The photos gracing these pages represent some of the finest examples of hardwood flooring design creativity and craftsmanship the industry has to offer.

For the past 15 years, top-flight wood floor dealers and contractors the world over have submitted to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) their most distinctive installations in hopes of winning accolades in the NWFA Floor of the Year contest. This year, winning entries were selected by NWFA members, while the Designer's Choice awards were chosen by the Charlotte, N.C., chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

The winning 2004 Floor of the Year installations were announced at April's NWFA annual convention in Charlotte. What follows are photos and descriptions of the nine entries that won in 11 different categories.

Best Manufacturer Finish -- Alberta Hardwood Flooring (EDM) of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

This floor features 1,500-square feet of prefinished engineered flooring. Species used include 2 9/16-by-3/8-inch Santos Mahogany Exclusive Semi Gloss installed at a 45-degree angle in a nail-down application. The room also features prefinished 2 9/16-by-3/8-inch Maple Select Semi Gloss beneath the dining room table. It was installed to create a herringbone pattern to match the design on the dining room table. The installation was completed in approximately two weeks. The rest of the house also is complemented with Maple Select borders.

Best Job Site Finish and Floor of the Year Master Division -- Endurance Floor Co. of Miami.

The Master Division Floor of the Year award is open to entries from all categories for entrants who are previous Floor of the Year award winners. This installation features 2,200-square feet of Australian Cypress, and includes a hand-cut inlay of a flowing ribbon and scattered roses in the foyer. Hummingbirds, caterpillars, ladybugs, and bumblebees complement the design. Shading and toning for depth was achieved by sand scorching pieces, a traditional woodworking technique. All cutting was done with scroll saws and then routed to fit each piece. Species used include American Cherry, Ash, Beech, Bubinga, Brazilian Ebony, Macassar Ebony, Holly, Jatoba, Kurupay, Lacewood, Santos Mahogany, Maple, Padouk, Pink Ivory, Poplar, Purple Heart, Basswood, Honey Locust, and Sapele. The floors, which required 550 man hours to complete, were finished natural with satin polyurethane.

Best Use of Wood Technology -- Universal Wood Products of Greely, Ontario, Canada.

Universal's entry features 2,200-square feet of Natural 21/4-inch Red Oak First-Grade, which was custom shaded using Woodline DS Rosewood Stain and finished with Woodline Polyurethane Satin finish. The 44-inch "Armillary Sphere" laser-cut custom medallion incorporates more than 1,200 individual pieces made out of 15 species of tropical and domestic hardwood -- specifically, Bubinga, Wenge, Birdseye Maple, Yellow Heart, Canary Wood, Cabreuva, Flame Red Birch, Morado, Angiere, Beech, Walnut, Leopard Wood, Poplar, White Ash, and Chatke Kok. The grain direction and wood species were carefully selected to bring out the three-dimensional effect of the many interwoven rings and indices in the pattern.

Best Limited Species -- Apex Wood Floors of Downer's Grove, Ill.

This hallway floor features 3-by-12-inch Red Oak arranged in an Indiana Herringbone pattern with 3-inch-square Peruvian Walnut block inserts. The total job included six bedrooms with straight-run 2 1/4-inch select and better Red Oak.

Best Showroom --Authentic Wood Floors of Zeeland, Mich.

This floor features a 466-square-foot jigsaw puzzle composed of more than 120 wood species. The floor was designed on a CAD system and crafted using plywood templates, a scribe knife, a jigsaw, and a spindle sander to make a 3/4-inch-thick solid-wood puzzle. Because numerous countries were represented, a world map of different species 1/4-inch-thick, and cut with a scroll saw, was inlayed as one piece of the puzzle. The floor was sanded and finished with DuraSeal neutral penetrating finish and wax.

Best Commercial Application -- Western Tile & Marble Contractors of Las Vegas.

Situated in the Palms Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, this floor features 55,000-square feet of Wenge, Charapilla and Castelo throughout the looping interconnected casino walkways. Large stripes of Charapilla and Castelo highlight the main entry, while Wenge and Charapilla stripes bend around the hotel elevator lobby, restaurant and club venues. Solid Charapilla was used to complement the strip patterns. The installation involved removal of the existing floor, as well as installing, sanding and finishing the new floor within the environs of an operating casino. Finish is by Trustor Coatings, Formula One Ceramic Wearmax matte sheen.

Designer's Choice Master Division -- Northwestern Hardwood Floors of Chicago.

This award is open to entries from all categories for entrants who are previous Floor of the Year award winners. The sanctuary of this 19th century church was recently restored. As part of the work, the sagging altars were shored up and the floors replaced. Select Red Oak strip flooring was used with Brazilian Cherry nosing to create a warm, rich background for the altar. Quarter sawn 6-inch-by-10-foot-long Red Oak planks were used to create the radial pattern that cascades down the wide steps of the central altar. A small block inlaid with Wenge, Lacewood, Brazilian Cherry, and Amarillo was used as a levator for the priests serving communion.

Best Residential Application & Floor of the Year - Expert Division -- Scheller Hardwood Floors of Lemoyne, Penn.

The Expert Division Floor of the Year designation features entries in all categories for entrants who previously have not won a Floor of the Year award. This winning floor features an intricately crafted parquet floor with a distinctive oval that emerges from a randomly arrayed background of radial-cut planks. The parquet pattern is composed of five distinct shapes that form two sizes of five-point stars that emerge from discrete interlocking pentangles. The primary pattern was made from scratch out of five-quarter Brazilian Cherry lumber. These boards were re-sawn to yield 3/8-inch-thick stock that then was cut into component parts on site and assembled as the geometric building blocks of the parquet. The parquet is set in mastic over high-grade plywood to yield a net 3/4-inch thickness. Thirty-three Flame Birch stars are woven into the firmament to form the astrological birth constellations of the homeowner and his wife. A band of bent Flame Birch and Wenge encircle the parquet to create the oval that mirrors the ceiling. The radial cut 3/4-inch-thick and 5-inch-wide Brazilian Cherry planks that surround the oval are arrayed from a single focal point at the center of the room to create a sweeping pattern designed to suggest the motion of the universe.

Designer's Choice Expert Division -- Naylor's Wood Floors of Brenham, Texas.

This award category also is limited to entrants who previously have not won a Floor of the Year award. This floor features a spiral staircase with a star inlay. This showpiece staircase is a 16-foot diameter Cantilever from Arastra wall with pie-shaped steel plates. The spiral staircase includes mesquite treads screwed into the steel plates. The stairs go from the basement up to the fourth-floor telescope tower (where the Takahasi Refractor is). The three-foot handcrafted inlay star is composed of Black Walnut and Maple. The entire job was finished with Bona Pacific Strong Silkmat.