Thanks, in part, to the many home makeover and renovation television shows today, rustic and distressed wood floors have taken the interior design industry by storm in recent years. Due to their popularity, uniqueness and practicality, retailers are seeing a continued increase in the sales of these types of wood flooring styles.
“A great deal of designers on these home and garden shows are using a fair amount of handscraped and distressed products,” said Roger Hansbarger of Holland Floor Covering in Newton, Pa. “Certainly that creates a desire for the customer to take a look at them when they come into the store.”
In fact, according to Marc Bush of Danville Hardwood Co. in Danville, Calif., about 70% of the company’s wood sales are in rustic and reclaimed products.
For manufacturers with expansive product portfolios of reclaimed and rustic looks, such as Armstrong—including its Bruce and HomerWood brands—Anderson, Mannington, Mirage and Mullican to name a few, their heavy push of these trends aren’t hard to miss in Holland’s and other specialty retailer showrooms like his across the country—whether the products are mixed in with the store’s other wood floor offerings or, as what is happening in many cases, highlighted in their own display units.
“The more [of these] products you have, the more you’ll be able to offer your customers and, certainly the more likely you are to get a sale,” said Hansbarger.
Take Your Pick
Undulations chatter and texture in the planks—whether they are created by a machine or by hand—are what gives these floors their unique reclaimed and rustic looks, and sets the category apart.
For Hansbarger and the salespeople at Holland, scraped looks, specifically lighter patterns, have been most popular among customers.
“Not everyone loves that really heavily distressed floor,” he explained. “Décor wise, it’s not necessarily perfect for every home out there. Mirage has done a great job of hitting that market.”
Hansbarger noted that Mirage’s Sweet Memories and Alive product lines have been a hit in his showroom due to the planks’ rustic looks—which are visually created by the manufacturer’s staining process.
Similarly, on the other side of the country, Bush has seen an increase in the popularity of lighter patterns and wood species. “Our market has been a heavy distressed market for quite a while, but the trend we see now is customers still want texture on the floor, but they like lighter texture—such as a light wire-brushed white oak.”
While Piedmont from Summitt Forest Products is a top seller for the retailer, Bush notes that most customers aren’t looking for a specific brand, but rather a specific look when they visit Danville Hardwood. “It’s not one brand they tend to lean toward, it’s usually a color trend; one color tends to match their countertop better than the other.”
When it comes to color, for Scott Falk and the sales staff at Prestige Flooring & Interiors located in White Plains, N.Y., gray is in. “Consumers are coming in and looking for trending colors like white, gray, black and dark browns. I’ve seen a recent surge within the last six months regarding gray floors. Out of 100 consumers who are buying flooring, I’d say at least 30 of them are interested in gray flooring.”
Nicks, dents and scratches are some of hardwood flooring’s biggest nightmares, but thanks to the unorthodox looks of reclaimed and distressed wood planks, these typical flooring eyesores can go seemingly unnoticed—even adding to a floor’s character in some cases.
“One of the advantages and part of the charm of these floors is the texture and distressed part of the floor,” explained Hansbarger. “Meaning when you have those normal things that happen every day like nicks, it tends to hide them. So, for someone who has two large dogs and three kids, a handscraped floor over the next 10 years isn’t going to show as much of that normal wear and tear that you’re going to have with a [traditional, smooth] hardwood floor.”
This speaks to the practicality of these wood planks, which is one of the things Falk and his team review with customers that are in the market for new wood flooring. “We consult with our customers from start to finish on what their needs are, how they live in their house and whether the floor is practical for their lifestyle. Everything from A to Z.”
According to Falk, the Prestige Flooring team has completed training courses by Mirage, allowing them to educate customers on the proper maintenance and repair of their floors when typical hardwood issues like relative humidity and moisture problems arise.
Falk and Hansbarger agree that reclaimed and rustic wood planks don’t require more maintenance and upkeep than smooth hardwood planks, something consumers are happy to know, they said.
Handscraped, lightly scraped or even reclaimed flooring doesn’t really perform—in terms of maintenance—any different than a smooth floor, each told Floor Trends, so having that general knowledge is important for their sales teams when it comes to discussing maintenance and normal wear and tear.
Looking to the Future: Hand vs. Machine
When the rustic and distressed wood looks were first introduced to the market, the patterns were created by hand. With the evolution of technology, these same looks can now be achieved using machines.
“Originally when the products came out, they were literally handscraped by a person,” said Hansbarger. “That’s still done, but the trend seems to be more machine scraping because manufacturers can do it with some very good realism and it’s more efficient in production.”
Even with their evolving technology and accuracy, machines are bound to repeat a look or pattern at some point. While that repetition most likely goes unnoticed to the consumer’s untrained eye, Hansbarger credits companies like HomerWood and Anderson for continuing to get these effects by using the original handscraping methods. “The handscraping looks more unique because each board [really] is different.”