There was a time when a basket weave design such as the one seen here involved a costly and labor intensive installation. As the process has evolved and technology has improved, many manufacturers are now offering prefinished product that creates a custom look that is much easier to install. They also usually offer a full warranty.

Consumers can now more easily add a creative touch to their floor using a prefinished border or medallion. In some instances, (such as the foyer pictured) the inserted design adds a subtle complement to the floor.
With today's ever-changing lifestyles and trends, wood flooring is becoming a segment that is continuing to evolve to meet consumer demands for a non-traditional wood floor. In essence, this creates a window of opportunity for retailers and flooring contractors to do something out of the ordinary and not simply install a traditional strip wood floor. What's even nicer is that the consumer is willing to invest in a floor that is not traditional. Manufacturers and retailers today are recognizing this factor as a growing segment and are listening.

With a little creativity and communication with the consumer, ideas are becoming a reality and, in essence, a personal work of art can be created and displayed as a fully functional floor that is unique and fitting to what the consumer is looking for.

As consumers continue to drive demand, manufacturers of wood flooring are responding by creating an array of products that are far from the ordinary. And with ever-improving technology, factory-finished products are becoming available to meet consumers' demand for something personal and unique.

One of the most rapidly growing segments within the wood flooring category is that of handcrafted floors. What used to be a time-consuming process of installing an unfinished strip or plank floor and then having a flooring contractor hand scrape or distress the entire floor to create a custom look has evolved into a prefinished product that wood flooring manufacturers are producing, finishing and offering with a full warranty. The end result is a variety of wood flooring choices that are handcrafted and meet the consumers' preference for something different but still affordable.

A second category that continues to offer consumers the ability to purchase a prefinished floor and make it their own is the ability to add a prefinished border or medallion to the installation. With ever-improving technology in production and finishes, the manufacturers of borders and medallions have the ability to prefinish their products to the specifications of the prefinished wood flooring.

There are a couple of things to remember when considering this type of application. Communication is key not only with the consumer but also with the manufacturer of the borders and medallions. A few key things are recommended when considering the addition of borders or medallions to a prefinished wood floor. Specifically:

1. Is the border or medallion a stock product or a special-order type? The time required to manufacture one vs. the other can greatly vary.

2. If the consumer has chosen to add a border, make sure when placing the order that you always send a room diagram to verify the lengths, corner requirements and proper cutting allowance.

3. Send sample pieces of the factory-finished flooring material to the manufacturer of the borders or medallions to ensure that the finished border or medallion is sanded to the proper thickness and the gloss level of the finish works with that of the wood flooring chosen.

4. Again, use a drawing of the room with the material chosen to verify the products' location and type. Before beginning the actual installation, do a layout of the border or medallion to allow the consumer to make a final decision as to the location prior to installation.

Other insert designs (including the living room pictured) create a bold contrast that enlivens the room.

A third category to consider is the use of wood flooring products that are manufactured, designed and finished to make specific patterns and designs that don't require any special tools or devices for installation. One of the simplest patterns is that of a herringbone type of product that can cover an entire floor or be simply an insert into another floor. In addition to a herringbone, there are many types of specialty parquet-type floors that are unique patterns or patterns duplicated from existing wood parquet patterns that date back to centuries ago.

Another idea to consider is that of using multiple species that are prefinished, or to simply use products of various colors. One of the simplest is that of an accent strip to offset the direction of one room to another, or to create a pattern within the floor simply by alternating colors or directions. One of my favorite ways to work with the same product while using a different color is to use light and dark colors. One way is to do a centerpiece in a room using a dark color - for example in a dining room - and then the surrounding area becomes a border that is either lighter in color or a different species. Doing this type of design creates an area that draws attention to the room and gives the consumer something unique and different that can really help to showcase a special room.

A thing to remember when working with a consumer to create a floor that is, in a sense, a work of art is that you are only limited by imagination. With the products available today, there is a broad palette of options to choose from and, with the ever-growing break from what was once deemed traditional, the possibilities are endless.

Consumers want a product that can, in a sense, be "one of a kind" or simply an expression of who they are. The end result is a consumer who found what she was looking for. And you gain the ability to increase profits and grow as a retailer specializing in not just selling a wood floor but selling a work of art that becomes, in a sense, an investment on the customer's part.

Finally, remember that the best way to show what you and your organization are capable of is to create a showroom that shows off the talent and creativity of your employees.