Underfoot Interior Design: High Tech, High Style

Story by Nancy Miller

Photos by Jolea Brown

Restyling a room into the spitting image of an interior designer’s showpiece may seem out of your reach of expertise. But, rest assured, you can do it. The question you may be asking is, “Where do I begin?” There’s no one answer that fits everyone’s home. However, you can’t go wrong if your first step is right under your feet.

A quick what-you-need-to-know on the revolution in flooring will open your eyes to hundreds of design possibilities, many of which didn’t exist until a few years ago. Technological advances span the spectrum of flooring options as explained by Natalie Goodin, director of retail business and marketing at The Flooring Gallery.

Hard surfaces may have taken over the top spot in flooring, but carpet manufacturers are fighting back, making carpet a revitalized, attractive choice for many rooms.

If you think carpet won’t live up to the hard knocks it will endure from kids, pets and the daily life of a family on the go, a rhinoceros proves you wrong. The tech savvy gurus at Mohawk Carpet were so confident about SmartStrand’s ability to resist vigorous wear and tear that they had a rhinoceros live on it. Following the experiment, and a thorough cleaning, there were no traces of the rhinoceros’ lack of personal care habits. SmartStrand was also installed at a finish line of a Tough Mudder race. Mud was scraped off with shovels before a deep cleaning resulted in an amazingly clean carpet.

The carpet’s clean rebounding ability is matched by its good looks. “Almost anyone can find something they like in SmartStrand, whether it be patterned, looped or a traditional texture,” says Goodin.

Ceramic tile remains a popular flooring choice with larger format tiles, such as 12- by 24-inch rectangular tiles, being the preferred size. Mixing sizes can result in a unique look for your home, but if you do that, heed her advice of using only tiles from one manufacturer’s collection. Otherwise, the variations in thickness will cause serious problems.

According to Goodin, there is a formidable downside to ceramic: “Many homeowners don’t want to be locked into ceramic tile because removing it is expensive and dusty. Ceramic isn’t absolutely permanent, but it’s pretty doggone permanent.”

Don’t be put off by the word “vinyl” in the hottest category in flooring—luxury vinyl tile. LVT, which typically refers to tile, while LVP refers to luxury vinyl plank, isn’t traditional vinyl. Digital color processes allow the product to mimic the depth and layers of color that appear in wood or tile. LVT and LVP provide a high-end look without a high-end price. The resemblance is so remarkable that when Flooring Gallery Showroom visitors first see LVT, they commonly argue with Goodin that it is wood or tile. In addition to the excellent visuals, LVT is waterproof and scratch resistant. Dropping an object on a ceramic tile floor may result in the tile cracking. That won’t happen with LVT.

Just when you thought you were getting the hang of the latest advances in flooring, here’s another: WPC. Technically, it means wood plastic/polymer composite, but is sometimes called waterproof core. The rigid core is offered in longer, wider formats than some other types of flooring, and may be more comfortable and sound absorbent. Two of the leading brands are Adura by Mannington and COREtec by US Floors.

As terrific as LVT and LVP are, few people would argue that hardwood is the most beautiful floor. “Engineered hardwood outsells solid hardwood. Because of how an engineered floor is structured, you’re able to get a wider plank that will actually lay flat. Wood grows only in one direction as it takes on moisture. With an engineered floor, installers turn every other board, so when the floor absorbs moisture, it pulls against itself and lays flat,” says Goodin. “Wider boards up to 7-inch are hugely popular. That would never be possible with solid wood because it would buckle and cup.”

Hand-scraped wood floors have lost favor to wire brush or soft-scraped finishes, as high gloss has diminished in popularity over low gloss, which hides surface scratches and daily wear.

The availability of myriad colors of hardwood doesn’t make for snap decisions. Most homeowners settle in the middle, neither too dark nor too light. A sensible choice is dual staining that gives layer upon layer of color.

Placing an area rug on a hardwood floor adds another visual dimension to the room. The most readily available sizes of area rugs – 5’ x 7’, 8’ x 10’ or 9’ x 12’ – may not be appropriate for an individual space. “That’s an easy problem to address. We can customize a rug to any size, out of any carpet,” says Goodin.

Take a look at eucalyptus flooring if you’re in the market for something unique, like the new knotty eucalyptus she has on display that has a dual stain of a light caramel undertone with a black finish. VT