Home & Garden

Walking the plank in flooring: lighter, bigger, rougher

Oak flooring is in high demand, as are lighter tones in wood floors.
Oak flooring is in high demand, as are lighter tones in wood floors. Tribune

It’s been three years since Matt and Alana Andrews bought their one-story home built in 1960 in Newport Beach, Calif. Now, they’re in the thick of a major renovation to bring the home into line with their 21st-century lifestyle, including installing blond, 61/4-inch-wide hand-distressed Siberian oak planks finished with ultraviolet-cured oil.

“We wanted something that resembled the old heart-of-pine floors that you see in Southern farmhouses,” Alana said.

The planks, which are from the Heirloom collection of Santa Ana-based Provenza Wood Floors, are in sync with some of the major themes in wood flooring for houses across the United States.

Here are those themes, as well as other top wood and engineered wood floor trends that we’re seeing in homes, with industry experts Scott Humphrey, chief executive of the World Floor Covering Association, and Michael Martin, chief executive of the National Wood Flooring Association, weighing in.

Lightening up

During the economic downturn, people gravitated toward traditional dark colors. But with the economy improving, Humphrey said, he’s seeing a rise in the demand for lighter tones. Some of these are finished to look like driftwood or washed in white to make them look beachy. The look is popular on both coasts and is growing elsewhere in the country.

“There is a growing popularity in what are referred to as ‘domestic exotics,’ like hickory and ash,” Martin said. “Walnut is growing in popularity and, if left natural, is much lighter than traditionally dark-stained walnut. That said, red oak and white oaks continue to be widely used, and are easily stained for any design trend.

“Many of us remember the pickled light woods of 25 years ago. The gray, white and lighter multiple stain color processes of today are this generation’s version of that trend.”


Traditional wood floors usually have 21/4-inch- to 31/2-inch-wide planks. But some homeowners are gravitating toward planks that are 6 inches wide or more and also longer, Humphrey said. These can make rooms appear bigger.

“Wide and long planks are very popular in high-end homes at the moment,” Martin said. “Many new engineered wood flooring products are emerging to match this trend.” He added that as the wood gets wider and longer, engineered products tend to move less and are more stable, depending on the humidity levels of the home.

Going gray – or not

Gray is having its moment, whether it’s gray mixed with light or dark brown, whitish gray or gray with black. “Gray or weathered-looking wood flooring is very popular with designers this year,” Martin said. “However, as we watch furniture trends, which tend to indicate flooring as well, there seems already to be less focus on gray moving into 2015.”


Wood that’s reclaimed from buildings, houses, barns and other structures is getting new life as flooring. It adds a rustic or aged touch and tends to be used in a wide range of homes, from those that have casual or contemporary interiors to homes that feature more traditional furnishings to homes with eclectic designs. The farmhouse look is big this year, and both reclaimed and lighter-hued woods fit that aesthetic.

Roughing it

It used to be that hardwood floors had to look smooth and pristine. Some homeowners prefer the opposite, seeking wood planks that have been distressed or wire-scraped. The biggest advantage of these roughed-up woods: They hide scratches and nicks much more than smooth and shiny floors do.

Looking natural

“Matte, penetrating oils and UV finishes are gaining in popularity,” Martin said. Some of these finishes allow the grain of the wood to be more visible, a plus for homeowners seeking a rustic or natural look. “From a care and maintenance perspective, it’s important for homeowners to understand what type of finish they’ve installed, as there are different techniques for upkeep,” he said.