IF YOU really can't bear the thought of a carpet there is a fashionable, natural and comfortable alternative: linoleum.

Linoleum has been around for more than 100 years and offers warmth, easy maintenance and a clear conscience for environmentalists. It is a totally natural product, made from linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour and chalk, but because it was traditionally used in hospitals andclassrooms, it has suffered an image problem.

Lino started to come back into fashion earlier this decade as a versatile, low maintenance flooring which is very child-friendly - lino has natural anti-bacterial properties and is easy to clean. In 1996 Forbo Nairn, the only remaining manufacturer of lino in the UK, reinvented the product as Marmoleum (tel: 01592 643111). No longer the cracked brown floor covering, this comes in 30 different colours in tiles, sheets or panels from around pounds 22 per square metre. Even in sheet form, its soft marbled finish adds texture, but it comes into its own in custom-made designs, beloved of the new wave of interior designers who can now combine practicality with individuality without offending the wallet, or the senses.

Forbo Nairn offers a bespoke service - a drawing or computer-generated design is cut exactly to pattern and can be reassembled in the home. Or if you feel really artistic you can buy tiles and do it yourself.