There is no doubt, these are exciting times in the flooring industry and, when it comes to the wood category, consumers are getting choices like never before. Technology is driving these trends for the most part—creating engineered woods, new stains and treatments, and new approaches that are breaking the mold from traditional hardwood flooring.
But to paraphrase a saying, with a great choice comes great responsibility. When designing a floor you need to weigh wants against the consequences of your selection. Wide boards are in this year and so are dark colors, but a 12-inch oak floor stained dark is going to have some ugly shrink lines during the winter in New England.
Point is, the newest hardwood trends are hip and exciting, but unlike that fall windbreaker, flooring has to last longer than this season.
Things aren’t that out of control in the realm of wood floors. And for the record, I love some of today’s newest trends. The reality though, is wood floors are not like a new fall jacket or the latest sunglasses you can toss aside next season. Our customers will have to live with these choices for many years to come. So rather than tumble headlong into an effusive overview of what’s new and hot, I’d like to break down how I’m helping C&R Flooring clients choose the trends they’ll still love through 2015 and beyond.
Design is Everything
Trends should never be ahead of basic design decisions. That being said, there is nothing wrong with choosing flooring first and using it as a starting point for a design—not many in our industry would disagree. I always tell clients if their hardwood choice is going to lead the way, make sure it leads to an overall design they like. Here’s an obvious example: If a client is going for a “springy” feel, dark floors with dark color schemes throughout the room don’t do it.
On the other hand, if they simply want to update their floors rather than do a complete renovation/redecoration, I advise they choose a style and color that will reflect the home, not work against it. This is especially true for furniture. The contemporary look of many of the new ultra-modern floor trends might not necessarily go with their Queen Anne chairs. On that note, I always recommend enlisting the help of a professional designer to assist customers in finding their own personal styles.
Today’s Trends: What Will Last
I don’t have a crystal ball, but with the caveat that nobody can look into the future and predict what will last and what won’t, here are a few of the trends I’m seeing today that I think will be around for years to come.
•Wider, Longer Planks.Thanks to advances in the milling process, wood planks are getting wider and necessarily longer—to keep the ratio aesthetics. This is probably my favorite trend right now and one that will likely stay around for a while.
Instead of your typical 2¼- to 3¼-inch boards, widths are growing to 5- 7- and even 10- and 12-inches, and up to 12-feet long. These bigger boards can make rooms feel larger and airier, especially for smaller spaces that could use the help.
I love the wide-open feeling of these wider planks, and even the most modern and engineered convey a classic style. Installing these boards on the diagonal makes a particularly impressive statement in bedrooms and living rooms. However, expect an up charge from your installer and your waste factor will be higher as well.
•Vintage and Recycled. Not to be confused with recyclable (see below), vintage and recycled floors bring a classic touch to many homes, especially traditional New England houses. There are more and more prefinished “vintage” options available, but personally I prefer a more authentic approach like using actual barn board or reinstalling hardwood. This takes some extra time in preparation and installation to get it looking just right, but the results are worth the effort.
As an aside, C&R Flooring has specialized in reclaiming flooring and recycling wood for years. A couple of years ago, we took 200-year old reclaimed teak herringbone parquet flooring from India and reworked it for a project in Boston with stunning results. This type of reclamation project is popular now, but it’s certainly not new.
In between are some hand-wrought options like handscraping and fuming to distress and age the floors for a vintage look, which many of our clients are choosing.
This is not a do-it-yourself project though. I always recommend these types of artistic installations be done by professionals to avoid disappointing results, which perhaps, are inevitable when done by the homeowner.
•Onsite Finishing as Opposed to Prefinished. The trend is swinging back from prefinished floors to onsite finishing. The homeowner and designer have many more choices in terms of wood, stain and sheen to get the exact look they want. That’s especially important during spot repairs or trying to match existing wood in other areas of the house. Onsite finishing also provides a flat, no micro bevel appearance, which our clients tend to prefer.
There are downsides, of course. Customers are sometimes locked out of their homes—or at least certain rooms—longer as the poly cures, but in my opinion the relatively short inconvenience is worth the years of use and enjoyment.
Trends to Approach with Caution
There are two hot trends in particular that I am recommending C&R Flooring clients approach with caution—both for different reasons. I’m not telling them to avoid these trends, but as mentioned above, trends by definition don’t last long compared to the average life of hardwood floors. Careful consideration is always a good policy.
•Gray Hardwood and Stains. Nearly every Top 10 hardwood trend for this year has this at the top of its list—and that itself makes me wary. Don’t get me wrong; I really like the chic and modern look. Gray hardwood is particularly dramatic, I think, because it is so fresh and bold. The monochromatic stain brings out the contrast in the natural grain of the wood, which as a wood guy I find alluring. But like acid-wash jeans, that look may get old very quickly. I would only recommend gray hardwood to those who absolutely love the color.
Who knows? Maybe gray will become one of those classic hardwoods. My feeling is that it won’t. I suggest to clients that, as a compromise, they could choose a classic flooring instead and talk to their designers about going with gray tones in the paint scheme. This will give them a similar look in this hot trend that will be easier to change in the future.
•Sustainable and Recyclable. I love the trend toward eco-friendly products and processes. However, as sometimes happens during trends, the market is flooded with sub-par products thrown together and stamped green knowing that it will sell on that reason alone.
Recycled and sustainable flooring in particular walks a fine line between chic and cheap. I’ve seen spectacular bamboo flooring that ties the design together nicely, but I’ve also seen cut-rate bamboo that is not that big a step up from industrial vinyl tile.
In other words, green doesn’t always mean good. I’m sure we can all think up other examples. It’s another case in which working with professional designers and flooring installers will help customers avoid those pitfalls.
One Last Consideration
As with many things in design, all this advice goes out the window if clients are getting their home ready to sell. I advise them to work with their real estate agent and designer to get a good sense of what the market is looking for—including the use of trends—in order to get the best return.
Of course, there’s a trend that will never go out of style, and that’s working with professionals including designers and installers. Floors are a huge investment, and one that can last a lifetime if done right.
I encourage our customers to get excited about their flooring, and part of that can be embracing trends—the ones that work for them, at least. Help them think long term, and they will be more likely to find the style they’ll love long after this year’s trends have faded away.
Chris Zizza founded C&R Flooring in 1986 to provide hardwood refinishing services and a wide range of premier flooring installation options for clients throughout eastern Massachusetts. C&R was the first company in New England to introduce a revolutionary, dustless wood floor refinishing system that is green-certified and environmentally friendly. The company is well known in the region for its honesty, integrity and outstanding workmanship, and has won several honors including the 2008 and 2010 Best of Boston awards. Contact him at (781) 326-4099 or firstname.lastname@example.org.