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Manufacturing with design and sustainability perspectives in mind

Ravi Bains elaborates on how design and sustainability initiatives are important when designing wood floors.

ENGINEERED wood flooring is one of the popular products on the market in flooring. It’s essentially a substrate of high-quality ply bonded to a wear layer of characterful hardwood. It’s reliably stable, easy to maintain and through its modular design, simple to lay. A sure bet when a quick install and a quality result is desired.

But is there room for further development? Might it be more adventurous without adding significant costs? Can it move carefully beyond the subtle flavours of Oak, Ash and Pine, without creating something overbearing, like a flavourful dish corrupted beyond enjoyment with one too many chillies?

Achieving this may require a brave approach. The design and manufacture stages might consider new materials and a fresh visual language (at least within the context of flooring). At the installation stage, the end-user might have a desired aesthetic they seek to create in their environment.

Manufacturers are constantly looking to create products that are flexible with different design options. Stratum Designs is an example of this with its product; Marquet Flooring, where marquetry meets Parquet. It consists of standard blocks, with a percentage that are created unique to the others, decorated with modern marquetry designs, offering various colours, materials, surfaces, and texture, giving the end-user endless design options.

Manufacturing with sustainable practices
It’s important that manufacturers think about the way they develop a product with sustainable methodology.

As producers of Marquet flooring for example, we use hard wearing polycarbonate harvested from recycled CD’s set into the timber wear layer, slightly shimmering. Colourful post-consumer plastics punch out specks of shining detail, and variations of timber all combine and mesh together, injecting a pattern that inhabits the face of a marquetry block.

As manufacturers the materials we use are sourced from locations local to our workshop.

For example, we’re working with a new company in Helston, One Blue Eye, who process polypropylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), they provide us with sheet materials that are machined and add the punchy specks of colour. Plastic particulates generated in this process will find their way back, not to the ocean, but instead back to Matt Nott of One Blue Eye, five miles down the road, in a way where they can be reprocessed and reformed. Our polycarbonate is provided by Revive innovations in Bristol, which manufactures its own products using the sheet materials they produce from processing old CD’s. We purchase their off cuts that are of no use to them, which become the pearlescent shimmer that can be found in aspects of the marquetry block. We’re establishing relationships with local joiners who will be able to provide us with timber that would otherwise go into landfill, or more likely become firewood. Where possible, find methods to redirect, reuse or recycle.

From the customer’s perspective, an opportunity to become artful becomes very achievable when designing a space. Before committing to a final arrangement, it’s important to test out a few versions of your vision on paper or with an online visualiser. Reorientate the flooring, offsetting a pattern according to an arbitrary rule that has been decided upon. Situate the blocks or planks in one area of the room, or space them organically as if they were a living lichen, growing – a slightly biophilic approach.

We recently discussed flooring with a selection of retailers at the London Surface Design Show. Certainly, a floor is something that often melts into the background of one’s experience as they move over it, becoming almost unnoticeable. Products that are manufactured with design in mind are playful, encouraging those in the room to move in it, rather than just over it. Take the time to add just enough variety, giving its part in the environment not just a surface, but a voice that will be gently felt by those that inhabit it.

To conclude, companies should make their best efforts to operate and produce flooring that’s sensitive to the environmental discussion, and of equal importance, allows the customer to curate a chosen flavour in their environment, making the space one to be enjoyed by all in their own way.
Ravi Bains is founder and maker at Stratum Designs

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