What’s Under Your Feet?

Whether you’re looking to make a statement with your floors, or you just want something that’s easier to clean, we’ll walk you through how to make an upgrade. Our guide to flooring covers everything from market trends and maintenance requirements to installation and costs.

by Suzanne Wentley Mar 2014 Also on Digital Edition

Ready for your renovations to be looking up?

Time to look down.

Flooring has become the hot, inexpensive way to completely transform a new-to-you home that you’d like to make your own or a well-loved home that’s long due for a facelift.

That’s because some of the most popular styles of flooring have undergone major improvements in design, durability, feel and look – making the value of floor renovations well worth it. Plus, trendy colors and patterns have done an about-face in the last two years, with dark woods, forest green, gold and burgundy a thing of the past.

“It’s fun, because we’ve entered a whole new market, where there’s a change from the heavy, bold dark looks,” says Samantha Chirichiello, the manager of Able Carpet in Jensen Beach. “Everybody seems to want to brighten up their home.”

Store owner George Sisto agrees.

“It’s fashion, just like what you wear,” he says.

So make your own runway with the latest styles in floor covering, from whitewashed woods to shiny shag carpet, from Earthy natural fibers to hard-to-believe-it’s-not-stone vinyl.

You don’t want to be caught with an outdated look of bland white tile, do you?

Thousands of vibrant, statement-worthy floor styles are flooding Treasure Coast showcases, making it the perfect time to begin narrowing down your choices to find the floor that’s truly for you. With so many options, it can feel like an overwhelming process, so look toward the trends highlighted in home design magazines, industry publications and in homes fashioned by top interior designers.

Wood works

Move over French bleed – you know, that dark wood with beveled boards with an even darker space in between? It may offer a classic French pub look, but it’s not what anyone is interested in these days.

“White wash is probably the hottest thing now,” Chirichiello says. “Everyone looks at it, asks for it, wants it and gets it.”

There’s a variety to choose from, too. Whitewash woods range from a light, subtle wash to a heavy stain where you can barely see the wood beneath. Worn levels of distress – open grain, wire-brushed and hand-scraped looks – are becoming more and more popular.

Grey tones are also increasingly popular, with hues ranging from grey to taupe, and it’s especially hot when paired with a white couch and colored pillows for a fun, contemporary and sleek style.

Want the wood itself to make the look? Bold swirls and patterns of contrasting color are also especially trendy now, with wooden boards that may start dark and swirl into a lighter color or start with a light rim and become dark in the center. Some floor styles even pair all trends together.

“It’s very bold, and some people will say it’s too busy but the other half are absolutely in love with it,” Chirichiello says. “When it’s down, it’s gorgeous and striking. It becomes an artwork on your floor, not just something you walk over.”

Patterned wood floors – where boards are laid in a pattern that ranges from herringbone to chevron to styles reminiscent of colonial America – is another hot trend in flooring. With designs coming in squares of 30 inches, there’s a rich sensation of craftsmanship and a wide array of designs.

In terms of durability, wood flooring varies based on the type of wood and the type of finish. Maple and pine are soft, while strand bamboo (really a grass) and mahogany are hard. It can take three to five days to install each room, depending on the necessary preparations. Cleaning is a snap – just sweep and lightly mop, maybe giving it an annual oiling if necessary. Cost, though, can be an issue.

As a renewable resource that can be sanded down and refinished, wood floors can cost anywhere from $7 to $14 a square foot.

“It can be expensive, but when someone goes and buys a wood floor, that’s what they want for their house for the rest of the time they’re in it,” Chirichiello says. “Or they know it will increase the value of their home.”

Plus, wood floors are great investment because all you need is an area rug for an entirely different look.

Colorful, crazy carpets

Carpets have come a long way from those polyester shags of the past. In the last two years, major technological improvements have made carpets significantly softer and more durable.

“They’ve extruded the fiber, whether it’s nylon, polyester, wool or the new Smart Strand, and they’ve extruded it down to that of a human hair. That’s what gives the carpet such a soft feeling, and yet they also were able to make it durable besides,” Sisto says. “They really raised the bar.”

