In every project, there will come a point when we must decide what type of materials we are going to use. And the decision will be dependent on a variety of parameters, which the Designer and Owner would need to decide on together. The different parameters would range from cost to aesthetics. But we also need to take into consideration factors such as maintenance, comfort and availability. So, to begin, let’s look at each parameter closely and hope that by the end, we can understand the each parameter enough to make an informed decision.
BOY, THAT LOOKS GOOD!
The first parameter is the look at Aesthetics and Cost. By Aesthetics, I refer to the actual design of the product, whether it is Italian marble or hardwood timber flooring or ceramic tiles. Each material offers a different perception to the space, and it is up to the designer to determine what material looks best. For example, take say the Living Room; this is where the bulk of the entertainment is done, so we need to ask ourselves a series of questions to understand the lifestyle of the owner. Do you entertain regularly? Will you allow shoes? Do you want to create a look using traditional timber or natural stone? Is the space to be designed for entertainment or to create a homelier feel?
Each question looks at what kind of atmosphere you want to create, which in turn determines the type of material you will want to use. So if you tend to use the space for regular entertainment where it is an open concept, and where people walk in and out freely, I would look at a hardier material such as granite or marble instead of timber. The moment we introduce shoes and heels to timber flooring, be prepared for scuffled flooring soon.
If you are looking for a homelier feel, you may want to mix it up with timber and marble to create different areas around the home, and to soften the feel with carpets. Or if it is for investment, you need to look at the best value for money – such as marble effect tiles to give the impression of marble but at the cost of ceramic tiles. Or if you want to introduce colours to a room, you can aim for a porcelain tile finish. The uses of different materials are endless, but we need to ask ourselves what we want to use the space for and how we want to live in it. From there, we can shortlist the materials.
HOW MUCH IS IT AGAIN?
The next consideration is the cost. There is no point selecting an Italian marble when our budget is a local tile finish. Similarly, with hardwood timber flooring, there are a variety of species which determines the colour and cost. For example, Cherry Oak is significantly darker than White Oak, whereby the latter gives a more traditional design while the former gives a brighter feel to the room. And depending on your location, the cost will differ based on availability and demand.
Over the past decade, Teak Wood was the go to timber flooring for most residential houses, however, the age of teak would differ resulting in inconsistency in texture and density, which may result in warping. At that same period, white oak was a new species that was half the price of teak, but the visual outlook was significantly different from a darker brown tone to a light yellowish feel. So if we are able to be more fluid in our design and decision making, the use of white oak would have been the better choice based on cost and reliability.
As demand changes, there will be different species of hardwood that would enter the market at varying prices. Similarly, with stones such as marble and granites, we need to look at new species that have yet to be picked up by the public. For example, over the last decade, the cost of the White Ariston Italian Marble has increased 5-6 fold over the course of a few years as the demand for white stone finish has increased within the Asian region.
The decision on the price of each material will be dependent on availability, demand and design. To make the design process easier, work backwards by setting the budget and work on the different range of materials and create the aesthetics based on the palette you are given.
Finally, I want to touch on maintenance. Every kind of material requires a different treatment, else it would deteriorate quickly. For example, hardwood floor and marble require dry-mopping to reduce the amount of water, while tiles should be swept first then mopped to prevent staining. Carpets require a chemical wash every sixth months to prevent odour.
Understand the material you are using in order to take care of it. For example, Marbles are porous materials which are prone to acids and stains, so if you drop something on it, quickly wipe it off, else it may permanently stain the floor. For timber flooring, heavy usage may create dents and scuff marks, so try not to use shoes or heavy movement for such areas.
Granite is a hardy material, but when stained with oil, you may get a patchy look and the colours are limited in nature. Carpets are great for a quick soft installation, but be wary on insects and dirt. And ceramic tiles are used as a more cost-effective material; while the finishing is not as refined as you will see joint marks in between each tile, creating the impression of being cheaper, the maintenance cost is low as there is less discoloration and it is easy to clean.
So what materials do you select for your project?
Look into the 3 key factors – Cost, Look and Maintenance. Understand the nature of each material and see which ones you are comfortable with. First determine your budget, then look at what material suits the area the best. Don’t use carpets in kitchen etc. Then based on the material you have short-listed, see which works best for the space in terms of aesthetics, pattern and comfort.