Be it solid or engineered, hardwood flooring lends a classic and elegant look to interiors. Offering rustic visuals, rich tones and unmatched characteristics, manufacturers continue to follow what’s trending in hardwood flooring to meet the needs of consumers from region to region.

What’s Trending in Hardwood?

“The market continues to trend toward longer and wider planks and random widths,” said Sara Babinski, design manager, hardwood and laminate for Armstrong Flooring. “The wide-width plank creates a sense of openness and space for a rich, sophisticated style that elevates any room décor.”

Longer and wider planks are also a better platform to showcase hardwood’s unique features and textures.

“The new trend is toward wider boards presented as naturally as possible to showcase all the natural characteristics of wood, open and closed knots and natural tone variations,” said Anne-Marie Quirion, director of communication at Boa-Franc, makers of the Mirage brand. “That’s what Mirage has captured in its 7-3/4-inch wide boards. Not only are boards wider, but they’re longer too—up to 82-inches.”

According to Quirion, longer and wider boards means fewer boards are needed for the installation, which in turn means fewer, less visible joints. The result is a dramatic, more uniform look that lets the authenticity of the wood shine through.

“The larger the plank the less they see the lines,” said Dan McMillan, Carlisle’s New York managing director. “These planks have more natural appeal and this has a tremendous impact on the space regardless of design style.”

Honing in on hardwood’s unique natural characteristics and authentic qualities, consumers continue to seek the genuine rustic look that hardwood flooring can provide.

“Rustic and distressed looks featuring mineral streaking, knots, hand-scraping and wire brushing that aim to add character also continues to rise in popularity across the country,” Babinski said. “A good example of this trend can be seen in our new TimberCuts solid and TimberBrushed engineered floors, each of which reflect the beauty of hand-crafted artisanship with abundant rustic charm and distinctive character.”

Color-wise, manufacturers are exploring new possibilities for today’s most popular shades, while revamping classic hues.

At HomerWood, grays are “hot,” according to Paul Walker, general manager of the company. A color that has made its way to the forefront of design, gray shows no indication of losing popularity any time soon when it comes to hardwood flooring.

“As far as colors go, gray remains the consumer favorite,” said Dan Natkin Sr., director of residential products for Mannington Mills. However, he notes there is a strong movement back toward natural tones.

“We are seeing browns starting to trend—not the traditional colors, these have a more contemporary look and feel,” McMillan said. “There’s a small growing segment of the market that is bringing herringbone back in the design. That segment is going to continue to grow over the next year.”

Taking color and design a step further, manufacturers are creating hardwood planks that can be mixed and matched.

“Most recently, we have had numerous requests for recommendations regarding the mixing of colors on the floor, to create a patchwork or what our designers like to call a ‘mixed up aesthetic’,” Babinski said. “In most cases, colors do not come combined in a box, but by using numerous colors from a collection, you can create a unique non-monolithic look for your favorite room.”

Regional Differences

While manufacturers are seeing some trends throughout all markets, certain trends tend to differ based on region, according to Natkin. While some trends are pervasive (ie wide/long planks), subtleties within the trend differ from region to region. “We see varying preference for smoother, less rustic looks in some areas, while others prefer heavily rustic and scraped products,” he said.

Regionally, trend differences seem to be most apparent in color choice and popularity.

“The top-selling colors in California won’t be the same as the ones in the Northeast and trends in big cities will differ from those in more rural areas,” said Quirion. “Some states take a more conservative approach to colors, with classic shades reigning supreme. People in coastal regions tend to prefer bleached, pale, and washed-look floors. In major cities, interior designers seek out trendier colors, color blends, or herringbone patterns.”

In addition to colors, textures are varying in popularity across regions as well, according to Babinski.

“Although overall colors are getting lighter—an emerging trend—there are still some regional differences with both shades as well as textures,” she said. “Scrape visuals are on trend in the Midwest and the East, with wire brush visuals following closely behind, while these styles are already on the downside of the trend out West, while lighter colors and more contemporary visuals have emerged. When you look at the far West and the Northeast, a lot of light grays combined with subtle distressing on oak and other graining species is a dominant visual. When you go to the Southwest, it’s still predominately about the scrape and distressed woods, and more of a preference to warmer browns.”

As Seen on TV (and Social Media)

So what’s driving these trends? According to the manufacturers, media is a major driving force behind hardwood flooring trends and consumer favorites.

“Hardwood flooring has been growing in popularity for years,” said Babinski. “With that said, the popularity of design shows, blogs, etc. have made design mainstream, empowering consumers with ideas, inspiration and technique.”

Design-based websites and social media platforms continue to gain popularity and help consumers decorate their interiors from the floor up—from the palms of their hands and comfort of their homes.

“We see sites like Houzz and Pinterest as primary drivers of inspiration for consumers,” Natkin said.

“Consumers increasingly utilize these sites for design inspiration, as well as shows on HGTV like ‘Fixer Upper’.”

The Retailer Still Knows Best

With the help of media’s readily available information, today’s consumers are well informed and knowledgeable before stepping foot into a store—or a showroom, in flooring’s case.

“Consumers are so much more knowledgeable now than they were 50 years ago due to information being so available and easily accessible,” McMillan said. “We see consumers selecting a higher quality product, and flooring trends are now about the best choices for both design and lifestyle.”

In addition to media, manufacturers continue to stress the importance of knowledgeable retailers being influential in consumers’ hardwood flooring shopping. Before deciding if a consumer should go with solid or engineered, smooth or rustic, neutrals or grays, high gloss or matte, manufactures suggest retailers first evaluate consumers’ lifestyles to decide what type of hardwood flooring would perform best in their homes.

“The first thing you have to do is identify what consumers are really after,” Quirion said. “Ask questions to figure out what their real needs are: do they have pets, what type of home do they have, is it a new house or a renovation? The answers to these questions provide critical insight to help you guide customers to the perfect floor for them. Keep in mind that this is a major investment that will systematically increase the value of their property.”

And while sales and profit are important, Walker suggests retailers put price to the side and make value a top priority when recommending products to consumers in the market for new hardwood flooring. “Be less price driven,” he said. “Listen to the consumer. They don’t necessary want price—they want value and style.”

Natkin refers to this process as qualifying the customer. “Qualify the consumer first—understand their needs, their lifestyle and their expectations around gloss, texture, grain and distressing,” he said. “It’s important to understand that hardness is not a good determining factor for long term performance.”