The installers of thie floor, which features prefinished maple hardwood and a black border strip, executed a design created by the customer. The installation went on to win in the Prefinished category of the 2000 NWFA Floor of the Year Awards.
Whether we like it or not, design is undoubtedly one of the most influential factors a consumer considers prior to finalizing any sale of substance. This becomes even more of an issue when purchasing products such as new floor coverings. Consumers expect a reasonable mix of quality and design in exchange for their disposable incomes. Further complicating matters for our industry is the fact that floor covering purchases are still viewed as non-essential - even frivolous - by many conservative buyers.

Without question, our invitation to the customer to purchase a new hardwood flooring product must include more than just another bargain-basement price. Color, with a particular accent on design, motivates consumers to make buying decisions. Today's dealer/contractor showrooms are blanketed with "me too" floor covering products that are, at best, only marginally more distinctive than those available at the home center store down the street.

I am sure that you've heard the question, "Is the dog wagging the tail or is the tail wagging the dog?" If you, as a dealer/contractor, hope to leave your own distinctive, personal mark on the installation, you'll need to leave the comfort and confinement of your own self-constructed dog house, jump the fence and dash for greener pastures where you can truly expand your horizons. In other words, you'll need to think outside the box in terms of flooring design. Otherwise, you might as well apply for a lifetime membership with your local kennel club.

Can you imagine where Michelangelo would be if had decided to paint the Sistine Chapel with ceiling white? I'll tell you where - nowhere. Creativity may not be the birthright of every installer in the hardwood flooring industry, but it remains a career-enhancing elective for those who are willing to pursue the disciplines of design.

Installers in the hardwood flooring industry typically fall into one of two very distinct categories. There are those that "do," and those that "don't." Unfortunately, a good number of wood floor installers tend to become complacent once they become comfortable with the day-to-day requirements of basic hardwood flooring installations. The phrase "you reap what you sow" keenly applies to this self-inflicted complacency, particularly once the installer realizes how such an attitude limits the bounty of his own "annual harvest."

If you're a dealer or a contractor who employs installers, it's imperative that you thoroughly evaluate the caliber of your installation workforce and gauge each individual's level of expertise. Once you complete this evaluation, utilize the leverage of installation expertise that you may have been ignoring until now.

Today's hardwood flooring market has become extraordinarily diversified. Often, consumers will be putty in your hands in terms of their receptiveness to your suggestion that they consider a bold, rather than basic, hardwood installation. Obviously, the spread between these two completely different types of installation affords the consumer personal input to the designing process. You should be open to their suggestions and stress your ability to comply with their requests.

For your efforts, you'll undoubtedly add to the job's bottom line. Outlining potential design upgrades for the consumer allows you the opportunity to focus the dialogue on the characteristics of the installation instead of price. This also allows you to establish a "comfort zone" in the client's mind relative to your expertise and knowledge of what the consumer perceives as a complicated installation.

As important as technical skills are, establishing a personal and caring relationship with any potential customer is vital. Such relationships can form a solid foundation that the dealer/contractor can rely on, for decades, to withstand periods of adversity. Never underestimate the power of making a good first impression on the customer.

As with any sales presentation, be prepared to respond when invited to do so. Any successful floor show requires eye-catching props to generate interest and questions on the part of the consumer. If properly you place and creatively display examples of custom wood floor design throughout your showroom, the customer, at the very least, might comment on how interesting they are. Remember, the typical customer is wary of cost and probably set out initially intending to find the lowest available price for product and installation.

There are effective ways of up-selling even a price-obsessed consumer. Consider how it's done in the apparel industry. For instance, where would a white dress shirt be without a colorful eye-catching tie, or a pair of trousers without an attractive new belt, or even shoes without stylish socks? All these items are functional separately, but they look their best when worn with accenting accessories.

Traditionally, hardwood flooring installations with strong design components usually related to unfinished products that require job site sanding and finishing. But this is an outdated presumption in this day and age. Today's prefinished hardwood products readily lend themselves to flooring design concepts straight from the manufacturer's carton. A couple cartons of Brazilian cherry co-mingled with traditional prefinished red oak plank or strip can produce stunning installation results in the consumer's eyes.

A simple band of another species installed around the hearth of the fireplace or, better yet, a "feature strip" laid approximately 18 inches from the wall line will demonstrate your design expertise and give you competitive leverage over the dealer/contractor who limits himself to run-of-the-mill installations.

As we all know, even in a basic installation, two floors can never be exactly duplicated. Mother Nature is incapable of cloning. Designing is just another way you can say "thank you" to her for supplying such a wonderful resource and allowing you the opportunity to enhance the look of her creation.

Without question, the design possibilities are unlimited. Unfortunately, far too many wood floor professionals fail to address the design potential of the product. This is sometimes due to a lack of confidence in the sales presentation, the skill level of the installer or both. One thing is for sure when it comes to developing your hardwood design potential: you'll never know what you can do unless you try.

Doing so can also enhance your satisfaction in your work by allowing you to exercise your own individual creativity. Unlike a puzzle that can only come together as intended when its component pieces they are placed in a predetermined configuration, an installation of design affords the assembler the luxury of choice to alter each and every piece of wood if so desired.

Wood or Wood Knot invites you to be our guest at the "house of design." But you'd just better hurry. You can never tell when we might be forced to post the "no vacancy" sign.