply a list on request) and having the floor checked for damp before the floating floor is laid. It costs pounds 49.99 per square metre, which is rather more expensive than top-of-the-range carpet, but it does carry a warranty for 10 years. And think what it'll do for neighbour relations.

Harvey Maria 0181 516 7789; Wickanders 01403 710001

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review