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Endless Possibilities
By Tracy Dickinson
home :: home & garden :: kitchen & bath

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Flooring options lay the foundation for today’s design.

Flooring options lay the foundation for today’s design.

When it comes to creating a look for your kitchen or bath, flooring rarely gets top billing. Pinterest boards and Houzz lists are filled with cabinetry selections, fixtures, and decor. And when that’s all settled, we finally get around to what’s underfoot.

But the right flooring is the foundation for your home’s style. Choosing it early in the design can help all the other pieces fall gracefully into place. And there are many choices.


Carpet used to be the standard throughout a home, with hard surfaces limited to kitchens and baths and hardwood restricted even further. As floor plans have opened up, so have flooring options.

“The availability of design advice on television and online has had a huge effect on people’s choices,” says Corey Gersdorf from AIM Kitchen & Bath. “No one used to like wood in the kitchen because of maintenance concerns, but it’s really popular right now.”

Beisser’s Rob Walker says, “The advances in engineered flooring have really expanded design options. You can get engineered products that look old but are less expensive and easier to install.”

That wood look can also be achieved with vinyl, laminate, or porcelain. “Sometimes you can’t tell on first glance that it isn’t hardwood,” says Woodharbor’s Jill Lampe. “It’s nice to be able to get that wood floor look in another material for homeowners who don’t want the maintenance that real wood requires.”

The tile industry has changed as well, says Shelby Silvers of Sunderland Brothers. “There’s been progress in multiple areas, from durability, variety of sizes available, quality of the look, and even more versatile ways to use it, from floors to walls,” she says.

“The thin-tile technology can be utilized to tile over tile and minimize grout joints, giving the appearance of a much more expensive natural stone slab or a very sleek, contemporary solid color or metal,” Sunderland’s Angie Nichols says. “Other technology that continues to develop allows tile patterns to have depth in appearance or enables the manufacturer to digitally reproduce photographs of real stone onto porcelain with virtually no repetition.”

“Clients are looking for a more durable product,” says Lampe. “Porcelain tile is very common in bathrooms as well as kitchens, but we also see a lot of wood-look vinyl plank floors in kitchens because they hold up well to pet and family traffic.”


Because of the range of materials available and the advances in technology, homeowners can achieve durability and still get nearly any look they want. From contemporary to rustic, luxury to low-maintenance, nearly any specification can be met with most of the materials on the market.

For example, 12×12 tiles used to be the standard, no matter what material or look you were after. Today that’s not the case.

“Tile ranges in size from micro mosaics on up,” says Nichols. In fact, “on up” is the most popular these days. “The larger the tile, the more updated and contemporary a space will look,” she says. “Also, on the plus side, this means less grout.”

“With open plans, the larger format is definitely the most popular these days,” says Gersdorf. “Proportionally, those tiles work better in bigger spaces, but we’re seeing them throughout the house, really.”

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is another possibility that provides the look of one product and the durability of another. “LVT is less expensive than ceramic but comparable in appearance,” Walker says. “Some LVT products can even be grouted. There are options available whether you want the look of tile, wood, or other materials.”

Another advantage to the various tile products is their compatibility with radiant heating systems.

“We primarily install these in kitchens and baths, where homeowners are more likely to be barefoot. But we’ve used them in master suites, especially if they’re located over the garage, where radiant heating can be added without having to rework the home’s entire heating system,” Walker says.

“Different heating systems are available for different flooring materials of course,” Gersdorf says. “But homeowners are more apt to use radiant heating with ceramic since it tends to feel cold to the feet.”


Because the possibilities are virtually unlimited, today’s trends more closely reflect homeowners’ style preferences. “You don’t have to limit your design choices to a particular material anymore. Luxury vinyls, ceramics, planks all come in a variety of looks that fit homeowners’ tastes,” says Gersdorf.

One trend in home design over the past decade has had an effect on flooring selections, too—the trend toward open layouts.

According to Nichols, “The rule of thumb used to be to utilize no more than three different floor coverings within eyesight. But with open floor plans, the emphasis is now to utilize just one option, giving the area a more unified and clean look.”

Open plans have also been part of the drive toward larger tile designs. “Long, linear tiles are definitely the look right now,” Walker says. “I’ve seen some tiles as big as 6×36, giving the floor the look of something like a subway tile.”

Nichols says many of her clients are opting for 12×24 sizes or larger. “People are staying away from the smaller square looks, which seem to give a more dated appearance.”

“Pattern is a huge trend right now,” Silvers says. “It’s a fun and easy way to make a room stand out, whether it’s a powder room, laundry room, or elsewhere. A lot of my clients like the slate-looking tile, which is beautiful in a brick pattern or a herringbone pattern.”

Although golden oak is not the finish of choice for wood floors and hasn’t been for decades, homeowners who still have golden oak trim to consider when replacing floors now have more to choose from.

“The engineered hardwoods are available in so many options that you can find a complementary finish and not have to match or replace all the trim in the house,” Walker says.

Tastes are as individual as the homeowners themselves, but our experts say there are two trends that appeal to everyone: a natural look, even if it’s a man-made product, and very little carpeting.

“Carpet is definitely less popular. Most of my clients prefer wood floors and the ability to change out rugs as their style changes,” says Lampe. Ultimately, she says, “Homeowners want something that feels good under their feet and looks beautiful.”

Today the possibilities are endless.


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