Make Your Flooring a Focal Point

Transform your space by upgrading your flooring. Think about your design style and options.
Neutral Kitchen With Navy Island Opens to Yellow Dining Room

Farmhouse Kitchen Opens to Dining Room


By: Lydia Somerville

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We tread on them constantly, stress and abuse them, yet we rarely give them the important design consideration they deserve. But your floors are the single largest defining element in the design of your home.

Upgrading the flooring can instantly transform any room, giving it a fresh, stylish look without changing a bit of the furnishings. If your floors are worn or outdated, you've got a rare opportunity to bring your house into the new millennium.


Wood Works

Wood floors are the most popular type of flooring for good reason. They are comfortable to stand on, have a nice sound when walked on, and can be as light or dark as you wish.

These days, the orange-stained, skinny plank look is less popular than wide planks stained a dark, nearly black tone.

Wood floors laid in a parquet pattern, like herringbone, can add a dose of chateau style to a more formal room.

Cork and bamboo are also gaining in popularity, thanks to their sustainability and durability, and can be especially appropriate in ranchers and more modern homes.

Paint Options

Wood floors can be stenciled or painted for a cottage look. A pale gray checkerboard over a white base coat brightens a room and adds subtle geometry under flat-weave or natural fiber rugs. Bunny Williams, the legendary New York interior designer, prefers stone in an entrance hall but has found ingenious ways to replicate the look with wood floors.

"For one formal Georgian house in Connecticut, I painted the wood floors to simulate squares of marble," Bunny writes in her book Point of View. "The sound and feel of walking on the wood is softer than walking on stone, but the faux marble gives a hall a dignified elegance."

Singular Vision

Whatever type of flooring you choose, you should commit to it for the whole house. "One of the biggest mistakes I see is too many types of flooring being used in a home," says Doug Davis of Tracery Interiors. "I understand the durability of tile in bathrooms and laundry rooms, but in kitchens, especially in open plan spaces, running hardwood flooring from the rest of the house on into the kitchen can expand how big a space feels."

Try to keep the color tones similar if you are changing materials. "In my home, my ebony-stained hardwood floors blend beautifully with charcoal grey limestone in my master bathroom," says Doug. "The look is much more subtle than a switch from dark floors to white tile would have been." Similarly, if using carpet, try to pick a tone that's harmonious with any adjacent hardwood flooring.

Bath Max

Tile floors are the obvious choice for a bathroom, but these days, larger squares of stone are favored over ceramic tile. Pay attention to the grout between tiles. "It's important to avoid grout that's too light," Doug says. "A white tile bathroom floor looks amazing with dark grey grout, in fact it's a look very rooted in history. Beige tile floors with beige grout are bound to look dingy and tired in no time."

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