Choose the right flooring for your home

There’s little doubt that one of the most basic aspects of interior design must be flooring. Whether dealing with a new home or a remodel, the type of flooring to be used is more often than not one of the most essential design elements to be initially considered because, simply put, the right flooring creates the perfect base for any room.

And while there are homeowners who know right from the get-go just exactly what kind of materials they’ll be using underfoot, there are also those who are totally confused as to what would be best for them — and why. And still there are others who may know just what they want to use in one space, but not what to do in another.

Designers are the professionals who can help sort it all out by presenting the pros and cons of the different types of flooring and in doing so lead them out of a state of indecision and on to the right path to choosing the most suitable flooring product(s).

Judging by the dazzling array of innovative materials and technology available in the marketplace today, I don’t think there’s ever been a more opportune time for homeowners to purchase exceptional flooring. Options exist in every conceivable finish and at incredibly diverse price points, so there’s certainly something for everyone.

And so many of the new materials are not only beautiful to behold but are wonderfully functional as well. Truly the best of both worlds is out there ready for you to pick and choose from the newest trends in flooring:

n Porcelain tile, especially tile that looks like wood, just may be the flooring most in demand now. Porcelain is always a more popular choice than natural stone especially for the kitchen or bath because it’s impervious to not only spills but also its incredible hardness. Truly a material with unlimited design potential which is no doubt what makes it so popular in the residential market today.

n Dark hardwood, such as ebony and espresso, is a great look whether for a contemporary or classic design and can complement any light decor. However, dark colors are often more difficult to clean and maintain since they show scratches more easily, but still do manage to help mask imperfections.

n Gray hardwood is the “new natural” color that has been sweeping the interior design industry as of late. It’s a difficult color to achieve and consequently is somewhat more expensive.

n White-washed wood calls to mind an exclusive beach resort especially in a wide plank version, which updates the look while at the same time adding lightness and modernity to a space. Again, as with gray, the color is more difficult to achieve, which renders it somewhat more expensive.

n Wide plank is wildly popular now, and though it’s a somewhat small change from the usual 2-inch to the newer 5-inch width, it can go a long way toward making a room appear more modern while adding depth and making a space feel larger, whether a rustic or contemporary design.

n Bamboo has been around for some time but is presently available in an explosion of colors and styles and is now actually harder than most hardwoods (when dried) thanks to engineered bamboo (now referred to as strand woven bamboo), which uses the inner fibers of the plant to achieve wider planks and many more styles.

n Reclaimed wood features the natural character and imperfections found in wood and is eco-friendly since it’s actually recycled from old beams, antique floors or old logs. Still, it’s in short supply, which makes it more expensive; but there’s an alternative in machine-stressed wood that can give the same effect for a fraction of the cost and is even more durable.

n Large format tile will have you quickly forgetting the old 12-inch-by-12-inch tiles. Now tiles are available in 12-inch-by-24-inch and even 36-inch-by-36-inch sizes. This means less grout to clean while at the same time helping to create a more spacious look to your room. The larger tiles are very heavy and professional installation is highly recommended.

n Cork is known for its acoustic properties and is still popular to this day with a new and larger color palette. It’s more durable than ever before while still susceptible to moisture damage and fading, but very comfortable to walk on.

n Luxury vinyl is a far cry from the time-honored peel-and-stick varieties of years past. It’s now a high-end durable flooring that looks realistic, stands up to moisture and comes in any number of patterns and colors that will fool you every time into thinking it’s real tile.

n Cut and loop carpet is a result of new manufacturing techniques that create intricate designs out of silk soft fibers. These carpets can be bold or subtle and are no longer the typical carpet look, which many might regard as not very interesting.

n Concrete — in its new incarnation — is no longer only industrial but actually has dimension and is now very much in vogue. It’s still sleek and, of course, durable but can now be finished in a variety of colors, glosses and even textures that can actually bring warmth to its cold stone look of old. But, when all is said and done, it’s still concrete and so not the most comfortable floor to walk on. It remains a great look both in an old building or in an urban, modern setting.

Whatever you decide to do in the way of flooring for your home, don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the options that are open to you. Rather be comforted and encouraged by the large variety of available materials and competitive pricing while making a choice of quality over low cost whenever possible.

Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design (; he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He is past president of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is a certified professional in green residential design. Questions can be sent to

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