There are numerous types of flooring for your home, but when it comes to making a decision, the first thing to consider is what the room is used for. Think about what type of floor you like, what you expect of it and how much you can spend. While you may be dreaming of reclaimed oak floorboards in the sitting room and limestone tiles in the kitchen, you need to factor in the cost of sourcing, purchasing and laying these types of floor. Can you do it yourself or do you need to get someone in? How long will it take and what will it cost?
Then there is the durability and function to think about. Wood floors are hard-wearing, but you'll need to buy rugs to stop the room feeling bare; limestone requires careful installation and maintenance. With so much to take in, here is our guide to doing floors the easy way.
"There are a few ways you can go," interior designer Suzy Hoodless suggests. "Either a fantastic deep pile, or a 100 per cent wool loop pile carpet. Alternatively, you can have either wood or painted floorboards with rugs on top using a thick underlay."
Carpets and rugs can add luxury and comfort as they are soft underfoot and have a wonderful sense of cosiness. They also dampen down the acoustics, which instantly makes a room feel more relaxing. And because there is limited foot traffic in a bedroom, this is one room where, if you are splashing out, you could invest in a luxurious pile carpet or even a custom-made rug. Expensive, yes, but it will be a one-off and you can take it with you when you move.
"Make sure you try rugs in situ before you buy," Hoodless advises. "It's impossible to guess from a shop what a rug might look like at home."
It is tempting to buy a cheap rug, but it will feel rough and pick up dirt more easily. It is best to choose a carpet you like, have it cut to the size you want and pay the retailer to whip-stitch the edges to stop them fraying. Place it under the bed, still visible, and your feet will land on something soft in the morning.
Best buys: Wool carpet, from £60 per square metre, from Crucial Trading (www.crucial-trading.com). Custom-made 100 per cent wool rug, £395 per square metre from Loophouse (www.loophouse.com). Owl rug 100 per cent wool hand-tufted, £495 from Mini Moderns (www.minimoderns.com). Stella felt rug, £350 from Michelle Mason (www.michellemason.co.uk).
The trend for recreating the look of a glossy hotel bathroom in the home has led to an increase in the use of materials such as ceramic, porcelain and mosaic tiles. One popular way to use large format tiles is by choosing the same colour on the wall and the floor, giving the impression of space. Mosaic tiles are more expensive, so if you can't afford an entire wall you can use them as a decorative feature band. These look good as a vertical strip in the shower, or a horizontal band behind the sink. But remember, tiles can be cold on bare feet, so underfloor heating may be something to consider here. However, many of us are still living with an old bit of lino on the floor that we haven't quite got round to doing anything about.
A cheap remedy for this is modern vinyl flooring, which can be bought by the metre in a variety of colours and is half the price of rubber flooring. Vinyl is hard-wearing, practical, easy to clean, easy to lay – you can do it yourself with flooring tape – and it doesn't have to come with a naff pattern on it. Plus it is cushioned with a layer of foam on the back so it insulates and is soft. And since the doyenne of retro chic, Cath Kidston, has started selling her prints on vinyl tiles (£35 per tile) you can rest assured that in the style stakes it's making a comeback.
Best buys: Vinyl flooring, £19 per square metre from the Colour Flooring Company (www.colourflooring.co.uk). Alabastro ceramic tiles, £58 per square metre at World's End Tiles (www.worldsendtiles.co.uk). Karndean's new Art Select range is also worth checking out (www.karndeanartselect.co.uk).
"Work with the architecture and spend as much as you can afford," interior designer Suzy Hoodless says. "It will add to the value of your house and is a great selling point."
Stone tiles provide a beautiful, natural and unique textural surface that will last for years. However, they are very expensive and costly to lay. A less expensive option is ceramic tiles which are glazed to give the effect of marble or slate.
Porcelain tiles, which are mechanically produced and have the same colour throughout, are considered to be more hard-wearing than ceramics – which means they can withstand more visitors, particularly those in high heels.
Solid wood flooring from a sustainable source is a good, if fairly expensive, option as it has a natural warmth and tone. It will change as it ages, giving a sleek, modern kitchen a cosier feel.
"I prefer wood in the kitchen, as it is slightly more forgiving," interior designer Nina Campbell says. "But both work well. And a rug in the eating end of the kitchen is good if there is space."
Vinyl flooring can work well in a kitchen, too, particularly if you have children, as spills are easily wiped up, and it is inexpensive to install.
Best buys: Siena porcelain tiles, £34.95 per square metre at Fired Earth (www.firedearthshop.com). Oak floorboards, from £30 per square metre at the Natural Wood Floor Company (www.naturalwood floor.co.uk).
"I would use wood flooring with rugs," Hoodless says. "Install the most expensive flooring you can afford – herringbone parquet is great, or a really thick board.
"If you're on a tight budget, painted floorboards are great and you can either use existing floorboards or have inexpensive flooring installed before painting."
You don't necessarily need to use the same flooring throughout your house, but it is important to think about the flow. If your sitting room leads into your kitchen, look at samples together so you know how they will look next to each other. Make sure any mixed surfaces can blend rather than chop and change.
"The wrong flooring can have a real impact on a room so remember to actually put the sample on the floor when choosing it; don't leave it on the table," Campbell says.
The general rule is to dig up a nasty carpet if possible and sand or paint the floor. But be careful if you are in a flat as you could have trouble with noise below. If it becomes a problem for your downstairs neighbours then hard floors can be soundproofed.
One way to make a really dramatic, and quick, change to the mood of the room is by experimenting with paint. Dulux will colour-mix their hard-wearing floor paint, which is resistant to scuffs and repeated washing, to any shade you want. Felt pads can be placed under the feet of furniture to stop marking.
Best buys: Floorshield paint, £40 per five-litre tin from Dulux Trade (www.duluxdecoratorcentre.co.uk). Oak aged parquet woodblock, £40 per square metre from the Natural Wood Floor Company (www.naturalwoodfloor.co.uk).
Hallway and stairs
This area receives a lot of wear from outdoor shoes, so a great option is a large doormat set into a wood or stone floor at the entrance.
"Hallways are generally long and thin so a runner-style rug works well," says Lorraine Statham of rugs company Loophouse.
"A cut pile carpet will withstand the traffic, rather than a loop pile, which tends to crush more easily. Pale colours show the dirt, so a dark colour or high pattern work well."
A runner can visually widen a hall or a staircase, and it also keeps you walking in the middle.
"I like painted stairs with a generous width runner," Hoodless says. "My current favourite is dark painted treads with a dark runner. Multicoloured treads for children are great fun."