Exploring the latest high-end flooring options can seem a little like entering a house of mirrors; nothing is quite what it seems. You can get tiles that look like burnished wood or natural stone, you can get granite that looks like leather, or wooden floors with marble-like inlay work. There are no longer any rules about what a particular type of flooring must look like. Quite simply, finish is king.

“Today, you have lakhs and lakhs of options in terms of finish — new innovations come in every month, from animal skin to metallic finishes,” says A. A. Vivek of Floors India.

It used to be that vitrified tiles were the only flooring type that could give you that sort of flexibility — and still perhaps gives you the widest range of options — but now, natural stones such as granite are catching up as well, says D. Venkaatesh of Cosmo Floor.

“People would go for granite only if they liked the matte look, but now, a variety of finishes are being introduced for natural stones too,” he says. “For example, you can get a honed or distressed finish, a chiselled or a broken-tooth finish or even a leather finish for granite.”

With vitrified tiles, the sky is the limit as far as the different looks it can take on. You can make it look like steel or bronze, you can give it the texture of timber or bamboo, and even of rich Italian marble. “You get tiles from Italy or Spain that give you the beautiful finish of Italian marble,” comments Vivek. “The cost is more or less the same but the maintenance is far simpler.”

That, of course, is the benefit of going for tiles that look like these other materials — timber-tiles don’t get attacked by termites, rock-like tile doesn’t attract fungus or algae etc. In fact, textile-like designer tiles can even replace your bedroom wallpaper, with finishes that mimic delicate embroidery or muted self-woven designs, and can last you a lifetime, unlike real wallpaper.

But sometimes you just want the real thing. Nothing, for instance, can replace the way smooth natural wooden flooring feels underfoot, which is why it remains a favourite with homeowners and continues to grow steadily in popularity. And here too, it’s all about different finishes for different spaces.

“For the family room, you could go for inlays — walnut with teak or walnut with ash — in the style of Victorian marble work, or perhaps golden-brushed wood to create a warm and cosy environment,” says Venkaatesh. “For the bar area, on the other hand, you can create a rugged look using distressed oak with plenty of knots.”

It doesn’t stop there. Dark-tinted timber such as smoked oak is very popular for the home theatre room (“It improves the quality of the image on screen”), and for terraces and balconies, exotic woods from the rainforests of Brazil coated with natural oils add that rustic feel.

“Today, even a middle-class household might opt for wooden flooring in at least one room — a hall or a bedroom,” comments N. Parthasarathy of Aluminart, a dealer for Pergo, the international wooden laminates brand. “We’re doing more and more homes now, with people opting for a variety of shades, from pale, light wood to dark, antique-finish oaks.”

This love for the ‘natural look’ extends even to tiles, says S.C. Charan of Vaigai

Sanitation. “Up until recently, tiles were manufactured to be carbon copies of each other,” he says. “Now the trend is for more of a natural effect, with subtle changes in patterns and shades in the tiles, adding to the depth of the room.”

And for a really high-end natural look, you can actually have your entire flooring done with pure leather. “This is one of the most exotic options — in everything from treated sheepskin to crocodile skin — that has just come to India from Spain,” says Venkaatesh.

Of course, if pure leather flooring seems a bit much, you can always go for tiles or even granite slabs that look the part. In the world of floorings and finishes, it’s all par for the course.

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