A Custom Touch: Bringing History to Life

Photos courtesy of Adrian Molitor | Molitor Traditional Flooring LLC

Adrian Molitor, the founder of Molitor Traditional Flooring LLC in Madison, Wisconsin, has a passion for tradition that drives his dedication to restoring and recreating historical hardwood floors. With a background in tattoo artistry and a love for classic Americana-style tattoos, Molitor’s affinity for traditional craftsmanship led him to establish a business focused on preserving the enduring beauty of hardwood flooring.

“I enjoy re-creating history and perhaps creating something that will be history someday. That means I don’t do plastic floors. I want it to look classic and handmade. I like the rustic quality, but there is also a sturdiness to it,” says Molitor. “It’s a statement against throw-away society to make something that can last hundreds of years.”

Molitor’s commitment to tradition is evident in his choice of materials and techniques. In a recent project, he installed a mixed species basket weave pattern using native Wisconsin woods, including American cherry and yellow birch, both of which were highlighted by purpleheart. Patterns from a century ago inspired this intricate design, and Molitor even top-nailed the floor to emulate the classic, handmade quality of historical hardwood floors.

The project arose when a family contacted Molitor after seeing pictures of his work on a Madison, Wisconsin-focused “historic building” Facebook page. The family didn’t own a historic home, but they appreciated Molitor’s craftsmanship and passion. They entrusted him with the hardwood flooring for their entire house, including a staircase, living room, and fireplace wrap.

“It was like a dream.  They were very open-minded people, and it felt like a moment where I could perhaps recommend something custom, and they might be accepting of the idea. I gave them the prices, told them we’d need the house for two weeks, and they agreed,” says Molitor.

He quickly devised a basketweave parquet pattern using flame-figured birch and purpleheart.

“I enjoy recreating history and perhaps creating something that will be historic someday. I want it to look classic and handmade. I like the rustic quality, but there is also a sturdiness to it. It’s a statement against throw-away society to make something that can last hundreds of years..”
— Adrian Molitor,
Molitor Traditional Flooring LLC

“When I showed them the wood and explained what I wanted to do, even though they didn’t completely grasp what it was going to look like, they trusted my vision, as they could tell how passionate I was,” says Molitor. “They wanted me to go for it, simply telling me they were excited to see how it would turn out.”

Molitor’s commitment to tradition is evident in his choice of materials and techniques. In a recent project, he installed a mixed species basket weave pattern using native Wisconsin woods, including American cherry and yellow birch, both of which were highlighted by purpleheart.

Molitor’s process involved precise planning and execution, from measuring and cutting the plywood blocks to dry laying the pieces and ensuring everything aligned perfectly.

“It was a matter of cutting out 10” blocks of sanded plywood, then cut out four squares I would need for each block. I had to use the smaller squares because I could not locate larger 7” or 8” pieces of flame-figured birch,” he explains. “This ended up being a good thing as I could then play with the grain and have it go in different directions inside each square.”

With the pieces prepared in his shop, Molitor knew he would have to pay great attention to detail for a successful installation.

“I screwed and glued the plywood to the subfloor. The next day I returned with all the pieces I had pre-cut and began dry laying it out. I had to make a few small adjustments to ensure it laid straight,” he says. “I then used really thin pin nails in the centers of each square as you might see in a 100-year-old Wisconsin floor.”

After sanding, Molitor sealed his work with an oil-based sealer, followed by a couple coats of Bona Traffic HD.

“When I was finished, the homeowner walked to the entryway and started to cry. I have not had that experience in a long time. They were so happy with the work, and it was a great moment for me,” says Molitor. “Sometimes I get lost in the monotony of business, and I forget about the people. This was a powerful moment, connecting with people I wanted to work for and surpassing their expectations.

For Molitor, it’s not just about the end result but also about bringing a hardwood floor to life.

“I tell my son, who helped on this project, that the process is what matters the most and not skipping any steps and making sure that it is solid so that it might last as long as some of the floors we’ve restored in the past,” says Molitor. “There’s no easy way to do that and no shortcuts. So you might as well be careful and thorough during the process.”

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