Don’t forget about the floors when designing a room. Experts share different flooring trends that bring style and function to any space.
“Bamboo has been around for a long time, but what we are seeing lately is an explosion of colors and styles,” says Dean Howell, president of Atlanta-based MODA Floors & Interiors. While technically a fast-growing grass, bamboo is as hard or harder than most hardwoods when dried. Newer products called strand-woven bamboo, a highly engineered product using the inner fibers, are twice as hard as traditional bamboo flooring. Dean says that in addition to the common thin-banded styles shoppers have become accustomed to, bamboo is offered in wide-plank styles that mimic the look of classic hardwoods. As with all wood flooring, it’s best to keep bamboo out of moisture-prone rooms like kitchens and baths.
“What I’m seeing more and more of in flooring is classic looks using new technology,” says Gabriel Shaw, owner of That Finishing Touch Design in Thousand Oaks, Calif. A perfect example of that, he notes, is reclaimed hardwood. New factory-finished hardwood flooring offers all the charm of reclaimed timber — right down to that timeless hand-hewn look — but without the high costs associated with true salvaged lumber. “Factory-finished wood will stand up to moisture fluctuations better than any wood flooring that is finished onsite.”
“In the world of tile we are seeing an explosion of sizes, shapes, materials and patterns,” notes Dean. Particularly popular these days, he adds, are large-format tiles — tiles that come 12″ x 24″ and even 36″ x 36″ — as opposed to the tried-and-true 12″ x 12″ tiles. In addition to looking great, larger sizes mean more tile surface and less grout lines to clean. Dean cautions that large-format tiles are heavy, requiring a perfectly level substrate and a professional installer for the job to come out right.
“I recently installed a cork product at the KROQ radio station in Los Angeles,” notes Gabriel. Selected primarily for its amazing acoustic-insulating qualities, cork flooring also is much more comfortable to walk on than traditional hardwood and most certainly tile. Long gone are the days when cork was available in any color so long as it was blonde — today’s options span the color palette. Thanks to new factory finishes, cork is far more durable than it was just a few decades prior. But it is susceptible to moisture damage and will fade when exposed to sunlight.
“When you hear the term ‘luxury vinyl,’ don’t think about that peel-and-stick stuff people used to install,” explains Dean. Luxury vinyl is a new category of flooring that combines the high-end look of hardwood (or stone) with the durability of vinyl. “It is so realistic looking,” Dean says of the wood-look variety, “that I literally had to get on my hands and knees to see that it wasn’t real.” Because it stands up to moisture, wood-look vinyl is a natural fit in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Today’s vinyl does share one common trait with that old peel-and-stick stuff: It is still a joy to walk on.
In the world of carpet, explains Dean, we are seeing far fewer shags and friezes and more patterned carpets. By using a technique that combines both loops and cut loops — hence the name “cut-and-loop carpet” — manufacturers can create a carpet with patterns that range from subtle to bold. “New technology also is producing carpet with incredibly soft fibers,” he adds. Huge improvements have been made in the world of carpet pads, too, with high-quality dense rubber replacing the more commonplace loose fiber.
For homeowners who truly want a sustainable wood flooring product, Dean suggests good-old American hardwoods. Unlike cork and bamboo, which are shipped in from the other side of the world, “We can buy hardwoods from forests that are a few hundred miles away,” he says. “And North America does a good job replenishing our forests as we cut them down.” Oak, hickory, maple, heart pine: These classic American hardwoods all are making a comeback.
Trendy, sleek and durable as time itself, concrete flooring jumped from bare-bones utilitarian to chic in a New York minute. Thanks to a multitude of available colors, textures and finishes, concrete can adapt to almost any decor. Of course, it helps to already have the concrete in place. “Concrete works great in an old building that has very old subfloors,” explains Dean. “It’s very cost effective to use what’s already there versus installing a new flooring product.” Fashion often comes at a cost, and in the case of concrete, it’s comfort. “Think through the comfort factor,” he cautions. “It’s a very hard surface that is not friendly to walk on all day.”