Two years ago, Oli and I bought and moved into our first real home—a four bedroom, three bathroom single family home in East Palo Alto (EPA), California. I was really excited about this house because, when we bought it, it was still under construction and we could pick a few of the finishings—flooring, cabinet colors (but not style), counter tops, carpets, and bathroom tiles. I had so much fun talking with interior designers and thinking about color schemes, countertops (marble vs granite vs quartz), and types of flooring (hardwood vs manufactured wood etc). However, since our house was part of a development with an HOA, there were certain constraints and many things we couldn’t control. So, we’re really excited that we get to do this all over again when we move to Mauritius, except this time we get full creative control!
We are building a second level on top of our current house in Mauritius (where my in-laws live) which will have three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and a private entrance way (up a flight of external steps, so it’s technically a separate unit). We’ve had architectural plans approved, city permits granted, and the contractors have started laying the foundations.
At the request of our contractor, I’ve started compiling albums of interior designs that I find beautiful and inspiring and, as we get closer to the project’s completion, I can start selecting the interior finishings (side note: Oli largely defers to me on matters of interior design, though I always run things by him, and we are almost always on the same page). Below is my top pick for flooring, which is where I always start (and as I do more research on other areas—kitchen cabinets and countertops, wall colors, windows and doors, living and dining area furniture etc—I’ll share as I go along).
I’m a sucker for a solid hardwood floors. There’s just something about its appearance—those unexpected knots, that natural texture, the unique organic grains that make no two panels alike—that I find so appealing. I grew up in a neighborhood of historic New Zealand colonial cottages and villas with beautifully restored hardwood floors that have been around for over a hundred years. Hardwood floors are timeless and durable, and they lend a warmth and a charm to a home like no other architectural element.
When we started thinking about the type of flooring we wanted to have in our Mauritius home, we realized that hardwood flooring would not be a viable option. For one, hardwood floors are uncommon in Mauritius, for good reason. It’s difficult to source, prohibitively expensive, and therefore a pain to maintain. I wonder, too, if the climate has something to do with it—Mauritius has a very warm climate and, like many other places with warm climates, tile flooring seems to be the most popular choice. Tile floors are cooler than wooden floors, they’re also typically less expensive and easier to maintain. So, we’ve opted for ceramic tile flooring. It turns out that they now make tile flooring that looks like hardwood—grains, knots, and all!— which I think is very cool. Here are the examples we sent our contractor (again, these are tiles that look like hardwood!):
Another consideration is eco-friendliness. The most sustainable floors include bamboo and cork, but I don’t think those are viable options for us (and I’m not particularly drawn to them anyway). Hardwood floors don’t make the top of the eco-friendly list due primarily to deforestation concerns, but there are some relatively sustainable hardwood flooring options (such as hardwood sourced from FSC*-certified forests, or using reclaimed hardwood). Ceramic tile is not all that eco-friendly because, while the raw material (clay) is plentiful, it is not considered a renewable resource (it takes millions of years for clay to build up). However, you can find tiles that are primarily made up of recycled materials (like old tiles or glass). Ceramic tile also requires more energy and, potentially, more chemical processing to manufacture than, say, hardwood flooring.
I was 4 months pregnant when we moved into our EPA home, and extremely anxious about the off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from all the new building materials, paints, adhesives, and other chemicals used in construction. To speed up the off-gassing process (which can take years!), we would blast the heater on high through the night (we were still living in our rental home at the time) and then open up all the windows in the morning to release the chemicals that had seeped (drawn out by the heat) from the walls and floors overnight (the quickest, but perhaps not the most cost-effective, way to do it). We also invested in a heavy-duty air purifier (seriously, the thing was a tank!) and installed thick-leafed indoor plants in most of the rooms (natural air purifiers!). I really don’t want to have to go through all that worry again, but I know that some off-gassing is inevitable in a new home (one of the upsides of buying an older house is no or only minimal off-gassing). Since floors account for more surface area than anything else in a house (expect the walls), they have an outsized impact on indoor air quality. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate this in the flooring manufacturing and installation process. For example, glazed ceramic tiles are inert (meaning they don’t give off nasty chemicals) and setting tiles in cement, rather than using an adhesive, is probably the most acceptable floor in terms of indoor air quality.
One thing I learned from decorating our EPA home is that dark floors make a space look smaller. While I still prefer darker wood stains to lighter ones, I realize that in some spaces it just doesn’t work. Our current (EPA) kitchen/dining room is relatively small and gets very little natural light, particularly in the darker winter months. I wish now that I had gone for a hardwood that was a shade or two lighter. Hindsight = perfect 20/20 vision.
As you can see from the examples above, we are going for very light colored tiles for our Mauritius home. Not only will this open up the living spaces, but it will also enhance all the natural light that we hope to have (we’re installing lots of big windows and floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors and capitalizing on the fact that we’ll be on the second floor!). I’m also leaning towards tiles with a more yellow/cream (warmer) undertone, rather than the grey/ash (cooler) undertone that seems to be very trendy right now. I just find the yellow/cream undertone more inviting. Overall, we are going for a “bright” and “airy” look that is fitting for an island-paradise home.
Hi! I'm Flo
In January 2018, my husband and I set ourselves a pretty epic New Years resolution—to move to Mauritius! We would be relocating from the San Francisco Bay Area to the tropical island paradise of Mauritius, half way around the world, with our toddler in tow.
My husband, Oliver, is a native Mauritian (I'm from New Zealand) and part of our desire to move to Mauritius was to be closer to extended family as we looked towards growing our own. Oliver is also a "techpreneur" and we are discovering exciting opportunities to bolster the burgeoning tech industry in Mauritius. My own background is in public health and, in this arena too, there are endless opportunities to connect, create, and make an impact.
I created this blog as a space where I could document and share my family's big move—from my own perspective, as a mommy in Mauritius. I'd also like to use this platform to engage with other moms, starting with mommies right here in Mauritius. I envision an active community of moms, both online at Mommy In Mauritius and offline, sharing their passions, experiences, stories, skills, and knowledge.
Thank you for joining us on our adventure!