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Marmoleum - designing with Linoleum

Linoleum is a 160-year-old innovation.

What makes this material special is its scope for endless new possibilities. One of the challenges our Design studio faces, is identifying these possibilities and translating them into a new visual that is in-keeping with the modern zeitgeist.

designing with linoleum

What goes into designing linoleum? A seemingly straightforward question, but designing linoleum — that is, our Marmoleum — is more complex than one might think.

designing with linoleum

Raw materials

designing with linoleum



Design is often strongly associated with colour and texture. Whilst these aspects do indeed play an important role in the development of a new Marmoleum collection, it may come as a surprise to know that there are in fact a multitude of disciplines involved in Marmoleum design.

Marmoleum’s aesthetic is inextricably linked to its production process, raw materials, the ratios in which these are used and their treatment. These elements combined determine the product’s appearance. Considering a new design from this perspective requires close collaboration with a variety of linoleum experts in multi-disciplinary teams.

Colour materialised

A deeper level of knowledge of the material is needed for translating a colour concept into linoleum material. The properties of the natural materials used in linoleum directly influence the final colour achieved.

For example, a pure white linoleum is impossible to achieve, because linoleum that has not yet had any pigment added to it is naturally yellowy-gold in colour. This basic material ‘cookie’ turns a shade darker if the recipe contains cork dust instead of wood flour, for instance.

These differences affect how a colour transpires in the end product. Colour runs all through linoleum, making it rich and deep. Linoleum has the gift of being able to make an abstract colour concept tangible in surprisingly appealing ways. Colour is materialised, as it were.


Linoleum granulate

designing with linoleum

Linoleum colour samples

Challenged by trends

Trends identified by our designers can be the impetus to go one step beyond a new colour scheme, leading to an adjustment to the linoleum recipe, or even the production process.

In the past, the design studio has experimented with wood flour from different tree species, for example. The idea on that occasion was to create a Marmoleum collection whereby the wood flour colours acted as a kind of ‘pigment’ to form a colour spectrum.

Beyond the usual

Besides variations on existing raw materials, more radical interventions might include adding new ‘non-standard’ linoleum raw materials.

In 2010, inspired by the then emerging upcycling trend, the Design and R&D departments began researching how to incorporate natural industrial waste materials into linoleum. The result was our ‘Marmoleum Cocoa’ collection.

designing with linoleum

Marmoleum Cocoa

designing with linoleum

Cocoa husks

Luck favors the alert mind

By pooling knowledge and performing small-scale tests alongside R&D colleagues, space is created for new directions within the design process. The challenge lies in recognising the value in an unexpected outcome, but also in convincing others of the same.

It’s all about timing
In addition to the raw materials listed above, there are a number of other factors in the production process that influence Marmoleum’s appearance. The rollers used to press the linoleum granules onto the jute backing are one example.

Recently, a previous idea for thinner, more flexible linoleum was taken up again. The thinness of the material makes the woven backing visible and tangible in the linoleum, giving it a new dimension.

Timing is crucial in any innovation. No matter how great an idea is, if there is no demand for it at the time, it will be of no value. Linoleum experiments can be waiting years for the momentum needed for them to be developed further.

Conversation piece

Linoleum samples make an idea concrete, and can be used as a conversation piece for both internal and external evaluations. A concept will be considered in terms of manufacturing feasibility, how future-proof the design is and how it fits into a collection. These discussions then provide more substance for the story that will be told around the collection.

A new Marmoleum design is developed on the back of a certain demand, which may hark back to a segment, target group, region or trend.
For example, we are seeing an increasing need for more of a residential feel in public buildings. Marmoleum, with its material expression, can offer a solution to this, as can the choice of a specific colour scheme.

flexible linoleum

Flexible linoleum

colour scheme

Marmoleum colour selection

Dynamics of a building

As interior design continues to evolve, over time, we are seeing a strong shift in segment design. Whereas previously, there was uniformity in the design of hospitals - which would look like hospitals - and offices - which would be designed to look the way a place of work was expected to look - now, public buildings can have a variety of atmospheres.

This change in perspective has inspired the Forbo design team to develop a colour framework based on the various types of interaction that can take place within a building.

Unity within diversity

Five key themes, each with their own colour scheme, represent a starting point for the Forbo Design team when creating new collections. Through the use of an overarching colour framework, a natural and strong connection is created between the various Forbo flooring products. Thus offering a balanced and complete portfolio that is perfectly aligned with the modern zeitgeist.

dynamics of a building

Moodboard concentrating

designing with linoleum

Moodboard moving