A big decision to make: flooring

A classic case of the domino theory.

Once upon a time, a previous homeowner decided it would make a lot of sense to put a ceramic tile floor down in the kitchen and wall-to-wall beige carpet throughout the entire master suite, in spite of the presence of original oak parquet in the rest of the house. Sadly, these eyesores were installed on top of the sub-floor, so removing them would mean for the poor saps undertaking that work (meaning, us), an entirely new floor would have to be installed. You can see where this is going, I’m sure. Once you commit to a new kitchen floor in a very open floor plan design, you are looking at new flooring throughout. I’m sure some very creative person could have come up with a solution that would have saved us the trouble, but we are not that creative and, besides, the original wood floor was pretty dated-looking and on its last legs anyway.

We’re getting to the point where we need to choose a floor for the entire house and it’s now dawning on me what a major decision this is! It is such a high impact material, something that you’ll see from every room, every vantage point. It creates a mood, no matter what color it is. The question is, what kind of mood are we in?

We must take our kitchen cabinets into consideration, as they are already designed and purchased (and sitting in our garage!). As a refresher:

The cabinets lining the walls are a matte lacquer finish, in Sherwin-Williams “Snowfall:”

The island is in chestnut bamboo:

And, while we’re at it, let’s throw in the counter top for good measure:

We have made a couple of decisions to help narrow the field. We know we want wood, and we’re looking at engineered floors to eliminate the need to sand and stain the wood once it’s installed and reduce the risk of warping down the road.

Having visited a couple of showrooms and leaving utterly uninspired, I decided it was time to turn to my “Inspiration: Architects and Designers” bookmark folder and see what catches my eye. Let’s take a look, shall we? (PS I highly recommend clicking the links to the web sites of these very talented folks – all of them do amazing work.)

Source: Feldman Architecture

My first thought was to go with a very light wood with minimal variance. To me, this is a modern look – the knottier the grain, the more country the floors feel. And though we have a lot of windows in our main living floor, the majority of them face north so we don’t get a lot of direct sunlight in the house. Lighter floors could make the whole place feel lighter. On the downside, this looks stark to me, as well as cold. So though they may be brighter, they are not as warm as I think I want.

Source: J. Weiss Design

Here’s another light floor with some dark cabinets, not unlike the chestnut bamboo of our island. I wanted to try to imagine what those two would look like together; I think this works fine, but still feels kind of “eh.”

A few more clicks around Ms. Weiss’ site brings us to a house in Moraga that I would love to magically transport up to Noe Valley:

Source: J. Weiss Design

LOVE this kitchen.  And look! Light wall cabinets, medium wood island, open shelves, stainless appliances. She chose light counter tops and matching back splash (in what appears to be marble) while ours will be darker. In this instance, this dark floor looks incredible. I wonder what it would look like with a darker counter top?

Here’s one more photo of this house, just because:

Source: J. Weiss Design

This room is so “me:” big airy windows, womb chair (we have 2 in brown), Saarinen coffee table (we have a side table), and the piece de resistance: Heath tile fireplace. Someday when we save up we’ll do this to ours. That tile is stunning. But stunning comes at a price ($75/square foot, if memory serves!). Again – the dark floor. It looks terrific here.

Moving right along…

Source: Dowling Kimm Studios

Everything the misses Dowling and Kimm do is absolutely stunning. Someday when I win the lottery I’ll commission one of them (they have since parted ways and are working independently) to build a house somewhere not foggy. So while our table and chairs aren’t exactly these, the room feels inviting and calm to me, and I like how this floor offers some variation. Seems that doing this gives you more flexibility in what you put on it. And it still looks quite modern, but without being cold like floor #1 above.

Source: Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

This is one of my all-time favorite houses I’ve never actually set foot in; it’s in Portland. What I had not noticed until I focused on flooring is that in this kitchen the island and floor are nearly the same color. This was something I was actively avoiding, as I was afraid it would look too matchy-matchy. But this has me reconsidering that stance. Granted, the floor is a bit lighter and more varied than the island, but what works is that the island color is part of the floor wood grain. Hmmm…

The last place I feel I should re-visit is THE ultimate inspiration kitchen – the one that has the exact same design as ours, though the cabinet color isn’t an exact match:

Source: Unknown (sorry!)

Aha! Here’s something I never noticed before: the counter tops are two different colors: light along the wall; dark on the island. That’s not the direction we’re taking, but it’s good to see the dark along with the darker floor and lighter cabinets. Though it looks very nice in the photo, I don’t think we’d want to go this dark throughout the house.

So what have I learned as a result of this tour of some my favorite architects and designers? First off, stay away from light blond floors. Second, look for something that incorporates the wood of the island, but doesn’t attempt to match 100%. And third, variation in wood grain can work in a modern aesthetic.

Time to return to the showroom with these lessons in mind.

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One Response to A big decision to make: flooring

  1. Pingback: Flooring decision made! « Foghill Adventures

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