Wood makes a good floor show Design: There's a lot more going on underfoot than you might imagine.

November 16, 1997|By Michael Walsh | Michael Walsh,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Like other surfaces -- walls, ceilings, cabinets and counter tops -- hardwood floors can be improved upon. Simply put, the idea is to mix and match materials -- hardwood with something else: paint, stain, marble, granite, slate, ceramic tile, carpet, metal, even another type of wood.

Because of new manufacturing technology, improved stains and finishes and enlightened attitudes among flooring contractors, interior designers, architects and artisans, you now can have a one-of-a-kind wood floor. The following should give an idea of the range of possibilities afforded by the time, effort and money you want to put into the project.

Stencils: If you haven't been paying attention, stencils have progressed far beyond ducks and pineapples on the walls of the kids' room. It's now possible to create an "area rug" with stencils: a painted-on image that looks like a rag, braided or antique Oriental rug, complete with fringe. Or you could choose a classic Greek key "inlay," a smattering of wind-blown maple leaves or simple pinstripes. Check out the ready-made stencils and stencil books at your local craft store.

* Freehand artwork: If you're not particularly artistic, look around for a decorative painter who specializes in painting floors and who will work with you to devise an appealing painted image or pattern. The options are wide open: a morning glory vine to match the draperies, a cobblestone border, a fool-the-eye wading pool or just squares or diamonds that mimic marble.

* Fresh finishes: In recent years, whitewashed or pickled finishes have been applied to traditional dark wood floors. With pigmented stains and aniline dyes, you can now have a wood floor in a nonwood color that's beyond the pale -- barn red, sky blue, grass green or mellow yellow.

* Stone and tile: Frame areas of granite, marble, brick or quarry tile with wood planks. Install a stone or tile border around a field of hardwood.

For a kitchen's wood floor, create a ceramic tile "throw rug" inlay in front of the sink.

* Metal: A simple brass, copper or stainless steel inlay around a fireplace (or around a room) can add a delicate ribbon of glimmer.

* Other woods: True, one-wood floors are typical, but oak isn't your only choice. Maple, birch, walnut, Brazilian cherry, mahogany, ash, pine and others have unique grains and colors and can be used as borders or inlays.

* Pattern: Row after row of boards all the same size can produce an attractive floor. But again, there are options. Install floorboards on the diagonal or create a herringbone effect. Use random widths -- 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 inches -- to help achieve a more rustic look.

* Carpet: To keep costs down, install a hardwood border around the perimeter of a room and use carpeting directly on the subfloor in the middle of the space.

When the carpet needs to be replaced or when your tastes change, you can change the carpet inlay without disturbing the wood border. This is an especially good technique for high-traffic hallways.

Look for ideas in decorating books and magazines, and talk to wood-flooring dealers. It may take some searching to find an artist or like-minded flooring contractor who shares your enthusiasm for doing something unconventional, but they're out there.

Drop-dead dramatic, or subdued and subtle, a wood floor can indeed be a distinctive decorative element in your home, not just a taken-for-granted foundation for furniture or household traffic.


Free information about hardwood flooring is available from the Hardwood Manufacturers Association, 800-373-WOOD, or from the association's Web site at www.hardwood.org.

Another good source is the National Wood Flooring Association at 800-422-4556. Or try that association's Web site at www.woodfloors.org.

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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