No doubt, wood floors are beautiful. But as beautiful as they can be, wood floors are not always the best design choice in certain circumstances. What’s the next best alternative? Check out laminate flooring.
Invented in 1977 and first introduced by the brand Pergo to the European market in 1984, laminate flooring is relatively inexpensive, easy to install and holds up well to lots of foot traffic. Plenty of commercial enterprises use laminate for this reason. Laminate floors are a little more moisture resistant than traditional wood floors, so to a degree, they can be used in areas where wood is inadvisable. Laminates are built with a transparent, protective wear layer that is resistant to dogs, cats, chairs, and high heels. It needs no special cleaners and never requires waxing or polishing. The biggest appeal may be economics — laminate is available for as little as $2 to $4 a square foot.
Here’s what you need to know about laminate floors:
- Not all laminate is equal. There are laminates that are extremely cheap — and they look cheap too, and don’t wear well. Beware of suspiciously low prices and look for the seal of the North American Laminate Flooring Association, or NALFA. NALFA certification tells you that a product bearing its logo is recyclable and conforms to all regulations regarding formaldehyde emission.
- Opt for laminate that does not use glue. Click-together laminate floors are easier to install, and by not using glue, your floor won’t emit icky gasses that will pollute your home’s air.
- You can find laminate that looks like wood, marble, stone and tile. Every laminate piece contains a layer of a high-definition, detailed image that can realistically simulate all sorts of colors and patterns in natural materials. Because printing technology has improved dramatically since the early days of laminate floors, you can find high quality, textured laminates that appear to be pine, hickory, oak, saltillo tile, black slate, teak and more. Below, check out a slate floor.
- You will need to put down an “underlayment” when installing a laminate floor. Underlayment (which may or may not be built into the laminate floor product) is a requirement for any installation. It’s helpful in absorbing some of the minor imperfections in the subfloor, reducing some noise when walking on the floor, and softening some of the impact. Some underlayments also offer a moisture barrier on one side, which is a good idea for bathroom and wet-area installations.
- Laminate floors installed directly on concrete or in areas with a lot of moisture need an additional moisture barrier. Before installing a laminate floor in a damp environment, consider that laminate floors can buckle and warp, just as wood does. Explain your plans to the retailer best to decide whether laminate is the best material for your needs.
- It’s resistant, but not indestructible. Laminate flooring is stain- and fade-resistant and has a tendency to repel water. It’s an extremely hard and durable surface, but it is possible to scratch it. It’s not possible to repair the actual scratches when they occur, so be sure to buy extra material with your initial purchase and hold onto it in case you’ll need it later. Laminate can’t be refinished, so once it’s scratched or damaged, it cannot be salvaged.
And here’s a laminate “tile” floor:
Below, a laminate “pine” floor:
Is laminate for you? If your budget is tight and if your area is high traffic, laminate could be a viable option. Be sure to do your research carefully to purchase a floor that will withstand the test of time.
Here’s a house that’s like a poem about concrete.
Every aspect of the BA House in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina is constructed using poured-in-place concrete.
The ubiquitous concrete is balanced by the warmth of rich dark wood shutters.
The concrete is used in amusing ways, as in forming this tiny horizontal window.
The nailed-together wooden forms that were used to pour its walls, barely held together.
Their brief struggle is immortalised in concrete.
Even the interior furnishings are poured from concrete, and then honed to a gleaming silvery patina.
It is used to form the kitchen counters – for a surprisingly robust and earthy effect.
The floors are polished to a rich and deep patina - while the ceilings reveal the wooden forms used in making the concrete.
Another concrete form becomes the void that creates the swimming pool.
Amid all this focus on the solid materiality of concrete – the interior makes light solid too.
A glass box of light pours down from the sky into its central space.
The light is more than a skylight on a ceiling.
It becomes more like a solid cube of sunlight.
From one side of the light cube, only the light at bottom is revealed. Above it, you guessed: concrete.
At night, the shape inverts, as the black sky is crossed by a passageway of light.
A very interesting house.
Sometimes a small change can have a very big effect.
A narrow, cramped and dark three-story building was on this tiny site.
The owners, a young couple, hoped to be able to brighten it.
The original three storied house had occupied a passageway from the busy High Street in Clapham, London, to a stables behind the larger building next door.
Cramped bedrooms all faced the noisy street, and at ground level the entrance was also the dining room, while access to the garden was effectively blocked by an uninviting extension.
To make it bright, the architects, London-based alma-nac, topped a new arrangement with a long sloping roof dotted with skylights to bring sunlight into each storey.
This new exterior roof and wall was treated as one unit and covered with grey slate roofing tiles.
They extended the house at the rear, opening up the ground floor and bringing light into the entire space. A study was added in addition to the third bedroom.
They opened up the full width of the building to the garden with folding doors, replacing the tiny dilapidated door to the garden. Read the rest of this entry »
A very beautiful yacht house that includes four apartments for vacations is sited on the southernmost tip of Ukraine’s Crimean coastline.
Designed by the Italian firm based in the UK,Robin Monotti Architects, the Foros Yacht House is inspired by the traditional Russian “dacha” holiday homes.
Neighbours include the dachas of former USSR president Gorbachev and current Ukrainian president Yanukovich, and close by are magnificent palaces and churches from the Tsarist era.
Monotti conceived the building as a contemporary reinterpretation of these traditional villas on the coast.
The design started with the central yacht storage space which is a space 18 feet high and 45 feet deep.
The original idea was just to store the client’s 13 foot yacht, and provide “captain’s” quarters.
Only afterwards did the client decide to add the three rental apartments, taking advantage of “the Russian Riviera”, with its dramatic coastal scenery and balmy Mediterranean climate. Read the rest of this entry »
A staircase that is a home for books was made in a renovation of a north London home by Hackney studio Platform 5.
The clients needed to house an extensive book collection.
So at the heart of the house, the main feature is a double height library built around a staircase.
The upward movement of the stepped bookcases echo the steps in the stairs.
At the top of the stairwell, a cosy study desk is tucked into the landing space.
The small desk juts out over the stairwell, making use of the waste space. Read the rest of this entry »