6 Best sustainable materials for your Interior Design Flooring

| Martina Pardo | Sustainability and Well-Being

Hello everyone, welcome to this new blog update.

Lately, I have been doing some more research on sustainable materials as we at A Designer at Heart promote greener interior design and eco-friendly solutions. It is an important cause that everyone should consider in his/her line of work, but most of all is bringing really exciting innovations to the table. Many new finds really feel like the future and I think they might radically change how our interior spaces look and also how we relate with them.

Today then, I’d like to talk about floor materials. I have selected a few that I have used or intend to use in our projects, which are mostly commercial spaces for now, but they could very well work also in a residential building. So, let’s get right into it.

1. Linoleum

The first one is Linoleum. It is a pretty common material that was first created around the 1860s, it comes in various thicknesses and a good quality one can be extremely durable. Also, it can be adapted to many different situations as it is flexible, bounceable, and can be produced in pretty much endless different patterns. This means that its use is actually not limited to the flooring but can be extended to finishes and fixtures too.

The most surprising thing though that some people might not expect, being it a plastic-looking, is that it is a really eco-friendly material too. Its name, in fact, originates from the first component that started the process of its eventual creation, Linseed oil, linum, and oleum in Latin. The finished sheet usually consists of a canvas coated with the rubbery material obtained from oxidised oil, sawdust, cork, resin, and other minerals.

From a sustainability standpoint, Linoleum is actually better than many other thermoplastic materials. It is composed of 97% natural raw materials. The production process too, if properly managed can be carbon neutral.

So don’t let the common thinking fool you, despite its ‘bad reputation’ in design, linoleum today offers many more valuable options to obtain a great and creative interior.

2. Fabscrap

Fabscrap is a sustainable material engineered by Forbo Flooring. This vinyl floor covering was specifically created with recycling and waste reduction in mind.

Fabscrap is actually obtained by recycling the rest material from another product line called Sphera. Colourful chips obtained are then processed into a near-zero-emission vinyl material. The effect obtained is that of a terrazzo surface with playful and very bright colour combinations.

Since all these granules are mixed randomly, each fabscrap line has a definite colour scheme but each pattern will be unique, making it even more interesting.

As visible in these samples, each fabscrap has a specific background colour to which the granules are applied creating this pretty unique mix!
It might not be suitable for every space, but if you’re aiming for the “Wow” effect, that’s definitely one option to be considered.

3. Cork

Cork is a 100% sustainable, recyclable and renewable solution for interiors that is becoming more common and applied not only for floors but for a range of different finishes as well. It also has a vastly different touch & feel from pretty much any other material, so it makes for a very surprising result.

The samples in the photo supplied by Granorte are obtained from the outer bark of the cork oaks, which is peeled once every 9 years to avoid injuring the trees that have to be at least 25 years old. This makes cork a completely sustainable solution by preserving the resource itself which starts regenerating after the bark has been removed. Trees are mainly found in Mediterranean areas of Algeria, Spain, Morocco, France, Italy, and Tunisia.

Cork has also so many amazing properties, that you would not believe it!

First of all, it’s noticeably light and flexible, as well as waterproof and compressible. Another great property when thinking about interiors is also its insulating capabilities both Thermal and Acoustical. It also has a significant resistance to friction and wear thanks to its honeycomb structure and is hypoallergenic as it doesn’t absorb dust. And if all that wasn’t enough, cork is also fire retardant as it doesn’t spread flames nor releases toxic gases when burning.

4. Sustainably sourced wood

Naturally, when talking about sustainable and environmental-friendly materials you have to include wood…as long as it’s sourced sustainably. Luckily, today there are many certifications to be sure of that. Traceability has become really important in today’s world, especially for raw materials suppliers.

In the UK there are the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Accreditation and PEFC (Programme for endorsement of Forest Certification), which allow businesses to identify and purchase only wood from properly managed sources or simply recycled. It is important to note also that these are paid for schemes, not certifications awarded to businesses.

Timber floors have always a very welcoming look that depending on the colour can be adapted to any interior. Additionally, like the cork just described wood has also natural properties, an important one being its thermal insulation capabilities.

Ultimately, it is also the primary material to consider when approaching Biophilic Design and its principles for Interior Design.

5. Bamboo

Continuing our streak of natural materials another must is definitely Bamboo. Did you know that it is a particularly fast-growing plant? When cut, the plant can regrow completely in just 5 years, making it one of the most sustainable materials of all. Additionally, the plant itself is very resistant, so its plantations are not limited as it happens for other natural resources.

Processed bamboo can come in different shades and it is said to be even stronger than wood. A common process in the production of bamboo floor plank is called strand weaving which consists of bounding and compressing its fibres together. This results in an extremely hard and durable material.

Finally, for those interested, Bamboo is also especially cost-effective. Usually much cheaper than wood such as oak, even in its higher quality iterations.

6. Sustainable carpet

While not common in every country, carpet is also a popular choice. So, why not pick a sustainable one?

Sedna produces a line of carpets entirely realised from the recycling of ocean wastes and other scrap materials. Through the processing of fishing nets, plastic, old carpets, and similar, regenerated nylon called Econyl is obtained and then used for the production of the carpets. The back too is realised 100% by recycled plastic bottles.

This is an extremely important resource for anyone who cares about the environment. According to Healthy Seas, fishing nets represent a whole 10% of the total marine waste and are extremely dangerous for sea life. Every year over 100,000 animals are trapped and killed in them.

So, here is my list of the 6 best sustainable materials for your interior design flooring. I hope you can find some great inspiration and excitement like the one I feel when researching all the innovations being made in this field.

Sustainability is real and really achievable with a bit of awareness and the great work that these companies and more are doing! It’s also currently a very hot topic and, although just a while back it seemed like an ‘extra’ that you could add to a project, nowadays is a must as we all have a moral obligation to our planet and fellow human beings.

It’s also a sensitive topic. So every interior that aspires to be a place where people want to live, needs to provide a sustainable environment at the core of the experience.


Martina Pardo

Written by: Martina Pardo

I am Martina, an Italian designer based in London. I spend most of my time designing interiors or writing about it. I also love travelling. You may find me walking around the East End of London, drinking coffee and stopping at every single bookshop I bump into.

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