In a world where consumers can find literally every option ever considered, where does a flooring professional start when trying to identify a style for your customer’s floor if they haven’t already done so?
As an interior designer who is now entering my fifth decade, I’ve fine-tuned some techniques that have helped clients discern what they like over the years, as well as create their very own “look.” This is essential for most people unless they’re one of those individuals who strives for a cookie-cutter interior. But more often than not, homeowners want to have a home that reflects who they are, as well as their passions and interests. Pulling together the “likes” into something that has a cohesive and fluid effect on the eyes is what makes design a challenge.
You may ask, “How do I begin?”
The first step is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it still works. Historically, I would ask clients to flip through the pages of magazines and catalogs and tear out or mark certain pages, noting the specifics of what they liked. The modern day approach to doing this same thing is utilized by millions of people, creating boards and collections online using apps such as Pinterest and HOUZZ.
These sites in particular provide your customer with the opportunity to see projects and homes from all around the world and share images with you as they look for flooring recommendations that match their style. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an idea board is worth a gazillion words, especially when trying to articulate a look or style that’s hard to define.
Today’s design styles are a hybrid mixture of various genres mixed and updated to the point of an all-new look. Take the midcentury modern look as an example. It has morphed into an updated livable version, having mass appeal to many demographic groups.
If you don’t have an eye for design yourself, once your client has curated the looks into idea boards, share them with someone you trust who has a great design eye to give you some feedback, including manufacturers and distributors you work with closely. It is beneficial to bring in someone with a fresh perspective at various points in the design process who can help you see more than just the floor, but also the whole picture of an interior. It might be that a certain color emerges in the mix, or a design motif, like palm leaves for example. Then you can begin to tie together the floor with your clients’ overall scheme.
Flooring is often the last decision people make when working on a renovation project, but my recommendation is that it be the first consideration. If you begin a project with a firm foundation, in this instance, a well-chosen floor, then all the other decisions become easier. Hardwood floors are still considered the “premium” flooring material even in a world of waterproof and wood lookalikes. Like a beautiful diamond among cubic zirconia, there’s nothing quite like the real thing – the look, the feel, and even the sound is unique as you walk across real hardwood floors.
Consider this: There are endless options of hardwood floors out there to choose from and what a customer brings into their home matters not only for the years of enjoyment and the value added to the home, but also in terms of keeping the materials “healthy” to live on. Sticking with responsibly sourced and responsibly made hardwood floors is the safest way to ensure you’re utilizing materials that not only meet, but exceed, any and all governmentally required standards.
Here are other suggestions that can be shared with your customers who look to you for advice on bringing their overall design plan to life:
Layering with a mixture of old and new objects is essential. None of these pieces have to be expensive, but should be chosen carefully and thoughtfully. Finding a “happiness meter” for the level of color and pattern used is a lot like preparing a delicious menu for dinner. You never want too many salty, spicy, or sweet things all at once, but rather a balanced variety of tastes that complement one another, not compete for the tastebuds’ pleasure. The human eye reads an interior in much the same way as we enjoy a good meal.
Don’t be afraid of color
Color is an effective and also an inexpensive way to guide the eye throughout an interior from the moment you walk in the door as well as the progression through to the innermost spaces. The color you wear the most is typically the color you feel the best in. Does the customer own an article of clothing that they absolutely love for its color or pattern? That can be a clue as to what color they should introduce as a starting point. Personally, I love black, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I have an all-black home. I do however use black lamp shades and accessories that are good for bringing in a little drama and definition to a space. I also have a favorite scarf with varying shades of blue that looks similar to some blue and white porcelain vases that I once had in storage. Suffice it to say, out of storage they came, and the blue and white porcelain pieces became the common thread from which my design scheme grew.
Find a balance
If the customer has some art or a collection of special items they would like to showcase, recommend keeping the walls as “quiet” as possible so they don’t overpower the space. Light gray, creamy off-white, or light taupe walls are perfect backdrops for bringing in furniture, art, or accessories that are bold either in color or pattern.
Don’t forget adjacent spaces
If there’s a specific upholstery or drapery fabric they plan on using, advise choosing two or three colors from that fabric, which can become the key colors for the adjacent spaces. The adjacent spaces matter a great deal in maintaining a sense of harmony between the rooms. How a customer feels as they transition from the foyer to the family room to the kitchen is important. Most homes feature an open floor plan and offer a particular challenge as to where and when the homeowner should transition to a different paint color. There are coordinating paint schemes offered by many of the nationally known paint companies that allow you to select colors that are specifically chosen to work beautifully together. If colors don’t work well together, even a design rookie can sense something is off, but when it’s right, you almost don’t notice anything; it just feels right.
Know your focal point
Identify the room’s focal point, the dominant area, perhaps architecturally, by placement of bold color or a large piece of furniture. It’s important to keep that in mind all along; don’t try to fight it, but use it as an advantage. We have minimalist as well as maximalist styles, battling for our attention. If you’re one who believes less is more, but bring something home from every special vacation as a memento, then you’re going to have a challenge in balancing your two conflicting worlds. There are endless ways to bring the two into harmony.
In closing, if the customer loves something enough, it’s possible to find a way to make it work. It’s all in the mixing, not in the matching, that makes a house a home.
Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design, LLC in Dalton, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at email@example.com.