23 November, 2007

Interior Design Article Part 6 - What to Look for in Home Finishes

Last time we learnt about How to Choose Fittings and Fixtures, today we will learn about What to Look for in Home Finishes.

It is important to have an understanding of what interior finishes are, what they are used for, when and where to use them and why. The why is important, as you must always be able to justify WHY you have selected a finish or a product to use. Because "I like the look of it" is not enough. This is the part of Interior Decoration that we get accessed on, as it is what people "see." It is a complex process of continual questions that we need to ask to ensure that the product will do what we expect of it.

The best way to gain knowledge of these products is by assessing supplier and manufacturer's information and specifications. They freely distribute these and some are happy to provide samples so that you can physically compare different products. Be careful when checking for flame resistance. I once naively put a match to a small swatch of fabric to see if it could withstand flame. A split second later I had a hot black gooey melted fabric over my finger. It hurt and I came to the conclusion that the fabric was not what I was looking for and it wasn't specified for the project. It pays to read the back of the label for the properties and used their tried and tested information.

Selecting products or finishes, as discussed requires accessing their performance capabilities. The following items should be considered:

  • Economic and budgetary issues. Does the budget allow for the initial purchase cost of the material as well as the installation? Does the product require long-term maintenance, which may impact on the weekly household budget?
  • Durability considerations. Will the product withstand daily wear and tear -water spillage, foot traffic, pets, and children with artistic flair, furniture movement? Is the product able to be easily maintained? Is it easily broken, or scratched, prone to changing temperatures?
  • Safety issues. Is it slippery when wet (flooring)? Is it a fire hazard? Does it have hard or sharp edges? Does it provide a surface for glare? I.e. is it highly polished and reflective. Is the product dull and dark and impede vision without the lights on?
  • Comfort and Aesthetic considerations. Does it look great? Does it fit in with your scheme, texturally, color wise, patterned items? Does it meet the acoustic and thermal insulation requirements of the local building authority? Do the tactile properties live up to the look? I.e. is it soft to touch, silky to run your fingers over, or cool underfoot?

Keeping all these items in mind, start visiting interior stores to have your interior finishes and product knowledge increased. A way to remember the product and its properties and functions is to consider where you would put it and why, it helps to keep a notebook of these observations until you become confident with interior products and finishes available.

Always ask lots of questions to the sales staff, especially when you are considering wet areas, or areas where humidity can be a factor, for example cork is a wonderful flooring product, it is warm underfoot, a natural product, economically priced, saves glasses and crockery from breaking when dropped (most times), but it is prone to damage with water. It is sealed with polyurethane, but often moisture can get in around the edges and the tiles start to lift off the floor and it really does look messy and is dangerous, the conclusion there is, best not to use them in the bathroom, kitchen or entrance ways.

Once again the finishes that you select come down to getting a good clear brief of what you are going to be using the rooms or spaces for, the style that you are trying to achieve, the color and texture that fits these parameters and then obtaining the product for the right cost to suit your budget.

Don't forget to touch and feel all the products, make sure they are the best quality that you can afford, ensure that they will last to your expectations, and of course the most obvious, that they look good!

For information on individual products to give you a head start, I have written an ebook on interior design and decorating materials. Take a look at what it has to offer, it could save you a lot of time.

Architectaria - Architect and Planners

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