Shag is coming back, especially for area rugs. Soft, shiny and shaggy area rugs are warm and sexy – something everyone wants these days. Many companies are mixing their fiber contents, between wool, silk, sisal and nylon, to create patterns and different looks that are bringing carpets into modern times.

Colorful patterns are also a hot trend. Lime greens, turquoise, lavender, spa blues and creams mixed with a little chocolate brown are the in-the-moment palette.

“The tropical theme is taking over,” Chirichiello says.

Plus, you’re sure to find stripes, geometric designs, Mexican-tile inspired prints and even bold, three-dimensional looks in hot area rugs. Don’t be surprised by lime green or pink animal prints! Traditional, oriental rugs are always classic, but they’re less requested than shag or bold, pop-color patterns.

For the best durability in a carpet, pay a little extra for wool, which is naturally hypoallergenic, as well as soiland stain-resistant. In fact, at Able Carpet, the staff tests the wool for stain resistance, and everything – including red wine, mustard and coffee – has come out. Pet urine can be an issue, but not if attended to immediately.

Nylon is second to wool, with its resistance to stains as well as crush and wear. Plus, it’s more affordable. Wall-to-wall carpets can run anywhere from $3 to $5 a square foot, with area rugs being priced based on their size, fiber content and where it is made.

Carpet requires more maintenance and care, with frequent vacuuming and immediate stain removal. With the best care, carpeting can last up to 20 years, with most carpet needing replacement every 10 to 15 years, especially if there are kids or pets in the home.

The best part of modern carpet? Installation is a snap, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds that impact air quality) have decreased significantly over the years.

Natural fibers are a natural

For those interested in something less shiny and more Earthy, natural fibers like abaca, jute, seagrass and sisal are the trend for you. (That’s pronounced s-eye-sal, by the way.)

“I have this as a runner in my hallway, and I’m in love with it,” Chirichiello says of sisal. “This is like walking on heaven, like getting a foot massage. I want it through my whole house!”

Natural fibers are so popular because they tap into the light, tropical trend in a real way. Basketwoven patterns are handcrafted by native craftspeople, who create patterns with a varying color palette that ranges from bright gold and honey to dark grays and beige.

“People have to be reminded, with natural fibers, there are variances throughout,” she adds. “You have to be understanding.”

Still, it’s a sophisticated look that’s often done as an area rug or just a master bedroom. The area rugs are bound with a piece of fabric that can pick up the colors of the natural fiber or serve as an accent that ties the entire room together. A tapestry binding can match the drapes or throw cushions perfectly.

Durability has its pros and cons. Since stains can be an issue, Chirichiello recommends a product known as Sisal Guard, which works like regular Scotch Guard, to keep spills on the carpet’s surface for easy blotting. Once protected, the carpet can last a long time as the tight weave makes wear a non-issue.

Cost depends on the size – sisal is especially nice as it can be wider than regular carpet – and ranges from $3.50 to $5 a square foot. Installation is as simple as carpet, with an extra layer of latex added as an option to keep area rugs from slipping on the floors beneath.

“In home magazines, it’s almost guaranteed to see a room with a sisal rug in it,” Chirichiello adds.

Vinyl still the hottest floor around

But for the value and the design, vinyl remains tops for putting down on the floor. In the last two years, major improvements in hues, wider planks and real-looking stone and wood make vinyl the go-to look.

“The bonus is that it’s more cost-efficient than having a wood floor,” Chirichiello says. “There’s also the ease of repair, and it’s great with kids and pets. It’s also quiet to walk on.”

Replacing the old-school laminate flooring, vinyl comes in two styles: glue-down and click-together. Both simple to install, the glue-down is easier to replace individual pieces while the click-together is better in flood-prone areas.

Unlike older styles, new vinyl, which uses digital photos on the planks to create realistic looks, now offers more photos to avoid obvious unnatural patterns. Textures are also increasingly realistic, making the cost range of $3.50 to $7 a square foot a great value.

“For the way it holds up, it’s worth it,” she says.

The key to finding the perfect floor for your home is to take your time, Chirichiello adds. Consider whether you live near the ocean or in a wooded area, if you have plenty of windows or not, and always take samples home for a few days to ensure you love the look. Deciding on the right look is a project, but one that will have visitors impressed.

Keep with the trends, and there’s no way they’ll look down on your newly renovated look.