• Rob Weems of Solid Floor

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Q&A: Rob Weems

The co-owner of Solid Floor on listed buildings, preventing deforestation, and how flooring is the foundation of your home in more ways than one

Interview: Ellie Costigan
Image: Orlando Gili

How did you come to work at Solid Floor?
My business partner, Eelke Jan Bles, set up Solid Floor in 1997. Eelke is a friend of mine and was looking to expand the business, so I joined in 2003. Prior to that I was working in PR, nothing to do flooring. We have two central London offices: Marylebone and Notting Hill. I basically run the business day-to-day and Eelke is the creative drive.

What do you do?
Mainly timber floors, but rugs and carpets too. The most popular in the UK is oak, but we have well over 200 choices of finish: different textures, colours, varnish, we do reclaimed look floors. It’s all bespoke—we have created a lot of finishes in response to customers. If they’re looking for a new colour or a particular touch, we go away and develop it. We’re really into colour and texture. If you want a bog standard oak floor, you wouldn’t come to us.

Where does the wood come from?
We have two companies we work with in the Netherlands, the centre of excellence for timber floors. We do some rarer PP63breed woods such as walnut, maple, cherry, and some South American and African woods too. Everything we sell is either FSC or PDFC certified which means it’s all from certified, managed forests.

Our partners in South America have their own forest. The indigenous people work on the land, providing them an income, and there’s a whole process to prevent deforestation. They plant more than they take down. If we just tore trees down, we’d run out of trees very quickly!

What about the carpet side of things?
When people are buying flooring it makes it easier for them to be able to choose the runner for the staircase, rugs for the living room, carpet for the bedrooms at the same time. We have a very international market and we’ve noticed British people tend to want wooden flooring in the living space and kitchen, then carpet upstairs and in the bedrooms. Europeans like wood everywhere. We just like to cover all bases. Again, it’s all made to order.

Rob Weems of Solid Floor

How long does it take?
We take care of the whole thing, from start to finish. People normally come to see us at the showroom where we’ll show them samples, maybe have a few made for them to take home. They then take all the measurements, gather architectural plans, get all the details and we will put together a quote. Once they’re happy, it takes about six weeks for us to get the floor made and shipped to the UK. It depends on the size of the room, but the post-sale process takes about three months.

That can’t be cheap—will my floor last?
It’s a big decision—after the cost of the kitchen, it’s the second biggest expense when refurbishing a house so people need to be confident they’re getting a well-made, quality product, properly installed.

Once a floor is installed it can be there for the lifespan of the property. It’s a real resource and can add value to a property. It develops character with age; the colour changes, mellows, picks up character. It can look just as beautiful, if not more so, 100 years later.

You also do engineered floors. What are the advantages of that?
Solid floor will absorb moisture and expand, then when you have the heating on it can get very dry, which tends to create movement and can cause gaps in the floor. With an engineered floor you don’t have that problem at all. It’s much more stable. You’d have to use engineered flooring if you wanted heated flooring, for example. But it’s so well made now, you can’t even tell the difference.

What sort of problems do you face in Marylebone?
A very live issue is acoustics between apartments. You don’t want to hear your neighbours clomping around, but we can supply and install an acoustic package. We might have to create a structure to level a transition from one room to another, or in a lot of London properties the floor sags, so we might need to correct that.

Listed buildings can cause some complications because there are very strict rules about what we can remove and add, but 90 per cent of the time we’re able to do something to make it work. We assess every property at the start of the project, so we will always check out all the issues first.

I bet you see some nice houses...
I get to go into some amazing properties and work with some really interesting clients. We don’t like to advertise it too much, but we’ve done flooring for Tony Blair, Madonna’s Marylebone mansion, Noel Gallagher when he had his flat round the corner. We work with some great interior designers too, and what’s really good is a lot of them have our floors in their own homes. We like to think that speaks volumes about its quality.

Is that the best part of your job?
Sometimes we go to a house that looks really dowdy and cramped, then we go back at the end and it’s open plan, beautifully lit—you see a home develop, a real transformation. It’s great to be a part of that process. A home should feel comfortable and you should be able to use the space as you want to use it. Part of that means getting the floor right.

The floor isn’t a piece of furniture, it’s not meant to make a statement, but it’s the foundation of everything. If someone lives in a Georgian house, we can find a floor that will look like it would have done in Georgian times. Equally, if they want to make it really modern we will help them choose a floor that will add to that. That’s the most exciting part of the job.