Hardwood Floors Through the Lens of 2018

The outlook for hardwood floors into 2018, as a whole, is looking very good. Watch any cable channel, read through advertisements and editorials in design magazines, search images in social media posts, or walk through any furniture or interiors show, and you’ll see spaces infiltrated with wood, wood looks, finishes, as well as nods to wood. What everyone loves about the look of hardwood is its ability to morph and change depending on the style of its surroundings, as well as its ability to immediately update and transform a space simply when and where it’s installed.

What’s new in hardwood flooring is going to come as no surprise when I say it, but you still need to hear it. Can you hear me when I say gray is still important in interiors and hardwood flooring? While it’s not the only important color going into homes in 2018, it is still among the most important colors influencing what goes into homes.

Chic whites, mushrooms, muted taupes, and of course warm taupes are the other major players in the interiors world, working as the backdrop to a quiet blank canvas. This gray movement has been growing during the past 10 years, making a slow and steady climb into mainstream product development for runway, hospitality, contract, and home fashions. Barnwood grays, gray-beiges, and taupes stretch from rustic to refined in appearance, making the color an ideal solution for bridging old to new and updating spaces.

Whites, off-whites, and blank canvas tans are all the rage today, both in European design as well as the U.S. On recent trips to various design firms, many of their showroom spaces feature hardwood flooring that can be best described as Belgian linen in color, what I’ve stated in years past as the perfect blank canvas on which a great design plan can happen. These light pale neutrals are inspired by not only coastal design aesthetics, but also by the Danish design trend known as Hygge, which means “coziness and comfort.”

In early 2016, I listed Hygge as a mega-trend for the year. Not only has Hygge been a mega-trend, but it’s also a concept everyone around the world can live with. Associated with Hygge is another important, but lesser-known concept, Lagom, which means “not too much, not too little, but sufficient.” Both concepts are rooted in the Scandinavian design world and fall into the wants and desires we all have as consumers not only to be comforted, but also to reflect our interests and level of sophistication.

In addition to color and styling, there are all-important global catalysts that help establish and set the biggest of trends. For example, world travel, aka wanderlust, is one specific catalyst that is driving many of these gray, taupe, white, and off-white wood trends. Today, it’s somewhat passé to exhibit “conspicuous consumption,” yet it is widely accepted to show off around-the-world travels via social media posts. More and more, university students are taking semesters or summers abroad for college credits and are getting exposed to heritage sites around the world, edging up their taste for the exotic-aesthetics from the ordinary.

I, for one, can attest that travel is one of the best ways to become inspired and understand how important it is to see the world to have a better understanding of various design inspirations. Wanderlust in wood trends can be best seen in the European-style dramatic widths, lengths, and thicknesses, which, once seen, are next to impossible to trade down to the merely mundane formats or faux wood flooring. Hence you’ll find what I call the “monstro-scale” wood planks shown at international shows and expos. It is possible to bring these looks home, affordably and from domestic sources, if you’re willing to do some research into their origins.

Besides gray-based neutrals, there are some seriously exciting ingredients to consider for 2018 hardwood flooring. For example, technology and history are colliding in the field in a way that is allowing an introduction and influx of floors that are continuing to be wider and longer than the narrow strip orange-red prefinished engineered floors of 20 years ago. For 2018, look to see more options of these larger formats to accentuate the wide-open spaces of homes.

As we’ve witnessed the right-sizing of homes’ square footage during the past decade, homes with open layouts have also become one of the top five must-haves, along with hardwood floors, for those in the market for a new home. Open layouts are nice until the homeowner tries to transition his or her flooring type from space to space unless, of course, it’s hardwood floors, which flow seamlessly from the front door to the back. What makes wide and long hardwood floors the most-desired format is the fact that they essentially expand the spaces visually by reducing the number of joints, end-to-end and side-to-side. With larger boards, the human eye can see more of the beautiful part of the hardwood, which is the wood grain and its natural appeal as a living material. Whether the flooring is dark or light, heavily scraped, cracked, or smooth and refined, the wood’s beauty lies in its ever-growing value over centuries.

A major and important hardwood trend to expect more of in 2018 is intricate parquetry installations, such as herringbone. In recent trips touring castles and chateaus in both England and France, there was an abundance of centuries’ old interiors with herringbone hardwood floors, which offer an appealing “look of richness” to American consumers due to the fact that they add flair and panache to an otherwise simple installation.

As the economy continues to grow, and the housing market expands, we also know that homeowners are turning to trade professionals for their expertise. Many times professionals, whether it’s installers, or designers who work with installers, will put their “signature touch” on projects, setting them apart so to speak, by doing what is difficult and outside the norm.

Herringbone hardwood floors are not easy to make, nor are they easy to install, but the effect is quite grand. It would not do the trend justice to describe it merely as parquet, but it is important to raise awareness that parquet, or wood veneer patterns, are now gaining popularity. To give the trend a generalized label, perhaps the best description is “geometrical patterns in wood,” such as herringbone, squares, triangles, and more. These offer an expensive look and one relatively easy to install because they go down very much like tile, adding instant class and richness to interiors. Parquetry also utilizes smaller pieces of wood, which might otherwise be wasted.

Overall, the best summarization for 2018 is that there will be a continuing refinement and expansion of harder-to-achieve hardwood visuals, which essentially includes layers of multistep hand-touched effects, parquetry and sawn, cracked or crackled visuals in chalky-matte finishes of warm grays, neutral-whites, and driftwood or barnwood grays, just reinvented to feel fresh and new. Be assured though, like our desire for authenticity, the most sought-after flooring will still be hardwood floors, with a careful layering of subtle-hued hand-knotted and tufted rugs.

Emily Morrow Finkell is CEO of EF Floors & Design in Dalton, Georgia. She can be reached at emily@emilymorrowhome.com.

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