Give Your Designers a Bone, a Herringbone

In a world filled with endless choices when it comes to hardwood flooring, many professionals, and even designers, are suffering from what I like to call inspiration overload. Let’s take a look at flooring options from the designer’s perspective, and imagine the variety of all the products they have to specify, and find ways to provide some guidance on what’s hot.

This year, what’s hot is herringbone.

It’s easy to be captivated by the wide range of installation configurations in hardwood but, without doubt, the biggest story right now is with herringbone and chevron patterns. I’ve observed design influencers around the world being wooed by the opulence of well-made, well-designed hardwood parquet, often getting down on their knees to feel the wood grain’s texture, contoured edges, and overall finish. At recent shows, I’ve been listening in on design professionals when they are discussing how to include hardwood in their design plan.

This type of feedback makes it all worthwhile and reinforces my belief that real hardwood will never go out of style. The look, the feel, the sound, and even the scent of hardwood can’t be duplicated by any other type of flooring in the world.

Hardwood flooring has never had so much desirability and curb appeal as it does today. It seems that every type of material is mimicking the lovely “bois” pattern and patterns that are similar to wood grain, such as zebra, chevron, and watermarked, all of which are very much in vogue in both interiors and fashion. We can’t help ourselves when it comes to zigs and zags in wood and fabric.

Herringbone, for instance, goes back to ancient Egypt where woven twill fabrics were discovered1 and it’s impossible not to notice the herringbone wood in iconic architecture. Currently, there are endless herringbone and chevron flooring designs in a number of materials. However, for the winning look, hardwood always takes first place.

The Palace of Versailles fuels my love and appreciation for herringbone floors, speaking to the timelessness and classic beauty of parquet. Today and always, herringbone floors exude elegance and make an interior feel extraordinary. We can find herringbone, and its cousins chevron and double herringbone, all around us, even in other materials such as backsplash tiles, textiles, and inside fireplaces.

Why are we seeing so many interior designers and homeowners install herringbone hardwood? Because it’s an excellent way for designers to set their projects and portfolios apart from the others and homeowners love the look. Herringbone hardwood flooring makes a large design statement of elegance and timelessness at first glance. It’s certainly not a “spec house” look found in all your neighborhood’s other homes. Furthermore, herringbone floors are just busy enough, especially in open floor plans, that they create depth, dimension, and visual excitement. In small spaces like entries and foyers, the zigzag design visually leads the eye across the threshold into the desired space. What professional designers and skilled installers know is this: herringbone flooring can add to the value of the home, and depending on the quality of the product itself and the direction of the installation, it can actually wear better, longer, because the traffic is going over the strongest parts of the board. It also shows fewer scratches and wear over time.

By the way, did you know that herringbone was used as far back as Roman times? Herringbone is a very stable installation type to use for hardwood floors (or road pavers, as the Romans used it). Each of the sides pushes against the others at an angle and allows for expansion and contraction under weight or traffic. The length of a paver used by the Romans was not overly large and was easier to cut and work with than large planks for laborers or skilled artisans. Further, the angular installation of the herringbone allows for uneven subfloors or earthen roadbeds. It can undulate over the highs and lows with little concern for trip-hazards.

In looking at all the most beautiful herringbone installations published in shelter and design magazines, it’s apparent that installers can be artists in how they use depths of color, lightness, darkness, and direction to make the installations fit the style of the interior. From a traditional English manor home to a Bel Air, California, residence to a modern Scandinavian apartment, the floor’s metamorphosis is inspiring.

According to the article “These Classic Parquet Floors are Always in Style,” by Lindsey Mather, “For a twist on standard hardwood flooring, try a classic chevron or herringbone pattern – the parquet styles have been around for more than a century. Choosing between the two comes down to personal taste: chevron planks meet in perfect points like a long string of arrows, while herringbone planks look slightly staggered. Often found in formal living rooms, dining rooms, and entrance halls, both of these elegant zigzag designs elevate a room from the ground up.”

One important thing to make a note of, in looking at floors over a life-long career, there are all levels of quality of flooring. Ask yourself why carpet got a bad rap or why people covered the hardwood floors in the 70s only to uncover them in the 90s. American consumers love change and are far too quick to trash something that would be cherished and well-maintained in other cultures, so we’re losing that sense of how quality flooring looks and feels. We have, generally speaking, opted for the cheap alternatives simply for the sake of something new when we could have spent just a little more, invested in better-made hardwood flooring that can last a lifetime, or for centuries if you so desire.

1. Herringbone: Dropping Knowledge | GQ

Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design, LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at kikermorrow@gmail.com.

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