New Englanders are subtly savvy when it comes to trends.
“We tend to keep an eye on what’s happening in Europe, New York and Los Angeles, and we don’t miss a trick,” says Susan Orpin, design director of the Orpin Group, an interior design firm in North Easton.
Still, we don’t fall for glitzy fads or flash-in-the-pan concepts, especially when it comes to the mainstay elements in our homes, like, for example, the floor we walk on. As much as we focus on the way it looks, we also know it has to hold up to plenty of wear and tear.
New Englanders are subtly savvy when it comes to trends. “We tend to keep an eye on what’s happening in Europe, New York and Los Angeles, and we don’t miss a trick,” says Susan Orpin, design director of the Orpin Group, an interior design firm in North Easton. Still, we don’t fall for glitzy fads or flash-in-the-pan concepts, especially when it comes to the mainstay elements in our homes, like, for example, the floor we walk on. As much as we focus on the way it looks, we also know it has to hold up to plenty of wear and tear. Thrifty Yankees certainly don’t want a base layer that looks dated after just a year or two down the road. “Even if something is new and hip, New Englanders tend to use it in a way that’s more about staying power than simply being trendy,” says Orpin. These five floor fashions pass muster even in this discerning region.
1. In the dark Once de rigueur as a replacement for tired-looking linoleum in kitchens and wall-to-wall carpeting in living areas and bedrooms, pale hardwood’s prominence is fading. “Oak is out,” says Kathy Marshall, owner of the Hamilton-based KMarshall Design. “We’re seeing a lot of darker floors in woods like Brazilian cherry.” These woods are popular for entire floors and for interesting inlay details. Even lighter woods are getting a darker look with rich walnut stains.
2. Sublime synthetics For the hip and budget-wise, Plynyl and
Bolon are two hot new synthetics made of woven vinyl. These stain-and mold-proof materials are available in seamless rolls or as tiles, and they come in many colors and patterns. Because they wear well, this flooring is great for kitchens, dining rooms and other heavy-traffic areas. Orpin used Plynyl in Stella, the South End restaurant her firm designed. “If a tile is damaged, it can be removed and replaced,” she says. “It also has great acoustical qualities.”
3. Tile with style Tile isn’t square anymore. Handcrafted tiles go beyond the four-corner shape, and away from uniform cuts and colors. “A beautiful variety of color and shading works well in New England homes,” says Marshall. “And I’m doing a lot of interesting patterns, like herringbone and tile ‘rugs.’” Materials are also making a splash with different textures replacing white porcelain. “Bathrooms are especially striking with glass tiles like Veneto and Bisazza,” says Orpin. Cork tile is another popular choice these days. It’s resilient, and it comes in a wide range of natural tones. It’s environmentally friendly, too; a cork tree can be harvested many times.
Banking on tile’s flexibility, InterfaceFlor tapped into the trend with stylish interchangeable carpet squares that can be mixed and matched to create a custom floor covering. “It comes in different textures, colors, patterns and fibers,” says Orpin. “If a tile gets stained, you simply replace it.”
4. Industrial revolution “There’s a lot going on with industrial materials like rubber subway floor in the kitchen,” says Marshall. In addition to its high-tech look, “it’s soft on the feet and soft on the back,” she says. Expanko, a company known for its cork flooring tiles, makes a handsome rubber flooring material called Reztec that can add a pop of color to a drab room.
Concrete, which comes in a wide range of colors, can be poured in an infinite variety of designs. It’s a top choice for kitchen floors, especially in city homes. As it ages and cures, the concrete gains character.
5. Love it or leave it Ultimately, the most important trend in any home design—including flooring—is doing something you love, whether marble or wood, granite or glass. “People are more focused about putting in flooring they like instead of worrying so much about resale,” says Marshall. “That’s great—because it makes their home a real home.”