Modern Flooring Options

Something’s up underfoot!


Any major renovation, remodel or new construction starts from the bottom up. So a firm interior design foundation – wood, tile, stone or carpet – comes first. Let’s look below the surface of the many options of flooring available today.

Flooring can be flamboyant, like a black-and-white harlequin pattern of tiles reminiscent of a Venetian palace, to something that fades into the background, such as a neutral no-pile carpet, that just serves as a blank canvas to showcase your furniture and walls.

But your flooring’s appearance is only part of what you need to consider. Think about:

  • What happens in the room
  • How much traffic and what kind of traffic it will get
  • Character and style of the room, e.g., formal or informal
  • How long it will last (how durable is the material)
  • How comfortable it feels underfoot
  • What kind of care it requires
  • Your budget

There are so many choices today, even within one material like wood, for example. Pine wood alone has variations, from heart of pine (the absolute hardest) to yellow or white pine (only half as hard, and can be subject to dents and dings).

Hardwood can be finished in different stains, and to a high-gloss sheen, a satin finish (popular now) or a matte finish. Boards can be laid horizontally or diagonally for a more contemporary look, or in a herringbone or chevron pattern like old parquet.


Hardwood floors are timeless but there are a lot more choices now in terms of color (from expresso to white and the new neutral, gray) and styles.

Lighter color (blond) wood expands a room visually, while darker wood looks elegant and old world. In a high-ceilinged Victorian, a dark floor adds a rich look. But dark wood shows dust and dirt more than lighter woods.

Trending now are wood planks that are longer and wider (8 to 10 inches). Reclaimed wood—“recycled” from old barns and underneath carpets in old houses. These give a unique look but the supply is limited. For a similar look, you can get distressed wood, made to look old.

Another kind of wood floor is engineered wood, which is a hardwood veneer over plywood or fiberboard base. The thicker the veneer the more expensive it is, but it’s still less than solid hardwood.

Laminates have been around long enough they no longer “sound” plastic-y like some used to (like when your dog’s nails “click” across the room). Plus they can be virtually undetectable from the real thing. Laminate is a very thin layer of plastic or wood glued to a core. Besides being less expensive, these floors are scratch resistant and come in almost as many varieties as hardwood.

If using sustainable materials matters to you, bamboo (very strong) or cork might fit the bill. Both are environmentally friendly. Cork is becoming a favorite in kitchens because its softness and resiliency are easier on backs, feet and legs. It also soaks up sound.

Other flooring materials to tickle your tootsies include ceramic and porcelain tile, including some in styles that are made to look like wood. Slate and stone are popular for smaller inside floors, such as bathrooms and indoor/outdoor transition areas like mudrooms. Though easy to clean, some materials require annual sealing or treatment.


Carpet is a warm, cozy perennial favorite for New England bedrooms or, if your floors are hardwood, add rugs. There are hundreds of choices in carpet, from differences in pile to carved patterns, nylon versus wool, and of course colors.

Sisal is a natural plant material that is used in carpets, and especially on stairs as runners or treads. (Hardwood stairs can be slippery for pets to climb.) It’s durable, doesn’t show dirt, but is not very soft.

What lies just beneath the surface…

Remodelling with new flooring is the perfect opportunity to fix those squeaky floorboards, and even out sloping or uneven floors. That’s a must, actually—tile or stone or vinyl will crack if the base is not level.

hardwood-kitchen-flooringWhether you go with engineered wood, laminate, ceramic tile or, stone or carpet, what’s underneath matters too. Whether sub flooring or underlayment (plywood, foam or particleboard), the foundation of the flooring is important to get right. A good carpet deserves good padding, for example.

For a treat for your feet, think about radiant heating beneath your flooring. It warms the room from the floor up and is an efficient way to heat. It’s appropriate for underneath most flooring materials except for carpeting, which blocks the heat.

Floored by all the choices? Your 3W Design team will help you select and install the perfect material for your home and lifestyle, to keep you on firm footing for a very long time.

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