Elementary schools are more fun now with appropriate graphics on the floors, in this instance executed with Mannington Commercial VCT. This type of design element can be worked in a child's bedroom or playroom, as well. Photo courtesy of Mannington Commercial

Whenever I glance through various magazines, I'm always stopped by any photo of an interior with a striking design in the floor. Be it carpet, vinyl, wood, tile, or stone, nothing shows a commitment to a beautifully designed interior than an individually designed floor.

But when I visit floor covering stores, I find examples of specialty floor designs to be few and far between. Instead, I typically see solid-colored, monochromatic floors with no pizzazz. It doesn't have to be that way.

Today, a monochromatic design doesn't necessarily have to be dull. You can find monochromatic-looking floor coverings but, if you look closely, you will see subtle variations in color and design. And a lot of these patterns and designs were meant to be combined to create the pizzazz I'm talking about.

We've all seen this kind of pizzazz in actual installations, but how often have we seen similar examples in showrooms as idea generators for your customers? If you remember the demographics of the Baby Boom Generation, you're aware that they like to have things that are personalized to their environment - in other words, they want individualized creations made just for them. What better way to spice up your sales - and profits - than by showing them how to do just that.

Room-sized medallions represent a beautiful way to highlight an installation. Some manufacturers have stock items available that can be combined with plank products. Photo courtesy of Historic Floors of Oshkosh.

Let's start with carpet, because the mixing of colors and patterns has long been the norm for this product category. Something as simple as bordering adds excitement to a carpet installation.

By producing coordinated products, today's manufacturers have made it easy to play the mix-and-match game. Many commercial installations lend themselves to these coordinated products.

The next time you're on vacation, stop to look closely at the carpet in the hotel in which you're staying. It's been a long-standing practice to border hallways in hotels. But today, you will probably see complementary patterns in the hallways instead of just a plain border with a patterned field. If you look closely at other areas in hotels, you'll see combined patterns in the restaurants, lobby, meeting rooms, and ballrooms. Generally speaking, such carpet designs are all coordinated by design or color scheme.

Today, you'll also find this concept expanded to include proprietary designs, patterns or even logos. What fun for kids to see their ABCs, or their numbers, emblazoned on the floor.

Many other commercial installations have picked up on the specialty design concept. Schools and hospitals have been using the idea as a way-finding aid for visitors and occupants. Certain colors make it easy to find one's way through a large commercial building or to identify the means of exit. The same concept works in residential housing, as well.

A unified color scheme can be executed with various types of patterns or weaves in the carpet. Some manufacturers, such as Mannington, offer attractive packages of hard- and soft-surface floors created with complementary colors and design. This really makes it easy to raise floors from the dull and ordinary to the realm of the tastefully decorated.

Mixing ceramic tile formats and styles is a highly effective means of creating individualized floor designs. Photo courtesy of Shaw Industries.
Wood floors

While strip wood floors have been making a comeback in recent years, the addition of borders and medallions is the real news in this product segment. With prefinished floors accounting for more than half of the wood flooring being sold today, many manufacturers now offer a line of pre-assembled borders usually made from the more exotic species of woods.

These have become so popular that some firms, like Historic Floors of Oshkosh, now manufacture prefinished borders and matching medallions. In fact, Historic Floors of Oshkosh supplies 14 matching medallion/border combinations. Vice President of Marketing Dick Norton reports that roses are his company's best-selling motif, just as they are in many other lines of products.

Manufacturers also have solved the dilemma of how to install medallions - even in prefinished floating floors. Previously, medallions were confined to entry foyers. But now, we're seeing them situated in front of fireplaces, on stair landings, as a transition between rooms, or even in a room-sized format. By employing matching medallions and borders, adjoining rooms can be tied together.

By commingling various species, the look of a wood "area rug" can be achieved. Increasing numbers of people are using a border to enclose parquet, or are running the field floor on the diagonal within the border to define areas within a room, such as a dining area or a conversation area. Certainly, this is one idea that combines beauty with function! Many installations mirror an existing element - such as a stained-glass motif, a balustrade design or even a fabric pattern - within the furniture. Duplicating such a design in a flooring inset helps bring all the elements of the room into perfect harmony!

It's worth noting that custom jobs like these today account for 20% of all orders.

Modular-sized tiles can be used to create very unique patterns in a floor. This design was executed in quarry tiles, but is reminiscent of older mosaic designs. Photo courtesy of Quarry Tile Co.

While it may be a little tougher to mix patterns and colors in laminate floors, it can be done. Most manufacturers offer a line of wood planks along with patterns that resemble tile, marble, slate, stone, and abstract designs.

While the tendency may be to install a floor with just one pattern, you can mix and match species and colors here, too. Why not introduce a border from the tile collections? Or try inserting a block of tile in a running course of wood planks? You can achieve some of the same results that can be executed in hardwood installations, but at a lower price point.

Laminate flooring, which can duplicate the look of materials ranging from ceramic and stone to wood grains, lends itself to custom configurations such as this. Photo courtesy of Wilsonart Flooring.
Resilient floors

Thanks to the unprecedented economic growth of that last decade, vinyl floor covering designers have been looking for something different to add to their product lines. Hence, fresh colors and styles have appeared throughout the market.

The design industry has responded by using the products in innovative ways. Probably not since the 1950s have we seen such interesting designs in vinyl installations. Vibrant hues that tie into carpet colors, and innovative cuts and installation designs, have all been made possible with these new designs.

In addition, aluminum oxide finishes and thicker wear layers have made resilient floors more durable, thus attracting the attention of designers and facility managers who, in turn, have begun specifying the products with increasing frequency. Pity the poor walls as they look on with jealous envy!

This brings me back to my initial point: If you want to attract buyers to your store, show them something that captures their attention. Show them beautifully designed installations that will stimulate profitable sales for your business.