It may not catch your eye as quickly as furniture or artwork, but flooring influences the look and feel of an entire home. "It creates an immediate impact," says designer Mark Brunetz, who runs his own Beverly Hills-based design firm and co-hosts the Style Network's "Clean House" series. How to choose the best flooring option for your home? "Think of the function of the room and how you want to live," Brunetz says. Here, he offers suggestions on how to create the right mood:
Starting point: Brunetz suggests looking at the room as an environment with six surfaces: four walls, the ceiling and the floor. That last element establishes the architectural foundation, the color palette and your sense of style.
Stone: Some materials, such as stone, are suitable for every room. For the midcentury Palm Springs home pictured here, Brunetz tiled the home's entry, living room, dining room, kitchen and guest baths in travertine. He then installed a tight-weave, neutral-colored carpeting in the three bedrooms. Stone flooring is ideal for desert homes because it retains cooler temperatures from the sub-flooring and keeps the house comfortable in summer months. If you want the look of stone but don't have the budget, Brunetz suggests ceramic or porcelain tiles.
Woods: Natural hardwoods are a fine choice, of course -- "a good investment because they will last as long as you maintain them," Brunetz says. He also likes new wood laminates that are more sophisticated than laminates of the past. Don't forget to install a sound-dampening underlay for cushion, Brunetz says, and be wary of unnatural repeats in pattern.
Carpet tiles: The key to using modular flooring such as carpet tiles, Brunetz says, is to make sure you maximize their effect. "Create a pattern," he says. "Otherwise it will look like the office."
Leather: Leather tiles are a high-end trend. Although expensive, the material can create a soft and sexy look for a library, sitting room or study. "If you want that rich cognac colored look, you can evoke that with leather tiles," the designer says.
Layering: Area rugs add depth and warmth to a space. They can define a conversational area or allow you to introduce a different color to your palette.
Experiment: One funkier option that Brunetz suggests: stripping the floors and painting them a high-gloss white. The key is baby steps. "You want to make sure that you bring all the samples home and see how they live in your space," he says.
Flow: Try to maintain similar flooring in the central part of the house, including stairs coming off of the main floor. Cohesive flooring in adjacent rooms will create the illusion that the house is larger than it actually is. If the goal is to introduce a different look, it should be in what Brunetz calls a destination room -- the last room you encounter, one that doesn't flow into another space. This might be a guest bedroom, a media room or a study. Brunetz likes to create something unexpected in such spaces. "It's about look and feel," he says. "What is the room's purpose?"