Emily Morrow Finkell for NWFA Magazine: What’s Your Herringbone IQ? Designs in Hardwood Flooring

Why we love herringbone? Emily of Emily Morrow Home Hardwood explains

Looking through all the endless iterations of hardwood flooring, hardwood “looks” and all the porcelain tiles can cause one to get inspiration overload, especially if you’re looking at it from “outside” our industry. Even professional designers sometimes are overwhelmed by the variety and need some guidance to what’s hot. Let’s test your knowledge on the various designs in hardwood installations that are trending today.

For instance, did you know that the herringbone was used a far back as in Roman times as road pavers? I’ve referenced in previous design articles that the Palace of Versailles fueled my love and appreciation for the herringbone floors as it speaks to the timelessness and classic beauty of not only hardwood floors but also of herringbone hardwood floors. In researching for some of this material, my husband and in-house expert of hardwood flooring Don Finkell questioned what I meant by my claim that “herringbone” was stronger than other types of installation types. He, an architect, and I, an interior designer and part of a multigenerational family commercial construction business, decided this was a fair statement and did a deep dive into the reasons “why”.

Herringbone is a very stable installation type to use for hardwood floors (or road pavers) by design, wherein each of the sides push against the others at an angle and allow for expansion and contraction under weight or traffic. For example, the length of the wood “paver” was not overly large and easier to cut and work with than large planks for laborers or skilled artisans. There’s even more reason why herringbone and other parquetry was used. Practical reasons oftentimes explain the presence of certain things found in historic construction of homes and buildings. The angular installation of the herringbone allows for uneven subfloors or earthen road beds. It can undulate over the highs and lows with little concern for trip-hazards. Today and always, herringbone floors speaks to elegance or pattern play and always makes an interior feel extraordinary. We can find it and its “cousins” chevron and double herringbone all around us, in backsplash tiles, in textiles, inside fireplaces and more.

 

Parquet patterns - collection of most popular flooring samples with names - isolated outline vector illustration on white background.
Parquet patterns – collection of most popular hardwood flooring samples

With that in mind, here we are with the low-down on all that and more. Hardwood flooring has never had so much “sex appeal”, and curb appeal, as it does today. Every type of material is mimicking the lovely “bois” pattern…and patterns that are similar to wood grain, such as zebra, chevron and watermarked, are very much in vogue in both interiors and fashion. We can’t help ourselves when it comes to zigs and zags in wood and fabric. Herringbone for instance goes back to ancient Egypt where woven twill fabrics were discovered (Herringbone: Dropping Knowledge | GQ ) and its impossible not to notice the herringbone wood in iconic architecture like The Palace at Versailles. Currently there are endless herringbone and chevron flooring designs in VCT, rigid core product, porcelain, laminate and of course hardwood itself. For the winning look, hardwood takes first place although the other look-alikes offer consumers a high-end look at a great price point.

Why are we seeing so many interior designers and homeowners install herringbone hardwood? It is an excellent way for designers to set their projects and portfolios apart from the other designers, and homeowners love the look. Herringbone hardwood flooring makes a large design statement of elegance and timelessness at first glance… it’s certainly not a “spec house” look found in all your neighborhood’s other homes. Furthermore, herringbone floors are just busy enough, especially in open floor plans, that they create depth, dimension and visual excitement. In small spaces like entries and foyers, the zig-zag design visually leads the eye across the threshold into the desired space. What professional designers and skilled installers know is this, herringbone flooring can add to the value of the home, and depending on the quality of the product itself and the direction of the installation, it can actually wear better longer due to the fact that the traffic is going over the strongest parts of the board.

“These classic parquet floors are always in style” by,“For a twist on standard hardwood flooring, try a classic chevron or herringbone pattern—the parquet styles have been around for more than a century. Choosing between the two comes down to personal taste: Chevron planks meet in perfect points like a long string of arrows, while herringbone planks look slightly staggered. Often found in formal living rooms, dining rooms, and entrance halls, both of these elegant zigzag designs elevate a room from the ground up.” 24 Elegant Chevron and Herringbone Flooring Ideas Photos | Architectural Digest     

In looking at all the most beautiful herringbone installations published in shelter and design magazines, it’s apparent that the installers are genuine artists in how they are using depths of color, lightness and darkness, and direction to make the installations fit the style of the interior. From a traditional English manor home, a Bel Air, California residence to a modern Scandinavian apartment, the floor’s metamorphosis is inspiring. The creative magic happens because you can intermix the planks and produce any style or pattern dependent upon your installer’s ability.

One important thing to make note of when looking at floors as a life-long career, you’ll see all levels of quality of flooring. Ask yourself why carpet got a bad wrap or why people covered the hardwood floors in the 70’s only to uncover them in the 90’s…American consumers love change and are far too quick to trash something that would be cherished and well-maintained in Europe, so we’re losing that sense of what “quality” flooring looks and feels like. We have, generally speaking, opted for cheaper imports simply for the sake of something new when we could have spent just a little more money and or time, invested in superior American-made hardwood flooring that can last a lifetime, or multiple lifetimes, if you so desire.

It’s easy to be captivated by the wide range of installation configurations in hardwood but, without doubt, the biggest story is in the herringbone and chevron. I’ve observed design influencers around the world being wooed by the opulence of well-made, well designed hardwood boards, oftentimes getting down on their knees to feel the wood grain’s texture, contoured edges and overall finish. Listening in on design professionals discussing how they could include hardwood boards in their design plan makes it all worthwhile and gives me hope that hardwood will never go out of style. The look, the feel, the sound and especially the scent of hardwood can’t be duplicated by any other type of flooring in the world.

