Hardwood is an area of flooring that gives designers almost unlimited possibilities. The precise manner in which the boards are cut and sanded can give a room a distinct personality, as unique as the person who crafted it. Playing different species off of each other to make optimal use of their coloration, graining and hardness can transform a floor into a work of art. The warmth and character becomes only more evident with age. Many of these outstanding floors will be admired and appreciated for generations to come.
There are countless hardwood floors installed each year and, inevitably, a small number emerge as the best of the best. Each year, the National Wood Flooring Association seeks these floors out and honors those that best illustrate hardwood's versatility and charm. Whether it is traditional rustic looks or the latest contemporary styles, the floors selected by the NWFA set the standard by which all other hardwood floors are judged.
Asked to explain his passion for hardwood flooring, John Yarema, owner of Johnson Yarema Hardwood Floors, offers a perspective shared by many of the winners. It's all about the challenge. "My guys and I have come to the point where we don't feel comfortable with a job unless we feel like we're in over our heads," he says. He assures that these installers are also craftsmen who take their work as seriously as an artist or sculptor.
On the other hand, Yarema's winning installation for Best Commercial/ Showroom took a mere four hours to complete. Installed by a six-person team in the company's Oakland, Mich., showroom, the 288 sq. ft. floor is described as "a cross between Art Deco and a more modern look," Yarema says. Originally designed to be installed in the studio of Detroit-based entertainer Kid Rock, the installation incorporates four species in a wave-pattern which is backlit for a contemporary feel.
+ Sherwood Flooring of Toronto also won two Floor of the Year Awards: for Best Entry/Foyer and Best Living Room/Family Room installations in a custom home in Mississauga, Ontario. According to Vukmanovic Predrag, owner of Sherwood Flooring, neither installation was without its challenges.
"In both installations, the pieces were precut and then assembled on site. It was like putting a puzzle together," he recalls.
The company completed a second 1,100 sq. ft. installation in the living room/family room. Made using ash, wenge, purpleheart, walnut, padauk and maple, the floor incorporates a stylized, sweeping design also found on the ceiling. "It took us about half a day to measure where all the segments were going to go," remembers Predrag. "Then it took us two and a half days to install and another three days to sand and finish."
Mark Scheller, owner of Scheller Hardwood Flooring in Lemoyne, Pa., was directly involved in two of the winning entries. For a church altar installation in Quakertown, Pa., his company won a Best Factory Finished award. For an installation in a penthouse apartment in Chicago, Scheller helped a colleague's company garner Best Restoration honors.
The Quakertown-based church altar features 2,200 sq. ft. of prefinished Brazilian cherry alongside a section of unfinished stair nosing, a job which Scheller and one other installer completed in 10 days. According to Scheller, the most challenging aspect of the job was the stair nosing, which curves dramatically and fits tightly with the floor. "Making the templates was pretty trying," he admits.
"The problem was that many of the floor's design elements had seams in them because they were too large to ship without first cutting. Because of that, I had to remake a lot of the diamonds and tinker with the maple background and squish everything together," he says.
But, Scheller notes, restoring floors is always a challenge. "The interesting thing about a floor like this is you step back after you're done, and it looks like you've never been there. It doesn't seem like something you've created yourself," he says.
In a log cabin in Lake Geneva, Wis., Brian Quinn of Chicago company Birger Juell installed 60 sq. ft. of solid white oak and birch tree rounds, as well as sections of twigs taken from outside the cabin. Winning an award for Best Reclaimed, the installation took two weeks.
Work on a spiral staircase brought Gabrielle Meaney, owner of New Detroit Design Studio in Ray, Mich., top honors in the Best Limited Species category. The 30 sq. ft. staircase in her studio was crafted from three species and mixed media. Looking straight down from the top of the staircase, the design quickly becomes apparent: a nautilus shell motif where each step adds to the shell's spiral. On the landing, the words "Limited Species" state plainly the installation's theme.
"It was a challenge to create because you need to be able to read the image from the landing," she says. "Also, I had to create interlocking steps that could be easily removed or interchanged since this is part of my display."
"It took us two weeks, and that's a lot of hours," says Jamie Lupresto, Diamond Flooring's owner. "Most of the days were no less than 12 hours and there were three to four people on the floor at all times."
Thomas Nicholson, owner of Nicholson Flooring Co. of Greensboro, N.C., won Best Kitchen/Dining Room in two ways. Not only did the 530 sq. ft. installation merit a Floor of the Year award, but it is also part of a renovation of Nicholson's Greensboro home.
"I did the floor, a full step and a landing tread, and framed everything myself," he says."The floor uses 5-inch quarter-sawn white oak and 1/4-inch maple reveals." He goes on to mention the cantilevered glass tabletop, the milled cabinets and the pendulum lighting, all Jayne's choices.
When asked how the new dining area has been received by his family, Nicholson says it has been a hit. "It's the room that everybody gravitates to," he says.