hile flooring may once have been viewed as a functional afterthought to a home’s decor, current trends have brought it into sharper focus. Fewer rooms, larger rooms and open concept designs have played a significant role in that shift. According to Tony Wright, director of residential services for Jack Laurie Group, “How homes are designed definitely influences what flooring goes in. Open concepts lend themselves to consistent flooring; people don’t want to define areas by changing floors.”
What it really comes down to, he says, is that “people want beauty in their homes. They’re looking for what’s new and fresh.”
As recently as 10 years ago, that generally meant choosing a different color or texture of carpet, which accounted for up to 70 percent of residential flooring at that time. Today, hard surfaces such as wood, tile and stone are quickly gaining ground, representing at least 50 percent of the market and growing. Many people now reserve carpet for bedrooms and finish the rest of the house with hard surfaces that are both stylish and easy to maintain.
The hard surface flooring of today is not the same as it was 10 years ago, either. For example, today’s wood flooring has planks at least five inches wide, with up to 12 inch widths not uncommon (the standard width used to be around 2 inches). Stone, ceramic or porcelain floor tiles that were once standardized at 12x12 inches now come in 12x24 inch, 18x36 inch and 24x24 inch options. These large format sizes have changed the overall scale and emphasis of the flooring, with stunningly grand results.
Wright expects this trend to grow. “We are going to continue to see scale be an important part of design,” he predicts. “Designers like it, architects like it and consumers like it.”
Changes in manufacturing technology have allowed not only larger format materials, but also different types of flooring products, to be more efficiently brought to market. For example, luxury vinyl tile can be almost visually indistinguishable from wood or stone. Like their more expensive counterparts, the wood looks have authentic graining and texture. The stone looks can be grouted, making it even more difficult to distinguish them from actual stone. Technology has also allowed finishes such as hand-scraped wood to become popular, offering a weathered or reclaimed look in a newly manufactured product.
Installation methods and adhesive compounds have advanced, too. “New technology has allowed us to put certain flooring products in areas where we couldn’t before,” says Wright. “Now people have more ability to create their own unique flooring style and actually have it become a reality.”
Another driving force in the growing market share of hard surfaces is pricing. Hard surface options such as wood and tile are more affordable than ever. Even when the price of those surfaces appears to outpace carpet on a square footage basis, it quickly shows its value when compared over its lifetime. With life spans averaging 10 years, carpet must eventually be replaced. Most hard flooring surfaces can last two to three times longer than that with proper care.
John Laurie, CEO of Jack Laurie Group, is careful to note that, as with anything, average life is based on the particular product, the application or usage and maintenance. Even so, asserts Laurie, “Many of the floors we replace are not worn out, they’re just out of style.”
With so many alternatives now available, it’s easy to get excited about the possibilities. Homeowners have more choices than ever in materials and finishes, and with the patterns, shapes and combinations in which they can be installed. Before making a selection, however, Wright stresses the importance of consulting a professional.
“We ask a lot of questions,” he says. “Who they are, what their family is like, how they use their home, the number of rooms, type of furniture and so on.”
The answers help determine the type of flooring that best suits a particular lifestyle. A family that wants a wood floor in a home with children and pets may want to consider special treatment options that help camouflage wear. They could also look at tile as an alternative because it is extremely durable and lends itself well to aggressive cleaning. Likewise, someone with a low traffic home might find environmentally-friendly cork flooring to be well suited to his or her taste and use.
“Most people don’t know the breadth and depth of the products that are out there,” Wright emphasizes. “We can show them products that fit their style but may be very different from what they originally had in mind.”
In the end, the possibilities are virtually endless. “This is where it really gets fun,” says Wright. “People can claim their own style – something unique to them.”
by Tammy Davis
Established in 1950, Jack Laurie Group knows flooring from all angles. Originally serving only the commercial flooring market, the company expanded into residential flooring seven years ago when it acquired The Carpet Craftsman. Now Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs offers a comprehensive array of unique residential flooring products at its impressive showroom at 430 West Coliseum Boulevard in Fort Wayne, as well as at the Indiana Design Center in Carmel.
The design-oriented flooring store features much more than carpet swatches and tile samples; different flooring options are installed in individual displays throughout the showroom to help customers imagine the possibilities.
“We’re exposing people to new things,” says Tony Wright, Jack Laurie Group’s director of residential services. “We believe the importance of design and style has been underemphasized in the marketplace.”
As a full-service flooring dealer, Jack Laurie also provides complete installation services to ensure the end result meets customers’ expectations. “We have a very high mark to hit in satisfying customers,” says Wright. “A customer’s home is his castle. It’s personal, and we take it personally.”
With more than 17,000 products in its Fort Wayne location, Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs offers flooring options for every taste and style.