A unique way to install a plain planked floor is to divide the area into squares or rectangles, similar to how terrazzo is installed.

I love hardwood floors. They’re warm and inviting and, with today’s superb finishes, they’re also easy to care for. These are not your grandmother’s hardwood floors!

When you include the exotic species that have entered the market, contemporary hardwood floors are available in practically infinite variety. Sales in this category are up. And because almost every retailer carries the product, the consumer has an easy time finding the merchandise.

But the word that far too often comes to my mind when I walk into many floor covering stores is boring. When it comes to how the product is displayed, I rarely see much in the way of imagination. And by keeping their presentations so mundane, a lot of retailers are missing an opportunity -- an opportunity not only for a sale, but for a trade-up sale.

What I see in almost every store is a rack. By now, you all know I’m less than enthusiastic about racks, so I won’t beat a dead horse. In a few more instances, you might see a section of the showroom floor with a display of hardwood. But what I find in many of these display sections is a larger exhibit of what is already on the display rack. I realize the consumer wants to see a larger section of flooring, but wouldn’t it be even more effective to incorporate some design ideas into those larger sections?

It’s not that hard to accomplish. Instead of another larger run of 3-inch planks, why not show a little pizzazz. There are numerous ways to do so. Consider the following:

  • Planks can be installed on a 45-degree angle.
  • Colors can be combined to create a stripe effect.
  • Planks can be laid in a herringbone design (some manufacturers even offer the component pieces pre-cut).
  • Borders can be created by combining two colors and different-sized stripes.
  • Medallions can be inserted.
  • A pre-cut border can be added.
  • Several different-sized planks can be combined in one display.
  • Planks can be mixed with parquet squares.
  • Bevel-edged planks can be combined with straight-edged planks, not only to illustrate the difference, but also to show an interesting design element.
  • Custom-made logos can be displayed to demonstrate your ability to offer the customer something unique.
  • Parquet, borders and medallions can be used together.
  • Experiment with dividing a simple display of planked flooring into large square sections -- like the way terrazzo is installed.
  • Commit one large room to hardwood floors, combining all your wonderful designs into one floor. (Hint: do not clutter the floor with racks.)

By combining large segments of wood flooring in one room, as Prairieview, La.-based Crescent Hardwood Supply does, your customers can get a better idea of what their choice of floor will look like in their home. A variety of installations will help inspire ideas and trade-up possibilities.
There -- your first 13 ideas to work on! Was that hard? It shouldn’t have been. I merely referred to past issues of flooring and designer show house magazines to come up with some of these ideas. Some were sparked by elements of installations that won design awards, which can be a particularly inspiring source of ideas.

Using examples of what design winners advocate is a very wise thing to do. These ideas are usually on the cutting edge. The people who are using them are most often known in their selling areas as design leaders. They have great repeat business and wonderful referrals from satisfied customers.

The same can be said for designer show houses. Designers who demonstrate their expertise in this medium are really showing how creative they can be. When they work for hire, the ultimate decision on how the project looks at completion is at the discretion of the client. But in a show house setting, designers are able to work without any limitation. They usually take on a show house project to illustrate how creative and cutting edge they can be. It’s their showroom! They’re putting their best foot forward to show perspective clients how innovative they can be.

Does your showroom show your customers how innovative you can be? Are you showing the latest in materials and design ideas for your customer? Will the customer come into your store and be WOWED? Or will they simply be unimpressed with your ability to be the leader in design and creative installation? Will they walk to your nearest competitor and buy there?

Don’t forget to highlight the latest in cutting-edge materials. Do you have examples of exotic wood species for your customers to view? Are they in a display area in your showroom or merely hiding in the rack?

This exotic category would include rosewood, pearwood, black walnut, cedar, Brazilian cherry, mahogany, cabreuva, cumaru, purple heart, tamarindo, tauari, cypress, teak, eucalyptus, pecan, and tigerwood -- to name but a few. And these are just some of the species that made their debut this year. They’re a lot different from maple, oak and pine and have been exploding in popularity with the consumer. As the baby boom generation continues to build and remodel houses, their insatiable appetite for custom looks and products continues to grow. Exotic wood floors fill that need.

The next class of wood floor products you should be showcasing is distressed or rustic woods. These can be heavily distressed and scraped, but the rustic look is also achieved by using stains and finishes to enhance a wide or varied wood grain. Distressing of wood floors reminds me of a trend of the 1970s when manufacturers distressed furniture. I guess the look has come full circle.

The last floor trend currently growing in popularity is beveled edges. Another retro look from the 1980s, beveled edges are quickly replacing straight edges and enhancing the overall rustic look. If you think about it, the exotic species, distressing and beveled edges all work together to create the more casual and old world looks that are very popular today in home furnishing. We’ve peaked from our millennium quest for high-tech and contemporary design. The pendulum now swings back to the more traditional and comfortable looks that consumers are demanding.

High-technology is still present in the installation of the products, as manufacturers continue to make that process easier for the professional installer as well as the DIY enthusiast. Snap-together installations that have virtually become the norm in laminate flooring are now finding their way into engineered flooring products, a few solid-wood products and floating floors.

With the advent of this easy installation technique, the wood floor segment no doubt will continue to grow. Are you ready to take advantage of the growth? You need more than a display rack and products. You need to display the products with all the creativity and pizzazz that will WOW your customer into saying yes to the sale.

After all, isn’t that why you have a showroom in the first place?