Why wood floors are suddenly the design of the moment

|     Elizabeth Mayhew, The Washington Post     |

WHEN you first enter the foyer of designer Katie Ridder and her architect husband Peter Pennoyer’s house in New York’s Dutchess County, you can’t help but be surprised by the durable lavender ceramic hexagonal tiles that cover the floor. But take a quick turn into their kitchen and the floor changes into mellow wood planks. “I only like wood floors in kitchens,” said Ridder. “They are soft underfoot, the upkeep is easy. . . . I really don’t think there are any drawbacks.”

Just about any image of a kitchen you see these days on decorating blogs, social media or television makeover shows displays a wood floor. Of course, there are many who have tile or stone kitchen floors (like me!), but the current popularity of wood in kitchens cannot be denied. Chalk it up to the kitchen design crush of the moment – the modern farmhouse style – or the overwhelming belief that wood floors are more forgiving, warmer (tile can feel cold to the touch) and more comfortable to stand on for prolonged periods of time.

DC architect Donald Lococo of Donald Lococo Architects says the preference for wood kitchen floors is also due in part to today’s more open house plans. “Rooms that flow into one another, like a kitchen and family room, make it harder to transition from one floor material to another, so the seams between stone and wood are more difficult to implement.”

Debbie Gartner, a Westchester, New York, flooring expert and founder of the Flooring Girl (theflooringgirl.com) said her clients overwhelmingly choose solid wood kitchen flooring for the look and comfort, but also because they feel wood floors are a better investment. “Tile is taste-specific and easily dates itself,” Gartner said. “Hardwood floors, while often more expensive to install, have lasting power and in the long run will be a better return on your investment.”

Some may shy away from using wood flooring in their kitchens because of the required long-term maintenance of wood flooring or the worry of having wood floors near so much water. Gartner said the presence of water should be a minor concern. “People don’t actually get that much water on their kitchen floors, and if an appliance were to break, insurance would typically cover any warping or other damage.”

A Washington, DC kitchen got wood floors during a renovation by Donald Lococo Architects and designer Darryl Carter. – WP-BLOOM

To best preserve the life of wood flooring, Gartner advises first and foremost to always remove your shoes when you come in your house. “My clients often blame their pets for scratches on their wood floors, but it’s people who do more damage.” The biggest culprit: dirt and pebbles that get caught in shoes and then get dragged over the wood.

Gartner also recommends putting felt pads under furniture legs, particularly on chairs and other pieces that get moved frequently. And she says to avoid furniture that is on wheels; dirt can get caught in the wheels and then scratch your floor.

Like any flooring, wood should be cleaned regularly. And never use wax, oils or any product that promises to restore the sheen of your floors. “Such products quickly degrade your floor’s finish, so you will need to sand and refinish them sooner than would typically be necessary,” Gartner said.

In kitchens, Lococo says, the highest-traffic area is in front of the sink, so over time that area of the floor will likely show the most damage, but getting a protective mat like those from GelPro can help protect the wood (they also make doing dishes more comfortable because the mats are cushy to stand on). – WP-BLOOM