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Floor decor.

Floors, the most abused part of the house we tend to walk all over, are experiencing a new attitude on the part of many residents. More and more homeowners want to elevate the dignity of their floors.

In accenting, the latest movement afoot, custom-designed features are set into specific floor areas. Accenting can bring a well-heeled look to an otherwise pedestrian floor. The features are easy to install, and they cost much less than a complete custom floor, because the single detail, regardless of the price per square foot, never adds up to much. More important, most designer elements can be retrofitted to existing surfaces, opening options to any home. For instance, special inlays cut into finished hardwood floors, border designs spliced into carpeting, or hand-painted tiles dropped among the commercial pieces can make any floor stand out.

Set off as a citation or feature strip, the accent will attract more attention than if it were a component of a standard pattern. One Washington attorney, who thought that neglecting floors was a worse omission than not polishing shoes, installed purpleheart wood as a border around his cherry-plank office floor. To make sure it would not go unnoticed, he implanted a strip of polished brass between the contrasting woods. The result is arresting.

Some floors lend themselves to accents more than others. Locations most commonly enhanced by detail features are inside a main entrance; around the perimeter of an open room; in the dining room as a centerpiece; on stairway landings; and down the center of stairs or hallways.

In a more subtle approach, details have also been used effectively as visual dividers between rooms and to create a focal point by a fireplace mantel, under a chandelier, or even around a special piece of furniture. The point is to target areas that need emphasis and show off the effort best.

Certainly any floor can accommodate accents, be they hardwood, carpeting, tile, or even stone. But the cost of backing out once the inset is in place can be prohibitive, so one must visualize before cutting. A young couple in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn felt that the diagonally run oak in their foyer was not a dynamic enough invitation to their home. They purchased an octagonal cluster of burl walnut and laid it on top of the floor inside the doorway just to preview the effect. Now confident their idea would work, they cut a hole in their brand-new floor and shoehorned the piece into place, with a little encouragement from a belt sander. The floor's been collecting more compliments than footprints ever since.

For better or worse, most floor surfaces require periodic treatment, and such times are opportune to think about accents. When worn carpeting needs replacing or wood floors require sanding, when tile should be grouted or damaged areas repaired, the extra expense of custom insertions can almost be swept between the cracks.

Indeed, adding an accent detail will sometimes lower the cost of repair-as Scott Davis, a recent first-home buyer, discovered when he rolled back the carpet in his living room. He found a full-length gash where a wall once stood. Because the joints did not match up across the six-inch yawn, several flooring specialists agreed that the only complete cure would be to replace half the floor. What they did not mention was that the new oak would likely not match the color of the existing floor.

Davis decided to take matters into his own hands. He straightened out the crack, edged it with dark wenge (wood), and then cut in a herringbone pattern of oak parquet down the center. The accent balanced the room, gave the floor an elite look, and cost less than a tenth of the repair bid.

But unless you're pretty handy, you may want to turn the transplant over to a professional. Essentially, inlays are traced onto the floor, cut into place, and glued down with a floor-to-ceiling jack. Or in the case of edge stripping, the channel is simply routed part of the way into the floorboards. The tolerance for error is slim, but most tradesmen intentionally cut the opening narrow and then sand the inlay to the final fit. Obviously, in the case of new floors, the piece can be secured by tongue-and-groove joints during installation-that is, if the idea comes up before the floor gets set.

Hardwood floors can be modified more readily than others, partly because they're easy to tamper with, but also due to their compatibility with a variety of styles and a wide assortment of existing design elements. One small step that yields giant strides in selection is to let your fingers wander through a Kentucky Wood Floors catalog. Found in floors from Saks Fifth Avenue to the Oval Office, Kentucky Wood Floors' award-winning accents are enough to floor you. From such exotic wood species as zebrawood, padouk, pecan, and others, kaleidoscopic patterns are woven into what looks more like furniture than flooring. Prices range from $30.00 per square foot for the Buckingham custom border (walnut interlaced with quartered oak) to $1.75 per foot for the unadorned red-oak finger block.

Though little can compare to the range and flexibility of mixed wood, it certainly has no corner on accenting. Carpeting, once sheet- fed from wall to wall, is now frequently interrupted with borders and inlaid edging of contrasting colors or even alternate weaves, not to mention elaborate centerpieces and complex framing details.

Another sure-footed method of application has been to abut the carpet with an alternate, yet compatible, medium. For instance, the border of the room can be finished in parquet flush with carpeting in the central area. The edging lends a regal feel to the room and the carpet offers a soft touch, thereby retaining the best both have to offer. The same goes for such high-traffic zones as entry ways, where carpeting gives way to slate, marble, or stone. One classic Tudor home matches its natural-stone exterior with a stone path that runs through a "lawn" of carpet from front door to curved stairway.

Though at first glance tile may seem impenetrable, ,it could very well be the most forgiving medium of all. Defined edges and straight running lines allow almost anyone to pop a row or to replace the center foursquare with surrogate pieces. Summitville Tiles produces hand-painted decorative tile, 31 -inch terra cotta inlays, and designer lines in bronze or pewter, including a series of antique coin impressions.

Hand-painted special glazes and raised-relief or carved images can imbue a floor with its owner's signature-and give it its own identity.

Homeowners have come to realize that, dealt the right treatment, even the humble floor will make a noble statement. You may find, once the accented floor is in place, that you hate to even step on it at all.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:floor accents
Author:McQuilkin, Robert
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1988
Words:1140
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