Summer is the time to enjoy the natural world, but when it gets really hot some of us prefer the luxury of the cool indoors that has all the earthy elements of the outdoors. When designing a home to have an al fresco feel, it is important to start with the basics – wood and stone. What better way to ground a room’s design than with flooring made of these elements, or made to look like them.
When the use of native elements in the home is coupled with a desire to be eco-friendly, there are many flooring options. More products than can be imagined are organic, while others are made using processes that are more sustainable.
There is nothing more organic than a hardwood floor. The majority of hardwood flooring is made from oak or maple, but there are also many other exotic woods that are made into hardwood floors like Tigerwood.
Hardwood flooring can be created from pre-finished solid boards, or it can be ‘engineered’. Engineered hardwood is veneered onto a more stable, water-resistant base. A solid hardwood floor can last over 100 years when properly cared for, an engineered hardwood floor lasts 10-30 years.
Solid wood flooring is milled from a single tree, and then dried in the air or in a kiln to remove moisture. After drying it is made into the desired plank width. Grooves are cut into the back of each piece as absorption strips to avoid cupping, a form of warping from excess moisture like humidity. They also get tongue-and-groove cut into the side for ease of installation. Wood floors use less water and energy than any other form of flooring.
Engineered hardwood flooring has a base made of composite material with a hardwood veneer glued to the top. The composite material is created from sawmill waste, like shavings and sawdust. It is mixed with adhesives to make it strong and durable. Engineered hardwood floors use fewer trees, and create less waste.
Other options for natural ‘wood’ flooring are cork and bamboo, although bamboo is officially a grass. Both are made from renewable resources. Cork provides the look of wood with the added benefit of providing insulation when it is cold outside, whereas most other wood floors need an area rug to maintain warmth.
There is nothing that adds the beauty of nature to a home than a wood floor. Wood flooring is a great choice when looking for ways to give a home the essence of the great outdoors.
Entryways, mudrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, sunrooms, and laundry rooms are all excellent places to use natural stone and/or tile to bring a sense of nature into a room. All of these rooms are prone to excess moisture, which can cause wood floors to warp or cup.
Natural stone is carved out of mountains instead of man-made like tile, although both are organic. Popular stone flooring materials are slate, marble, granite, sandstone, limestone, and travertine. Because it is naturally created, there is a lot of variation in color. As a matter of fact, travertine coloring that was available just a few years ago is no longer available. It has been mined out. The current variety is a few shades darker.
Ceramic and porcelain tile is made from clay. Porcelain uses a denser clay to be more durable in its application. Both types of tile are blends of clay, sand, and water that are shaped, glazed, and then fired. Porcelain is fired at a much higher temperature, making it harder.
Tile is much more durable than stone, requires less maintenance, and is available in a wide variety of patterns, from wood-look planks, to faux stone, to brightly glazed tiles available in many shapes and sizes.
Both materials can last for thousands of years. The first use of decorative tile was in the 13th Century B.C. Glazed brick tiles were used to create the design on the Ishtar Gate in Ancient Babylon.
Rugs and wood floors work well together. Rugs made of sisal, jute, or cotton, add texture to a room, creates depth and polish, and incorporates another natural element.
Sisal and jute are both are plant-based fibers. Sisal comes from the agave plant, which is also the plant used to make tequila. It is stripped from the leaves, spun into a creamy-white yarn in its natural state, and can be dyed any color. Rugs made from this material are incredibly durable.
Jute is one of the softest natural fibers available, which makes it far less durable than sisal. Where sisal rugs can stand up to heavy traffic, jute rugs are better for areas with light traffic. They will feel a lot better on bare feet, however.
Flatweave cotton rugs are becoming quite popular. Cotton fibers dye well, and can be woven into different designs or printed.
To create a one-of-a-kind look for your home that brings a touch of nature inside, mix and match these options. Richly detailed wood floors are a great foundation for busy living spaces, while tile is wonderful in kitchens for earthy colors and baths to create a spa-like atmosphere. Balance it all with an area rug made from natural fibers. Just add some plants and coordinating artwork to create a relaxing getaway.