Hardwood remains an area of flooring where creativity abounds and boundaries are continually toppled. How else to explain the bumper crop of flooring creations vying this year for the National Wood Flooring Association’s coveted Wood Floor of the Year Awards? At the trade group’s annual meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, 232 entries were offered for consideration-the most seen in the competition’s 18-year history.
In a nod to technology that is advancing the category, the NWFA carved out a new niche strictly for laser-cut work. While organizers note the change helped fuel the record number of entries (and a record 22 awards), they stress that another important factor was a desire to recognize the passion and artistry of those who see custom hardwood floors from design to completion.
“These awards are to honor the craftsmen and -women in the industry,” explains Anita Howard of the NWFA. “The contest is about the floor: how it was installed, how it looks and how creative it is. It’s not about what the homeowner may choose to do with it or how it fits into a larger design theme – it’s about the artistry of the floor itself.”
The awards, he says, are a huge source of pride for everyone at his company in large part because of the level of competition they faced. “The whole competition brings talented people out and shows you what they’ve got. It’s amazing - each year it gets harder and harder. New people are pushing the envelope every year,” he says.
One of his favorite entries this year was a particularly challenging project undertaken by Universal Floors. It involved the restoration of a 300-year old Eastern white pine floor that had originally resided in a home in 1700s-era Boston before being taken up in the 1930s and shipped to a residence in Washington, D.C. “The floor had a lot of undulations and you couldn’t sand it,” Lynn explains. “We did a restoration scrape, where you don’t put grooves in the floor but follow the lines of the floor. A team of guys was in there working seven days a week for a floor that is well over 5,500 square feet. After the scrape, we treated it with a potash lye, dyed the floor and added a canuba wax mixture. It absolutely shimmers when you look at it.”
Another project, which won both Best Engineered and the Members’ Choice awards, was a joint effort between Lynn and colleague John Yarema (who himself won three awards on behalf of Johnson Yarema Hardwood Floors in Troy, Mich.). Yarema traveled from Michigan to help design the parquet pattern for a woman’s dining room in Virginia. “We went for an Americana look that wasn’t over the top,” Lynn notes. “It doesn’t look that complex but it required fitting together around 12,000 pieces of wood about the size of a business card.”
To thank his friend for introducing him to the area, Marzalek created a one-of-a-kind design; and that too garnered Marzalek an NWFA award. The work, it turns out, was based on a marble inlay that his friend’s wife found on the Internet. Marzalek used the image to create an intricate pattern that combined marble accents with a medallion and basketweave parquet made using black walnut hardwood.
The project was also the last built in his Southern California shop, he says, adding that the challenges he faced while working on it made him eager to relocate. “The Santa Ana winds were especially dry that year, the humidity was below 10 percent, and some cocobolo wood I was using on the inlay turned into potato chips,” he remembers. “I saved what I could and made it into an orange ring in the middle of the medallion.”
Other NWFA Floor of the Year winners this year included: The Floor Man Co. of Toledo, Ohio, and Seabaugh Custom Floors of Cape Girardeau, Mo. (two wins each); and, with one win apiece, Maximum Hardwood Floors of Coral Springs, Fla.; Birger Juell of Chicago; Ralph’s Hardwood Floor Co. of Black Creek, Wis.; Rode Bros. Floors of Los Angeles; Palembas Hardwood Floors of Escondido, Calif.; Czar Floors of Newtown, Pa.; Enmar Hardwood Flooring of Mesa, Ariz.; Goodwin Heart Pine of Micanopy, Fla.; and Pasadena Wood Floors of Pasadena, Calif.