 

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Design Spectator: Do you believe in magic? Great ideas that come to life are “magic”

Emily Morrow Finkell, DESIGN SPECTATOR:
Do you believe in magic?
Great ideas that come to life are “magic”…

http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/publication/?i=407413#{“issue_id”:407413,”page”:35}

As someone who considers myself “mature”, certainly well beyond believing in mythical creatures, the Easter bunny and magic tricks, I admittedly have become a believer in a kind of “magic”…not the kind that where rabbits come out of hats but a more refined kind of magic, the “magic” that happen when the greatest talents in the design world create something we all see and recognize as something beyond the ordinary. It takes that certain something, je ne sais quoi, to come up with a “winner” and ever more of that certain something to have a successfully selling product.

Over my twenty-something years of meeting and or collaborating with the very best in the design world, there’s one common thread that I have finally deduced that they all share. I’ve met some greats: Kevin Sharkey, as in Senior Vice President and Executive Editorial Director, Decorating, and Executive Creative Director, Merchandising for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.; Alexa Hampton, owner and designer of Mark Hampton Design, LLC and designer of a variety of licensed products under her own name; and those design talents you might not have heard of but certainly know their work in the many items we use daily without even thinking. Each one carry with them an experience and wisdom that comes from working both hard and smart, those who have been born with a natural gift, an ability or an eye, with a passion and a drive to create something beautiful. These are the “magicians” of our world, the artists, interior designers, fashion designers and product designers. They bring beauty out of nothing one can see with the naked eye and make it into something indispensible to us as consumers. Walking through the various expos, furniture and design shows as often as I do, I’ve seen with my own eyes the incredibly brilliant outcomes of the magic from some very talented design minds. Some very great products and designs are licensed under very well known names, assuring the consumers that the credibility and integrity of the designs are at their best ,while others were conceived by unnamed product designers for the licensees, and yet others are the result of companies who mine for design either by outside consultants or their own internal product design teams. Regardless of the method, the outcome is always exciting to see.

 

During this spring’s High Point Market, I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with Alexander Julian as he spoke about his life’s work and career in designing fashion for menswear, womenswear as well as home furnishings, specifically Universal Furniture. Alex, as he is known by his friends and colleagues, said he always wanted to be an artist but he said his hands could not draw the colors and patterns that were in his head, so he turned to product design to explain it… it is commercial art…”art is my teacher”. The world between fashion and furnishings is interesting from his perspective. He said that he looks at many of the same things for inspiration, nature, art, texture, color, how it feels et cetera, “but the advantages of furniture is that it’s not gender specific, one must appeal to women and men simultaneously… How you feather your nest…fashion is the common denominator, it’s in the simple details, button for example” as he gestures towards the console table with tortoise shell button inspired pulls. 

After all the questions and answers were over, I overheard one of the designers say as they were leaving the meeting room, “Wow, he actually didn’t tell us anything tangible about how he does what he does…but he certainly does it well. Do you think he knows, really what it is that he does, what it is that makes him special and sought after?” This question caused me to think about the mystery of the creative process and the genius of great design. It is something that can only be described as “magic”.

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A vignette within Universal Furniture’s massive 118,000 square foot design showroom in High Point, North Carolina
What does it take to make magic? It requires years of study, observation, trials as well as failures, and most importantly, it requires successes with the right combinations of people and partners. It also reminded me of the incredibly hardworking and talented design mavens who work for the companies that pay license fees to “celebrity designers”, many of whom I know personally and respect them greatly. Currey and Company as well as Universal Furniture are two that immediately come to mind. Janine Wagers, Creative Director at Universal Furniture, was frequently lauded by Alexander Julian for her amazing design work within their endlessly stunning vignettes and rooms at High Point. Currey and Company’s Brownlee Currey and Curtis Adams, Creative Director also showcased newest looks under the Bunny Williams name. All of their creations,  collaboratively with Bunny Williams  or solely by their own internal designers, the freshness and inspiration is immediately apparent to anyone who follows design. 

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Brownlee Currey of Currey and Company explains the newest trends in lighting and accessories, all very fashion and jewelry inspired.
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Emily Morrow Finkell (left) and Janine Wagers (right) Creative Director for Universal Furniture.

Success comes from an idea that has been brought to life by lots of nurturing, endless support that has been reworked, tweaked, financially backed by someone who’s willing to go to bat for it, go the distance for it and most importantly that certain someone who’s willing to buy it, buy enough of it to make sense on a financial level. This seems so simple from afar. If you’ve seen the movie “Joy”, the story of the miracle mop by Joy Mangano, it’s the hollywood version of how someone took their great idea to market. In the floor covering, fashion or furniture industry, one can’t just operate in “onesie-twosie” sized successes, but regularly in bulk, rolls, pallets and truck loads in order to succeed and stay in business. We’re in exciting times with our improving economy, fewer regulations and less red tape for new businesses and entrepreneurs to be able to flourish. It’s hard to believe that the first the first generation of Apple’s iPhone was announced on January 9, 2007. Now we can’t imagine our lives without a smart phone. What new products, new categories will be see come to life in the next few years that we will soon wonder how we could ever live without?

 

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Bunny Williams debuts her lighting, furniture and accessories at Currey and Company this spring High Point Market 2017.
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Currey and Company High Point Spring Market 2017
 

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Currey and Company light fixture new for Spring 2017.
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