Amtico’s Bespoke Collaboration at Heriot-Watt University

British flooring manufacturer Amtico worked closely with Heriot-Watt University when it set about refurbishing Café Brio, which sits at the heart of the Edinburgh campus. Gemma Passantino, one of Amtico’s Floor Design Specialists, collaborated with the university’s Head of Hospitality Services to create a feature seating area to celebrate the university’s diverse society.

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Whatever the project, there isn’t a ‘one-size fits all’ flooring solution – and products that work well in one area may not suit the requirements of another. This is where collaborating with a manufacturer can help achieve a desired look that also takes into account the practicalities of the scheme.

When Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, the eighth oldest higher education institute in the UK, set about refurbishing Café Brio, it enlisted the help of Amtico and its Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVT). The brief was to create a vibrant flooring design to celebrate today’s diverse society, with a nod to the university’s international status and the LGBTQ+ flag. Not only would this give the space a much-needed makeover, it would also provide essential durability to withstand the heavy footfall from the 10,500 students and campus staff.

Thomas Day, the university’s Head of Hospitality Services, had previously specified Amtico LVT in another café area and was pleased with its durability. He envisioned a colourful feature floor for the new seating area and opted to use the Amtico Design Service to achieve this. Thomas says: “I had an idea to use coloured tiles to create a corridor effect on one side, with three inset areas within a parquet surround on the other; however, I could not find the right tiles to make it work as I imagined. I contacted Amtico to turn my ideas into reality.”

Floor Design Specialist Gemma Passantino, part of Amtico’s in-house team, was on-hand to collaborate with Thomas to create the final design. Gemma says: “With the brief for this project, the customer had a very clear vision – to form a ‘Pride-inspired walkway’ using Spectrum products from our Signature LVT collection. In addition, he wanted to create a feature floor for the adjacent seating area. To tie the two spaces together, I took the customer’s bold choice of Spectrum colours for the rainbow walkway and integrated them into the feature flooring. I arranged them in a bespoke version of our Pleat laying pattern to give the space a bright and vibrant feel – perfect for a university café. Pleat also has a lovely sense of movement to it, which meant the colours would flow into one another easily.”

As the design was quite bold, Gemma also produced two alternative options that were more subtle but in-keeping with the university’s brief; however, the vibrant design was the top choice for Thomas. The final layout featured a bespoke Pleat laying pattern in 13 lively Signature colours, such as royal Blue Paris and fuchsia-toned Marrakech, surrounded by Modernist Spire in a Broken Bond laying pattern to connect the design to the rainbow walkway.

Working directly with a flooring manufacturer offers numerous benefits, not only to the customer but also the installer. Amtico’s Gemma explains: “I work collaboratively with our in-house CAD department to produce technical plans based on my initial detailed proposal drawings. This helps guide the fitter and allows them to achieve the highest quality finish. As part of the Café Brio design, I ensured that each of the coloured tiles were laid centrally to the walkway, this created a clean-cut finish and made integrating the feature tiles more straightforward for the installer.”

Commenting on the process, Thomas adds: “Amtico’s design and sales teams were very supportive and made the installation, in partnership with the flooring contractor, seamless and stress-free. The ease, acclimation and projected longevity of this project means we are actively looking for the next area to refresh and revitalise, while making flooring something more than just a surface to walk on. Amtico enabled us to make the floor part of the destination.”

And Amtico’s thoughts? “We’re incredibly pleased with the outcome and response to the new flooring,” says Gemma. “The overall appearance is striking and eye-catching; it remains youthful and contemporary, which is important for a university café. It perfectly showcases what is possible with product and pattern combinations in a large, multifunctional space.”

Of course, collaboration is more than just creating stunning floors. It is also about finding the most suitable products for the customer, their vision and space. Gemma continues: “It’s important for us to really understand what a client wants to achieve; once we know this, it’s easier to integrate the right products and ranges in the combinations most suited to their scheme. Depending on how specific the brief is, there are quite a few other points that should also be taken into account when creating a design. For instance, who will be using the space and how, as well as the manner in which they will interact with or move through it. In addition, we also need to consider the practicalities of the existing interior design and if it’s going to be retained or refurbished, plus any requirements for acoustic or other technical specifications, such as safety flooring, that will guide the choice of product.”

This is where the expertise of a manufacturer’s in-house creative and CAD teams is invaluable, especially when it comes to LVT. Advanced knowledge of the product range and cutting capabilities is essential, as these can be utilised should a client’s brief include an intricate bespoke design. Whether it is an eye-catching logo, or a bespoke laying pattern, a manufacturer can also advise on product choice and suitable finishes to fulfil a project’s requirements.

Given there is so much potential – and many elements to consider – working with a flooring manufacturer can help bring ideas to life. Ultimately, it really comes down to utilising the best products and design possibilities to create the right experience for the user.

To find out more about Amtico’s collaboration project with Heriot-Watt University, click here.

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About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
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