Retail Therapy

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The Independent Online
A LOOK at any gleaming new show home more often than not reveals magnolia-coloured walls and carpets in some shade of fawn. And a look at the same house a few years later is likely to show just the same: most people prefer to play safe. However, with Mediterranean colours so predominant in the shops this summer, manufacturers are trying to persuade us to be as bold with our carpets as we are with our ceramics.

Their tactics are to persuade and aid, rather than to bully - hence a number of new schemes designed to show us how to use bright colours:

CARPETS

The International Wool Secretariat (in conjunction with Decorwool) has produced a booklet showing how to transform a room with a wide range of brightly coloured carpets.

It points out that trends in home furnishings have moved away from pastels but still tend to be very conservative when it comes to carpets - perhaps understandably, given the expenditure that is involved.

Customers are invited to send a sample of their wool carpet to the IWS; in return, they will be sent a colour chart showing, by co-ordination or contrast, how redecoration of their rooms can enhance their particular carpets. This service is free, and is aimed primarily at people who buy new wool carpets, though the IWS is willing to devise schemes for existing carpets.

Either pick up a brochure from your nearest Decorwool stockist or apply to the following address: IWS, Interior Textiles Division, the Development Centre, Valley Drive, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8PB (0943 601555). Allow about three weeks for delivery.

NATURAL FLOOR-COVERING

If you think that the current vogue for natural floor-coverings is all to do with coarse-, hairy-, bleached-looking coconut matting, you would be quite wrong.

A large variety of realistic carpet alternatives has been developed by Crucial Trading Ltd. The company's use of modern production techniques has left the familiar Seagrass and Coir doormats miles behind.

Over the past two years Crucial Trading has been updating its collection of natural floor-coverings, which now extends to 114 designs that include many colours and textures. Some are surprisingly sophisticated. The range includes Sisal (the most carpet-like floor-covering, which comes in about 50 different designs such as herringbone, twill and plaid), Jute, Coir, Flatweave wool and the popular Medieval matting.

Crucial Trading provides a box of indexed samples of each type of its floor- coverings - which seems an ideal way to let people mull over choices at home. The samples cost pounds 10, which will be deducted if an order is placed. A leaflet with information on installation and cleaning is available. Prices start at pounds 10.75 per square metre for Seagrass, rising to pounds 35.90 for some of the Sisool (a combination of wool and sisal) range. The company's brochure can be obtained from: Crucial Trading, 77 Westbourne Park Road, London W2 5QH (071-221 9000).

FLOOR TILES

Terracotta floor tiles were used extensively in Roman times and they enjoyed another bout of popularity in the 18th century. They are certainly in fashion now. Fired Earth, a company that specialises in slate and tile flooring, reports a blossoming trade for antique terracotta tiles as well as new hand-made ones in hues of honey and red. Other ranges include Encaustic tiles, African and Indian slates, as well as Mexican and glazed stoneware tiles.

For inspiration, watch out for the exhibition that Fired Earth is sponsoring, called 'One Thousand Years of Tiles', which is touring many museums and art galleries over the next two years.

Prices for terracotta start at pounds 18 (including VAT) per square yard, though the average cost is about pounds 30. Slate starts at pounds 16 (average pounds 35) and stoneware at pounds 17 (average pounds 57).

For stockists and a free catalogue, telephone the Fired Earth brochures department on 0295 812088. The exhibition will be at the following venues: Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, 28 May-18 July; Town Docks Museum, Hull, 14 August-9 October.

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