I have assisted many interior designers with hardwood flooring for their projects and through this experience, I've noticed that designers have go to colours and styles and I think the reason for this is simple, a classic never goes out of style.
Designers look at the same things when selecting a product; colour, style, maintenance and price and often different designers will choose the same products from our collection.
When you are doing a refurbishment, you almost need to consider the floor in the same regard as the kitchen - it is a crucial part of the overall design but it’s not something that you are going to want to change in the near future.
With so many colours and materials to choose from, you may find it challenging to make a selection. So I have put a list together of the most popular hardwood flooring solutions that I’ve sold to my interior design clients and why they are all worthwhile options for you to consider for your project.
Chevron is one of the most popular patterns out there and it can be found on anything from a print on a cushion cover to wall tiles. Whatever way you choose to use it, this pattern always makes an interior look sharp and timeless.
Chevron patterns are characterised by columns of short diagonal stripes that meet in a line of "V's", much like the skeletons of fish
The beauty of the chevron pattern is the uniformity, you end up with single lines that meet instead of a jagged angles, such as a herringbone, which creates a more active pattern.
Interior designers will opt for a uniform grade in light colour tones if they are looking for a light contemporary floor. On the flip side, a dark thermo (more on this later) chevron can also look extremely sophisticated and modern too, it just depends which works better with other elements in the design.
On projects where the building is more traditional, we will look at warm tones such as golden oak, dark greys, toffees, and light browns, in order to keep the look sophisticated but with added character.
Think about what colour and style of chevron will suit your interior, remember that you can normally choose the degree of the chevron edge, it’s usually 45 degrees or 60 degrees. 45 degrees is usually the more popular option.
WOOD, METAL & MARBLE
By adding in a metal detail such as a brass border or even having some parquet pieces with a metal detail will create a unique and elegant floor.
I recently worked with an interior designer on a hotel project in Marylebone. The designer was looking to create something unique in the common lounge area and we ended up opting for a dark stained oak with a brass metal trim and black marble. As you can see in the image below, the result look luxurious and chic.
For a family home, you don’t have to go as glamorous at that, but even adding a single line metal border is another very impactful way to elevate the design in the space. You could consider adding this element to the formal rooms in your home, making them feel a touch more luxurious.
There is the more extravagant end of designs with wood, metal and marble. As you can see in the image below, you can really turn your floor into a piece of art.
WIDE WHITE OAK HARDWOOD FLOORING
If you’ve flicked through the pages of most interior magazines you are bound to find, as what I’ve come to know as the Dinesen floor. They are made by a company called Dinesen and ‘the floor’ is wide and long boards made from Douglas fir and then the planks are white washed, resulting in this washed, chalky white colour. Absolute class!
Now, I don’t like to rain on anyones parade but a few years ago, I had an interior designer ask me to come over and look at the Douglas fir floor on a project as it looked terrible only after a few months. The floor did look shocking! I asked her what her floor company (not Dinesen btw) had advised her and they said that the floor does need a lot of ongoing maintenance and there isn't really much they can do.
You see, Douglas fir is not as hard as Oak and it shows up scuff marks and loses lustre quite quickly. For a family home you need a floor that will cope with the daily traffic like wet rain coats, kids buggies and maybe a few spoonfuls of your delicious spaghetti bolognaise that your toddler kindly dropped on the floor.
If you want to achieve that ‘Dinesen” look I advise all my clients (including the designers) to rather opt for a Prime Oak in a wide board with subtle white wash. I have recommended this to many interior designers as the result is far better and the floor is a lot more durable with little ongoing maintenance.
PS - I have has my clients do the spaghetti bolognaise test on this floor and it passed with flying colours.
Walnut hardwood flooring has always been a popular choice for designers wishing to add a luxurious look to their projects. This is down to the range of colour and natural variation within the wood.
Walnut does differ depending on where in the world it’s sourced from. European Walnut tends to have a more orange-brownish tinge and North American Walnut has a rich purplish-brown patina with streaks of blonde through it from the sapwood. In general, North American Walnut tends to be more popular.
Because of the unique beauty of Walnut, interior designers have often specified it in a design as panelling or to create a feature headboard.
When working on hospitality projects with interior designers, I recommend having a lacquered finish as this will offer the most protection with the least required ongoing maintenance.
Walnut is also the only hardwood floor I think looks good in a glossy sheen level lacquer.
As with the Douglas fir, Walnut is softer than Oak and when it's scratches, they will come up white so they are quite visible. The other reason I recommend a lacquered finish is because the lacquer will get scratched before the wood surface does. Majority of scratches that occur will be light surface scratches (think a little stone caught in the bottom of your shoe) At most this make a hairline scratch in the lacquer which you won't be able to see unless you get on your hands and knees!
I'm sure you have picked up from this article that light floors are popular with designers, but so are very, very dark floors.
When the floor needs to be dark in colour but also have depth and character throughout to give it that high end appeal, but needs to be durable and hardwearing - Introducing Thermo-Treated Oak (aka Carbonising)
In order to achieve a dark chocolate brown colour, the planks are heated to a high temperature and the heat literally caramelises the natural occurring sugars in the wood.
This process keeps variation to a minimum, resulting in a contemporary looking hardwood floor that designers often pair with lighter colours.
Covet Noir are a great design firm that uses dark floors with light interiors. They may not use thermo oak on all their projects but they are definitely a great example of how to carry of this look successfully.
As you can see from the image, this dark colour looks lovely in a herringbone pattern, a personal favourite of mine however is a thermo treated chevrons as shown below.
Here are few tips on choosing a hardwood floor like an interior designer.
When choosing a hardwood floor, consider style, personal preference, lifestyle, and the building character.
Consider your space and think about how the materials you choose are going to hold up to the daily activities in your household. Look at the building itself too, is it a new build or a period building, this will help you determine how contemporary or tradition you want to go with the style of the floor.
If you have a young family you are bound to have strollers and kids scooters as part of your everyday life. Will these items be stored elsewhere when not in use or in the same space as your wooden floor? Stick with durable woods such as oak, maple and cherry.
Take inspiration from your surroundings and environment. An English country side house calls for a different look to a Canary Wharf penthouse apartment. Lighter to medium tones would perhaps suit the countryside better whereas a dark floor would look 'cool' in a trendy city apartment.
Engineered hardwoods are nearly indistinguishable from solid hardwood floors, especially once laid. Engineered hardwood has an increased tolerance for moisture, while solid hardwood may begin to warp in damp areas.
I've always recommend engineered to my clients, just be aware of the different wear layers and overall board thickness.
I cover this in my Technical Hardwood Flooring Guide - definitely a great read for a first floor buyer.