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What We Consider When Choosing Flooring for Our Clients’ Homes

Few elements have a greater impact on your home’s look and feel than the flooring. Whether for a remodel or a new home, choosing your floors is a big commitment. Like paint, it covers a large portion of your spaces. Unlike paint, it’s a big investment and something you don’t want to do often. But the fact remains that the right flooring can make all the difference in your spaces so choosing it wisely is imperative.

Choosing flooring for your home
Image via Sophie Paterson Interiors

Because the flooring selection makes such a massive difference in the direction of the design, I usually start my clients' projects with it. Establishing this first ensures that we won’t get too far into making all the other choices (like cabinetry, furnishings, metals, etc.) only to wind up choosing flooring that throws everything else off.  


From the materials and colors to the durability and layout patterns, there's a lot to consider when picking flooring. Here’s everything I take into account when helping my clients make the right choice for their homes.


Natural vs. manufactured materials

Overall, I far prefer natural materials (wood, stone, etc.) over man made (such as porcelain and ceramic tile). However, there are exceptions in certain applications.


For example, we’re currently embarking on a project where all three levels of the home’s flooring will be concrete. We’re considering various colors and finishes to create the smooth, rich, sealskin-like visual and tactile effect we’re going for. While I often like an aggregate look that shows pattern and texture, in this case, a quieter texture is called for in order to allow the other materials in the home to sing.


 In especially clean-lined, more modern interiors, I love to bring in flooring that feels natural, organic, and even in some sense historical as the foundation for the design. I find this works very well to balance the ultra-modern style with a grounding sensibility.

Despite my general preference for organic options, I can appreciate that the industry has pulled off some beautiful man made looks for areas that call for them (such as kids' rooms, apartments, etc.). There are many options in the LVP (luxury vinyl plank) flooring category that are just lovely, as well as durable and easy to maintain.




Current (yet classic) tones & textures

When it comes to wood tones and textures, there’s a shift happening across the board in design for cabinet materials, furnishings, and, of course, flooring. We've cycled through some very distinct wood trends over the past 20 years including warm oak, grainy hickory, and knotty alder. Ten or so years ago, we moved into cooler gray tones.


Different flooring materials can be used together beautifully, such as the hardwood and terrazzo shown here.
Image via Pinterest

Lately, however, the public is smitten with white oak. It's a blonde wood with beautiful grain patterns and it’s showing up in natural hardwood, engineered wood, and luxury vinyl plank. Within the design industry, however, we’re already looking beyond this at what’s going to be next. From everything we’re seeing, it’s looking like this is going to be mid-toned browns–nothing too dark and nothing too light, but right in between.


Right now at RHD, we still love white oak flooring, but in one of our recent remodel projects, it was too severe of a change. Our answer was to bleach the existing wood floor and then refinish it with a more mid-tone brown stain that got us away from the current yellow tones and that works beautifully with the client’s cabinetry, ceiling, and furnishings. Sometimes, the ideal acts as inspiration for a solution that’s somewhere in the middle (and by the way, truly timeless!).


Some other options I love that bring in an element of organic texture even though the material itself isn’t natural are artisanal brick, ceramic and glass tile, and terrazzo.


Staying power & sustainability

Of all the materials in our homes, our flooring gets the most wear and tear. We not only want to help our clients invest wisely in floors that are going to stand up to daily use, we also believe we have a duty to them and to the environment to make selections that maximize sustainability. This means we consider how the materials are sourced, transported, and manufactured.


When we're approaching our clients’ projects (particularly remodels), we always look to see what can be salvaged, repurposed, and/or refinished. When introducing new flooring, we’re looking for long-term staying power–ideally something that can be refinished again and again. That’s not always possible, but we do try hard to cut down on waste both now and in the future.


It’s also important to consider how the flooring material we choose will hold up against the home’s environment. Some flooring types are going to be far better than others in a waterfront home, for example. We need to think about what it’s going to be exposed to in terms of humidity and what’s inevitably going to get tracked in like mud, sand, or water and select flooring accordingly.




Standard vs. unique layout patterns

When choosing tile or brick flooring, you also have to decide on a layout pattern. Standard layout patterns can look good in all settings; but going just a bit offbeat into something that’s a little different yet still classic like a herringbone pattern–which seems to be everywhere right now–adds something extra special.


An added bonus is that for larger spaces, using a pattern like herringbone will break up the floor so it doesn't feel like a bowling alley while at the same time being a consistent pattern that’s not too distracting. It adds lovely character to a space that feels elevated.

 

Another trick I love to employ when it makes sense is to pair a blonde wood flooring with a brick or a lovely tile in a similar hue. Again, it breaks up the monotony without looking too chopped up. So lovely!


Comfort & safety

Flooring materials today come in many special shapes such as the hexagon slate tiles shown here.
Image via The Tile Shop

Are you a shoes-on or a shoes-off household? Does your family prefer bare feet or do you don house shoes–or a combination of both? Believe it or not, this greatly affects the kinds of flooring that will work best for you. Some materials simply don’t feel good under bare feet so consider your choices accordingly.


For example, while we love the look of the tumbled river rock tile that’s become so popular for shower floors, we've had to be very clear with our clients that many people find it very uncomfortable to stand on in their bare feet. It's subjective and some people do like it (they say it feels like an intense foot massage). Those who dislike it say it just plain hurts!

 

Some popular flooring selections, such as slate, have inherently uneven, worn surfaces. It’s important to consider whether this is going to bother you aesthetically, but more importantly in terms of safety. Because there can be differentials from tile to tile (and even within a single tile), shoes or toes can catch, making them a very real tripping hazard.


When we have a client who loves a flooring like this, we make them aware of the potential issues. If they still want it in their home, we try to find ways to make it work safely, usually by placing it in a low-traffic area where tripping isn’t a concern.

 

Choosing flooring for your home is a big deal. There are so many options and let’s face it, it’s a big investment no one wants to get wrong! Now that you have insight into what we at RHD consider when choosing flooring for our clients’ homes, we hope you feel more confident and less overwhelmed by it all. (By the way, you may have noticed we didn’t tackle carpet here, and that’s because that’s a whole other topic, which we’ll handle in a future post.) But if you’re in the Marin or Sonoma County area and you’d like some expert help choosing flooring and other finishes for your remodel or new custom home, just reach out to us!


 

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