Residential customization: Finally, the home's '5th wall' gets some special attention
Ceramic tile offers the greatest opportunity to customize/personalize a floor covering installation as it can be arranged to suit the client's tastes. If you look at photos of installations in the `20's and `30's, you'll find wonderful ideas for customized floors. The installer created those designs and most of the cutting and piecing was done by hand.
Today, many manufacturers provide pre-cut and pre-mounted designs to compliment their tile products. It makes the job of installing the decorative inserts much easier and less expensive. The use of pre-mounted decorative inserts also gives the consumer an opportunity to see how it will look before installation, even with a variety of backgrounds.
Of course one of the simplest ways to add a custom touch is with a gem insert. A small square tile inserted at the intersection of four other tiles can add flair to any floor, wall, counter top or fireplace surround. A variety of glass mosaics and metal tiles can also be mixed in with ceramic tiles. The style has been mimicked by resilient and laminate manufacturers for their products. It's a design that's timeless!
Unique and interesting floors can be achieved by using a variety of shapes and sizes from one product offering or even mixing several colors together; - a real customized look.
Another floor product that offers the same capabilities of mixing and matching pieces is hardwood. Today, the luxury market has expanded to embrace exotic woods. Initially, the market responded when it got a small taste of these woods in intricate borders and medallion inserts. Now you can find rooms of teak, mahogany, wenge, walnut and Brazilian cherry and others.
It seems that consumers have finally learned to embrace variation in their wood floors. We now see hickory as widely accepted in today's market with a random coloration and diverse graining to set it apart from the subtleness of maple or birch.
Parquet floors are also making a comeback. For many years you could not find any parquet floors except for the old finger-block standard 8 in. floor. With the interest in exotic woods, the more luxurious, larger parquet patterns of mixed woods are finding their way into showrooms and custom homes.
New kids on the block would be cork and bamboo. I remember cork from the 50's. Every time my mother and I would walk past that house she would remark, "That's the house with a cork floor!" Never did I dream that I would grow up to own a house with a cork floor. It is quiet and comfortable under foot. Even though it doesn't have today's polyurethane finish, a waxed finish is just as nice.
Bamboo flooring is heralded as an environmentally sound option because it is harvested from fast-growing grass. The three-to-five year harvest cycle makes bamboo a rapidly renewable material, which is generally defined as having a harvest rotation of 10 years or less.
I predict that the bamboo floor will grow into it's own in a short period of time. Its narrow graining is attractive for a more minimalist design style that is gaining in popularity with younger consumers. Another benefit of bamboo flooring is that it can be refinished.
Moving on to resilient flooring, the news here is that designers have discovered fashion. It's a far cry from grandma's linoleum (even though there are linoleum floors on the market again) or maybe the vinyl floor in your mother's house. This is an industry that has been lifted by technology. Today, the ability to create or imitate all types of surfaces is almost surreal. For example, in some cases what appears to be embossing is not actually embossed at all. The imagery looks so real that the grooves have to be touched before we can tell whether they are real or not, thus eliminating the fear of whether the floor is cleanable or not.
The standard favorites, wood planks and faux ceramic patterns, are still the best sellers, but today's designs rival the products they imitate with lifelike images.
For the carpet segment, it's texture, texture, and more texture. Carpets have more fashionable looks with heavier cable type yarns. The look created has more bulk, giving a bolder, stronger look to the designs. But also the construction aspect produces a highly cabled yarn that we actually walk on the side of, as opposed to the top of the yarn. That means more resiliency that can take a beating. The same can be said for frieze carpets that are tightly twisted, almost hyper-twisted, that they kink over and you're walking on all sides of the yarn.
Multicolor yarns offer up to six spot colors that are repeated, adding visual texture and broadened design opportunities. Tone-on-tone florals, striping, and shadow patterns are the big sellers. And the fiber performance allows consumers to use the palest colors in family settings without worry.
For those that want something more daring, the use of are rugs allows a concentration of design and color in a smaller area that can be changed out from time to time. While there are standard sizes in the industry, a lot of manufacturers are offering custom designs to allow the freedom of that special size and just the right color to be used. That can really be helpful when working with a client who has demanding tastes and/or an unusual installation situation.
In an age when the customer can have almost anything he or she want in the way of cars, cabinetry and clothing, it's nice to know that the 5th wall is keeping up with the whims and desires of the buying public.