Center of Attention

By: Elise Linscott

Hardwood continues to set the trend for visuals across nearly every hard-surface flooring category on the market. Customers are now favoring low-gloss finishes, light and dark color palettes, and a floor that can serve as the focal point of a room, tying together color throughout the home.

On a lighter note
Sara Babinski, design manager, hardwood and laminate for Armstrong Flooring, said that nationally, red-toned woods are fading in popularity, along with tropical exotic species, and that the trend is moving toward either dark or light color palettes.

“Light colors are definitely emerging due to their clean look and ability to disguise imperfections and brighten interior spaces,” Babinski said. “This emerging light category would include natural tones, blonde woods and white washed woods. And gray — it’s here to stay.”

Board-to-board color variation using staining techniques, artisan textures (scraping, wire-brushing, distressing, etc.) and variation using random widths and ultralow gloss are also popular. Many of these design attributes are being driven by the reclamation trend, Babinski added.

David Holt, senior vice president, builder and multifamily retail and hard surface for Mohawk Flooring, said there’s a strong emphasis on color when choosing hardwood.

“Our customers are asking for a lot of movement in the color as they now want to see the floor carry the color in a home and not the furniture,” Holt said. “The floor is now the focal point in the home, and the customer is willing to pay for the look that they want.”

Natalie Cady, hardwood category manager, Shaw Floors, said that consumers are craving authentic, character-driven hardwood visuals that allow them to bring the natural beauty of the outdoors into their home.

“At Shaw, we are constantly improving our finishing techniques to create dynamic visuals that emulate a pure aesthetic,” Cady said. Shaw’s Epic Plus Extreme Nature collection features a naturally-inspired design and is available in three species: maple, walnut and hickory.

Pinnacle also has a number of domestic wood flooring products, including species like maple, oak, birch and hickory, many of which are also rustic grade and feature a subtle handscraped surface popular in today’s floors.

Lauzon’s new 2017 hardwood floors are available in solid and engineered. The company has also rounded out its Ambiance and Essential collections, now offering gray and light beige, according to brand manager Priscilla Bergeron.

Bamboo Hardwoods’ Manor line of bamboo flooring also features neutral colors like granite (gray tones), ivory, blackened hickory, and its Arcade line also has a driftwood-style flooring product popular in today’s visuals.

Refined rustic
The refined rustic trend is still going strong in hardwood; however, it is continuing to evolve visually, said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminate for Mannington Mills.

“Heavily scraped hardwood floors have given way to more subtle and naturally rustic visuals. The format trend continues to evolve towards wider and longer planks as well as multiple widths. Colors are becoming more subtle and sophisticated with the trend moving back towards light colors and naturals and away from heavy, dark colorations,” Natkin said.

USFloors has also capitalized on reclaimed aesthetics, featured in its Castle Combe Originals hardwood collection. Its Castle Combe Grande hardwood features 9-foot, 2-inch long planks and also has an aged appearance.

Wide widths
Manufacturers have been able to achieve wider planks for engineered wood through its “recipe,’’ which is the thickness of the layer versus the plywood base, noted Michel Collin, director of marketing for Mercier.

For many consumers, the appeal of engineered flooring is as much about contemporary aesthetics as functionality, particularly with regard to plank widths, said Brian Greenwell, vice president of marketing for Mullican Flooring.

“The increasingly popular wider widths are only available in engineered product lines,” Greenwell said.

Improving technology
For both engineered and solid hardwood, technology improvements brought a consistency in the milling that leads to boards that interlock easily for simple installation, said Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing at Boa-Franc, makers of the Mirage brand. Technology has also brought about new textures.

Advances in technology in both hardwood design and performance are also improving customer and consumer lives through convenience, maintenance, durability and health, said Benjamin Buzali, co-founder and president of DuChâteau.

Hallmark Floors has concentrated on major improvements to the oil and polyurethane segments of floor finishing, including its TrueMark Glaze Tek polyurethane finish, according to vice president of sales and marketing Ron Oliver.

“By layering color, and hand glazing, a high-end furniture visual is achieved,” Oliver said. “Advancements in the application of nano particulate additives in Glaze Tek give it a commercially rated performance — up to three times more wear resistant than traditional UV polyurethane finishes.”

This post, Center of Attention, was originally published on July 17, 2017 on Floor Covering Weekly.

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