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Take a walk on the wild side with creative flooring choices 

Van Grinsven master bathroom

When Shannon Van Grinsven and her husband, Nick, were building their home in Combined Locks, details were everything. 

“When we were designing this house, the little pops of interest were really important to me and the flooring was a big part of that,” Van Grinsven says. 

Flooring may serve the most essential of functions in a home, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a focal point too. Fox Cities homeowners like Van Grinsven are using their floors as an opportunity to showcase their creativity with bold colors, patterns and textures.

From Pinterest and parade homes to airports and hotels, Van Grinsven found inspiration everywhere and used it to create playful floors throughout her East Coast lake house-inspired home. Instead of the standard gray or off-white grout, Van Grinsven opted for gold grout to make the tile floor in her mudroom pop. The couple chose the Ann Sacks tile in their master bathroom because the raised pattern reminded them of the Empire State Building. 

Even the master bedroom closet, with an art deco patterned wool carpet, got in on the action. 

“I love little details, even if I am the only one who knows about them,” Van Grinsven says.

Individual Style, Durable Function 

When it comes to flooring, customized style is at the top of every homeowner’s wishlist. Rod Lorenz, president of Ralph’s Hardwood Floors in Black Creek, jokes that today’s homeowner is looking for whatever their neighbor doesn’t have.

“My dad started the company 54 years ago and I took it over 27 years ago. Back then, there were only so many options. Today the choices are endless,” Lorenz says. “Everybody has their own unique taste, so the design trends are really wrapping around what individuals want.”

Hardwood floors with original saw marks, nail holes and matte finish allow for a family friendly home. Floors installed by Ralph’s Hardwood Floors. Image submitted courtesy of Focal Point Photography.

Besides being one-of-a-kind, homeowners want flooring that lasts, says Leslie Wilson, owner of Bellwether Interior Design in Neenah. Floors need to withstand Wisconsin winters, children and pets. 

“Most people are living with their flooring for at least 30 years, so that durability factor is really important,” Wilson says. “It needs to wear well and hide imperfections over time.”

Offering both style and function, luxury vinyl tile or luxury vinyl plank are popular options. 

“These are synthetic options that imitate wood or tile at a lower cost,” says Tori Korstad, interior designer with H.J. Martin and Son in Neenah. “They require less prep work and maintenance. We use them equally in both new construction and remodels.”

Whether luxury vinyl plank or real hardwood, textured wood finishes are currently trending. One technique called wire brushing creates texture by scraping planks with a hard wire brush.

“We are seeing a lot of different textures. Ten years ago the texture was hand-scrapped and now it has become a wire-brushed finish combined with a low sheen,” Lorenz says. “You have the design element, but it’s also practical. Something with a little texture doesn’t show a ding or a dent as easily. The lower sheen products don’t show as much wear and tear.” 

Wide plank, French oak prefinished engineered floors selected by Designs of the Interior installed by Ralph’s Hardwood Floors craftsmen. Photo courtesy of Focal Point Photography.

Lorenz says hickory and European white oak are two popular wood choices as both are durable and allow for lots of different design looks. 

Color, Texture & Pattern

Depending on the room, a floor can function in one of two ways, Korstad says. 

“Sometimes the floor offers you a blank canvas. It can be a neutral palette so other elements can speak in the room,” she says. “There are other rooms where the floor is customized and takes more of a focal point. Maybe in a powder room or laundry room clients would go with a patterned tile floor to add a little more spunk.”

Van Grinsven chose the latter for her powder room where she made a bold statement – literally. She worked with D&M Interiors in Appleton to have the word “hey” spelled out with penny tiles on the floor. 

Van Grinsven powder room

“It’s a salutation welcoming you into my powder room,” Van Grinsven explains. “I think everyone should put something pleasant on their floor. Especially if you have to be chilling in the bathroom for awhile.”

If a written message feels too bold, homeowners can still make a statement with patterned tiles. Wilson says art deco-inspired geometric shapes are trending as are tiles with a marble look.

“Marble look tiles are one of the most popular styles even if you have an earthier home,” Wilson says. “It feels expensive, it’s a classic look and you can easily mix in different patterns and colors with it.”

Homeowners can also play with solid colored tiles and wood planks laid in patterns. Chevron and herringbone are two popular patterns that add visual interest to a floor. Another way to customize is by varying the width of floor planks. This design trend, referred to as mixed width or random width planks, creates an effortless feel. 

“A lot of customers like how the randomness looks casual, yet refined,” says Paula Rohm, outside sales executive at Ralph’s Hardwood Floors. 

Distressed white oak herringbone floor installed by Ralph’s Hardwood Floors.

On the color front, monochromatic and high contrast schemes are currently favored by homeowners. 

“It’s either monochromatic or high contrast where you have a charcoal floor and everything else is white,” Wilson says. “It’s fun to see those blue-grays that are mixed in with neutrals or jewel tones like emerald green. It just depends on the style of the home and if you’re willing to take that chance.”

Funky Floors

Tips for achieving artistic floors

Van Grinsven home

Look for inspiration in unlikely places. 

Pinterest offers a plethora of design ideas, but don’t let it be your only muse. Van Grinsven says she took inspiration from the Viceroy Hotel in Chicago, her favorite designer Kelly Wearstler and even her own wardrobe. “When you’re designing a home, think about how you like to dress,” she says. “You can apply the same colors and materials you like to wear to your living spaces.” 

Small changes can make a big impact.

If bright colors or bold patterns seem too risky, try making a subtle statement. Van Grinsven worked with Karl’s Wood Floors in Appleton to add a white painted border to her upstairs hardwood hallway. The simple detail adds a sophisticated artistic element without being over the top. 

Go forth confidently. 

Some contractors will steer clients away from designs they consider too trendy. Van Grinsven says if you love it, hold your ground. “There is pushback sometimes when you want to play because it might not have longevity, but I’m not building this house for anybody but myself,” she says. “When you want to push outside the box, you have to be all in.” 

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