Sanjeev Sinha
Flooring plays an important role when it comes to space designing. And since it reflects the occupants' lifestyle, deciding about flooring needs more of a human touch than merely considering the cost factor. To explore more on this, Syed E. Hasan interacted with Space Practitioner Sanjeev Sinha, Prinicipal Designer a Renaissance Designs. Mr. Sinha trusts that the design should always leave an environment that is interesting, artistic, and beautiful. For him, the Space Practitioners' goal for each project is to mold the functional, economic, and aesthetic desires of their clients into an artful solution.

The slowed down pace of the economy may be keeping a cap on spending, but when it comes to flooring, it is driving trends. That's because today's cost-conscious consumer is more demanding for value than ever. "There has definitely been a shift from spending to saving. But this doesn't mean that consumers all the way have lost their interest in flooring as a substance. Rather, they are looking for value and comfort at a relatively lower price," said Mr. Sinha adding that they are also looking for materials that are easy to handle, low on maintenance, and can be quickly replaced.

According to him, natural materials are always a global trend for floor coverings, and stone is chosen particularly by discerning customers. "The use of stone in a building in its various forms has been appreciated for ages, and has been timeless for home improvements and commercial designs alike. This not only takes the occupant closer to the nature but also makes space look elegant and classy, irrespective of the feel about its being traditional or contemporary," said Mr. Sinha who believes that stone has always been symbolic of a class.

Of the many varieties of stones, marble and granite got prominence for interior applications, especially flooring. Marble is the most sought after due to its white tone and aesthetically appealing appearance. It is ideal for spaces like living rooms, bathrooms, and staircases, providing a sense of neatness and cleanliness. However, being prone to stains, marble didn't find a place in the kitchen where granite is preferred mostly due to its scratch resistant feature. This versatility has made it an instant favourite for individual residences or villas wherein quality conscious people opt for Italian or Spanish versions.

Flooring Marble

However, in spite of being so versatile, the choice for stone is gradually declining. According to Mr. Sinha, marble has lost its sheen among the new homeowners as there are plenty of other materials resembling the look and feel, especially of marble. "Also, in the contemporary apartment-based housing system, most of the things are decided by builders. They have set a standard when it comes to flooring, and offer in combination of tiles (for common areas) and laminate wooden flooring (for bedrooms)."

Interestingly, this is not the only reason why marble is slowly losing its charm. According to him, marble is a high-maintenance substance and needs regular touch-up after certain intervals. "In most of the instances, the old marble floors get dirty to such an extent that no amount of scrubbing, cleaning, and polishing can bring life to their dullness. Accordingly, in modern buildings, its use has been restricted to add character like wall highlighting, area separators, fire places, etc," elaborated Mr. Sinha adding that marbles' escalating cost is also restricting its affordability to masses.

Carpet Floors
Meanwhile, coining on the popularity of marble, quite a few tile manufacturers copied its natural effects on tiles' surfaces thereby making them the latest fad. These tiles are produced with advanced digital printing technology that enables high-definition reproduction of colours and objects to provide exact impression of marble or wood bringing alive even the minutest details. Besides, being ultra-charged, these tiles can withstand any moisture, scuffs, scratches, and indentation that come with everyday life.

Speaking on the trends, Mr. Sinha added that tiles with the natural finish of marble or wood are most preferred, because these are affordable and long lasting when compared to marbles. "As far as high-end luxury homes are concerned, tiles with metallic textures and patterns embossed in gold, silver, bronze, copper, or steel are popular as these finishes add glam and rich quotient. Properly installed digital tiles outlive nearly any other product. At the same time, unlike marbles, these tiles are anti-bacterial and odour-free that help in maintaining better hygiene, besides resisting stains, dirt, and can be cleaned up with a damp mop, sponge, or common household cleaners."

After tiles, come carpet floors and vinyl, selection of which depends mostly on specific need and local weather. "These carpet floors are popular in hospitality sector due to some of their unbeatable features like sound absorbent and luxurious feeling," said Mr. Sinha adding that similar is the quotient for laminate wooden floors, which are restricted to be used in areas like bedrooms and living rooms of a residential setup. "These materials are still status symbols, of which the builders are making good use by offering them as the value propositions to their clients. Vinyl is preferred in closed environment mostly in offices and hospitals where silence is the ultimate requirement. It facilitates easy cleaning and doesn't allow noise to spread."

Sharing his experience in hospitality industry, Mr. Sinha said, "Most of the existing brands, like Taj and Oberoi, prefer to continue with what they have been identified for decades, i.e. with their classic rustic look. However, in the newly developed chain of hotels, both – in public spaces and guest rooms – palettes are moving towards neutral tones with bright accent colours, while the corridors call for just one key pattern of carpet floors."

Mr. Sinha believes that space design must be an expression of life, as well as a shelter for it. "In a masterpiece work for interiors, one would expect the element that reflects the attribute of shelter and arrangement. The art of space designing allows every action within the environment an act of living art. And flooring is nothing but an important component in adding sheen to the interiors."

He insisted that money is an important factor in deciding about flooring. "Most of the builders are attached mainly to the commercial aspect of it, and hence, offer those materials and designs that are comparatively cheaper and easily available. Also, people who are opting for these budget homes belong to middle class or higher-middle class with minimum thought for flooring. They do not pay attention to the floors even at the time of entering the apartment. This clearly depicts that flooring is still considered as a segment attributed to rich and reflects the lifestyle of the occupants."

MGS Architecture March 2015