Wood flooring options are endless these days-a fact that became abundantly clear when I recently restored the 130-plus-year-old surfaces in my Brooklyn home. The yellow-pine flooring was one of the original details that seduced me into buying my family’s duplex in an Italianate brownstone. The floors had what some might call patina and others would dub problems (tons of holes and gaps between boards). As the author of a book on renovating antique homes, Restoring a House in the City, I wanted to make every effort to save the original flooring.
My contractor, Brendan Duffy, of Duffy’s Floor Services, recommended a two-pronged approach: Restore what we could and replace what we couldn’t. He showed up with a dustless vacuum system equipped with an air purifier. “It’s no longer a dusty, smelly, messy job,” he said, explaining that low-VOC water-based finishes have begun to supplant the old polyurethanes and can be used to create an endless array of looks. To tone down the yellow in my floorboards, we used products from Swedish floor company Bona: DriFast Stain in a mix of one part White and two parts Natural, plus NaturalSeal for a little more white undertone. Duffy topped it off with Traffic HD Extra Matte. “It’s a more natural look with no reflective glare,” says Todd Schutte of Bona. “You can still see the wood, but the low-sheen finish hides scratches and scuffs.”
I am now gearing up for the second phase of my project: replacing floor sections too damaged to restore. There, too, the choices have multiplied, with products ranging from reclaimed to new wood with all the character (but fewer of the imperfections) of the old. Tastes have evolved, notes the Hudson Company’s Jamie Hammel, who operates his own mill in Pine Plains, New York.
“Twenty years ago, the trend was narrow boards, void of character, and stained either natural or brown,” he says. “Now people want floors that celebrate the innate character of wood: wide planks, long lengths, knots, and patina.”Meanwhile, patterns-from chevrons to blocks-are also surging. “My very favorite is parquet de Versailles,” notes decorator Alex Papachristidis of the interlacing diagonal style made famous by the French palace. My pine floors are comparatively humble, but the makeover was everything I had hoped for-the rooms feel lighter and more modern, yet the floors retain a sense of their soul and a link to my home’s history.
Now that you know all about my experience renovating my Brooklyn home, see how top designers used wood flooring in a variety of interiors.
Designer Brad Ford created a white oak replica of a New York apartment's original inlaid parquet floor. To get the look, try this oak, mahogany, and Peruvian walnut border by pidfloors.com.
Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin’s Brooklyn entry hall features a dark-stained parquet floor. To get the look, try this Antique French Oak Limoges Pattern from parisceramicsusa.com.
Parquet floors are done in dark walnut and oak in a Milan apartment designed by Studio Peregalli. To get the look, try Fountainbleu European Oak from duchateau.com.
Designer David Kaihoi created a hand-stained faux- marquetry tumbling-blocks pattern on the floors of his New York apartment. To get the look, try ZEP13 Wood Parquet from tabarkastudio.com.
Bleached and custom-stained white-oak flooring stands out in the New York dining room of Eric Pike and Stefan Steil. To get the look, try White Oak Center Cut from thehudsonco.com.
A custom herringbone floor by Stephen Gamble takes center stage in a New York apartment designed by Alex Papachristidis. To get the look, try Chevron Reclaimed French Oak from xsurfaces.com.
If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.