We’ve had deliberations related to flooring choices on two projects in the last few weeks and have been reviewing some of our favorite flooring options from past projects.
It’s always best to try to work with existing conditions so if we start a project with an existing wood floor, we try to preserve it. Or work with the existing structure and/or subfloor. If there’s wall to wall carpet, however, we are going to tear it out without blinking. Here are some of our favorite wood flooring choices. Be sure to check Tuesday’s post for the best of moss’ concrete floor projects.
Here’s How We Operate when working with Wood …
Uptown Family Vision recently had us scrambling for a new wood flooring solution. We’d been hoping to preserve its existing hardwood floors, covered up with plywood decking and (if you can believe it) ASTROTURF from a previous tenant. We thought the wood that was exposed looked beautiful but … unfortunately when we began demolition and took up the plywood covering it, there was too much wear and water damage and so a quick change of plan was needed. The owners are still making up their minds about the proper type of new hardwood flooring to honor the original condition without breaking the bank.
Preserving the Existing Hardwood Floor
Here’s a project where we were able to work with the existing wood floor. For Brew, a coffee house in Traverse City, the bones of the building were one of the biggest draws. The 100 year old opera house had been sadly neglected but our 2012 renovation managed to salvage the pressed tin ceiling and the maple hardwood floors. A refinish job restored some of their brightness but doesn’t disguise the record of a century of use. The result is a beautiful addition to the melange of materials, new and old, that make up the space. We love it.
Reclaimed Hardwood Floors
When we can’t keep the existing floor our go-to choice is always to work with a reclaimed material. Fortunately there are a huge range of options available these days. The growing popularity of reclaimed wood products has caused the prices to rise somewhat (it used to be a bargain basement option – now its comparable with virgin wood) but has only made it easier to source.
At Bar Pastoral we went with a reclaimed black walnut flooring sourced from Carlson’s Barnwood Company, who specialize in finding old barns before they are torn down and salvaging the planks and beams. The wood in those barns may be over a century old but that only makes it stronger – old growth was the standard for construction then and comes with no moral premium to pay when it is reclaimed. It was also important to Pastoral that local materials be included in their product and Carlson’s is an Illinois company.
Another great re-claimed wood possibility is the product made from re-purposed shipping crates. When materials are shipped from Asia to the west coast, they come in hardwood crates which can be milled down and turned into stunning hardwood floors by companies like Viridian Reclaimed Wood, the source for the floors at Melrose House, pictured below, or Anthology Woods. At Melrose we went from tired tile in the kitchen and wall-to-wall carpet elsewhere to a stunning floor in variegated natural colors – the Jakarta Light Sort from Viridian.
These will be easier to keep clean (the dust and dust MITES that live in carpeting are truly disgusting) and will last much longer than carpet which wears out in a few years while good hardwood can be refinished and last a life time. From a sustainability point of view, there is no contest. And we think its a pretty clear aesthetic win, too!
Engineered Floor Systems
A universal characteristic of architects (and designers of all types) is that we like REAL things. So we vastly prefer solid hardwood planks that can be refinished many times over a usable lifespan to engineered systems (which are basically a 1/4″ layer of hardwood sandwiched on top of a plywood like stack of other layers of more available wood material). However, certain situations call for engineered floors – in particular, many condo associations require them because they can more easily be installed with sound dampening layers. Its something we’ve explored but by no means a favorite option.
Fun Departures: Glass Floors
One of the most fun things about a wood floor is the possibility to puncture it with the occasional other material. At the Erie Loft we did just that, sharing abundant light from upstairs with the floor below by cutting a series of rectangular windows into the floor of a hallway. The post and beam structure of the old loft building made it easy to add glass without interrupting the structure and the result is below.
All in all, wood is one of our favorite materials for a number of applications – it makes great furniture, strong structures and interesting decorative wall surfaces. It also makes for a fantastic floor. Don’t forget to check Tuesday’s post for our recent run down of concrete flooring options.