'Savvy consumers want variety and flexibility in their flooring choices,' says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center. 'With American hardwood species running the gamut of color and because hardwood is a product that can adapt to many different decorating styles and decors, hardwood provides a degree of diversity, as well as long-term value, that cannot be matched by other flooring materials.'
From the trend-watchers at independent market research firm, Market Insights Torcivia, and the National Wood Flooring Association, look at what's trending now.
A touch of the creative
* Using multiple wood species is very popular, typically using one species in the main field of the room, then introducing other contrasting species incorporated as a border or other subtle design elements in the room.
* Mixed media incorporates hardwood with other flooring options like stone, tile, carpet or even metal. This approach often helps to define different seating or functional areas within a large, open space.
* Installing wood floors, in a non-linear format, is increasingly popular as well. Custom parquet patterns can achieve this look but even traditional linear floors can accomplish the same goal by installing the linear pattern on a curve.
* Consumer preferences are gravitating toward darker species, like walnut, over the more traditional, medium-colored white and red oak. In many cases, however, existing oak floors are being refinished and stained to achieve this look without replacing the floor.
* Buyers are moving away from the traditional 2 1/4 inches strip floor to wider plank flooring, 3 inches and wider. Random width planks are also popular. This creates a very casual look, while utilizing more of the raw materials during the manufacturing process.
* Distressed flooring - hand-scraping the boards will achieve an antiqued look while, at the same time, hiding small imperfections that can appear in flooring over time, like small scratches or dents. This distressed effect can also be achieved in the factory.
Stains and finishes
The National Wood Flooring Association also reports that flooring manufacturers are introducing new lines geared to satisfy the emerging trends toward gray stains and finishes - ranging from very subtle to very dark - and metallic finishes.
Metallic finishes incorporate softly shimmering metallic accents by embedding the metallic materials into the hardwood. The result is a pronounced grain that shimmers softly in contrast to the rest of the wood. It is difficult to predict if this trend will catch on long-term but it has become increasingly popular, particularly on the West Coast.
As the U.S. economy continues to recover, more and more consumers will enhance their living spaces with flooring, cabinetry and other luxury items made from American Hardwoods, the ultimate in value, versatility and style. Browse the photo gallery of the American Hardwood Information Center at www.HardwoodInfo.com for inspiration.