By Natalie Weinstein, Allied ASID
I’m ripping up my carpet and putting down a wood floor. I don’t know whether to use real wood or engineered. Is one better than the other? - Susan
Real wood or solid wood is 100% wood from lumber. Because it is solid hardwood and milled, it can shrink or expand with temperature changes or moisture. It is very durable, can be sanded and refurnished for great longevity, but can’t be used in basements or anywhere there is water, like bathrooms.
Engineered wood flooring is made up of layers of wood that are fused together. It’s very stable so it won’t shrink like solid wood and can be installed below ground level so it can be used in basements, ½ baths and baths where solid hardwood can’t. The top layer can be maple, oak, cherry, hickory, birch, etc. and the layers underneath are usually ply wood.
There are different wood species, but there are also exotic woods from which to choose, like Brazilian Cherry, mahogany, tiger wood, sapele, etc. which give a less uniform look to the floor. There are also different plank sizes from narrow (3” or less) to wide planks (5” and more). This also makes a difference in the look. Narrow planks generally are seen in more traditional rooms, whereas wider planks look best in more rustic or contemporary settings.
Engineered wood floors can either be nailed or glued down just like hardwood floors, but it can also be installed as a “floating” floor where the boards are attached to each other and not the existing floor.
Solid hardwood floors can be stained and refinished many times over the course of many years, whereas engineered floors can only be refinished once or twice. The cost may be more, but not always. The conditions of your existing floor may affect the cost as well. If you are planning to install the floor yourself, engineered wood floors are more user friendly, but I would advise that you get a flooring expert to give you an estimate, as well.
There are also laminate floors which mimic the look of real wood (ceramic, or stone, etc.). They are less costly and have a top layer that protects the floor, a layer that is a photograph of wood, stone, etc., an inner core and a backing. It is durable, but obviously cannot be refinished like a real wood floor.
Remember, your flooring decision will be one that will last you as long as you live in your home, so while budget will certainly be a factor, choose wisely for the long haul and for your particular design style and location in your home.
It’s been an interesting 2016 so far. Past clients have been calling for redesign, add-ons and move-outs! (I guess that’s bound to happen when you’ve been a designer as long as I.) Others have decided to add a second home in Florida and I am being taken along on this journey, as well. All of which is part of why I love what I do. This progression shows me that people value their homes and want it to keep up with every age and stage of their lives. As a young designer, I wanted perfection in every aspect of design for my clients. Today I know for sure that the feelings your home evokes are even more important. How you feel about your home and how it makes you feel have become for me, the essence of good design.
I have often heard people say they’ve gone to someone’s newly decorated home and it “felt” wonderful as well as looked great. Sometimes people have the opposite reaction. The decorating may be updated and even expensive, yet it was not warm, welcoming or even comfortable. I remember my parents’ home when I was a little girl. People loved coming there and it was truly a gathering place. Yet it was neither lavish nor expensive, but it “felt” good.
So what makes a home feel good? Is it a good space plan? Is it colors that work well together? Is it furniture that is scaled well to the size and height of a room? Is it art and accessories that embrace the space, yet leave room for the people? Is it that walls and windows become part of the whole environment adding the needed finishing touches? Is it a place where people can have fun or relax or escape? Or is it all of the above? Of course, dear reader, you already know the answer. A home that combines all these elements of good design will also have the right “feeling” for both home owner and guest. Notice we did not say expensive, although it is certainly easier for both designer and client if there is more latitude in what can be spent. But spending more does not necessarily ensure a better result. A good shopper is a good shopper – and just like no one knows if the pearls are real worn on that basic black dress, no one will know how much the budget was for your well designed room.
So - what feeling does the change of season evoke in you? If you’ve got the urge to do some spring cleaning and redoing – go for it – that’s sweat equity that will surely pay off and give you a great start. Then perhaps you’ll have the next urge to make your home a more welcoming place for you and those who enter. This spring, go with the feeling and see how great your home can make you feel.