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
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Grad / Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultant - Oil & Gas

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000. : SThree: Recruitment is a sales role...

    Associate Recrutiment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

    Science Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Teacher of Science KS3-4 for fixed ter...

    Teaching Assistants needed in Salford

    £12000 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you an...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments