What makes a home striking? The overall effect comes from a panoply of textures, colors and personal touches: the right lampshade, a bold rug, curios on a coffee table — and how those accents are set off by the basic structure of the home: ceilings, walls and floors.
The right floors can make a house seem effortlessly clean and stylish. They also can set the tone of the home as a secure place that has longevity, is comfortable and easy to maintain. Above all, floors need to look good.
New Orleans homeowners tend to embrace a classic style, says Lindsay Swenson, chief execute merchant at Floor & Decor Design Gallery. "We're kind of slow on the uptake of trends," she says. "The word 'trendy' is a huge negative in everyone's mind. They want to stick with classics."
For a timeless look, hardwoods and marble are good options, and reclaimed pine flooring is a popular choice at Floor de Lis Flooring. Owner Mark Hughes says while hardwood floors rule in traditional New Orleans homes, many manufacturers are shifting focus to luxury vinyl planks or luxury vinyl tile.
"It's basically like a vinyl that has a wood or tile look to it," Hughes says. "It installs real easy, looks great, is very scratch-resistant and also completely waterproof."
These lookalikes, which are made to endure the rigors of everyday living, offer homeowners a more durable style — and a reprieve from upkeep and repairs.
"If a homeowner has large dogs and just knows that the dogs are going to tear the wood up, they may look to an alternate," Swenson says. "One of the hottest things right now in the tile market is wood-look tile. The graphics have just gotten better and better and better, and the planks are getting longer and longer. ... If installed properly, (it) is quite convincing.
"And then that's a zero-maintenance type of product, where they just don't have to worry about wear-and-tear. It's not going to gouge. It's not going to scratch. That's a rapidly growing category in flooring. We're also seeing some really cool things in the world of laminates, where some really high-end ... really look like wood, including water-resistant laminates, so those would go throughout the entire house, including the bathroom."
For a classic New Orleans bathroom, marble never goes out of style, but it requires cleaning a certain way and taking precautions against staining and etching. Swenson says homeowners looking for something more worry-free may prefer porcelain that looks like natural stone or tiles that come in lots of colors, shapes and finishes and are becoming less expensive.
"We're making them accessible to the general public, so that's great for historic homes," Swenson says, adding that tiles provide a way to make a design statement or establish a focal point. Tiles come in squares and rectangles with smooth finishes, but also elongated hexagons, arabesques, crackle-finish tiles and more.
One of Swenson's favorite places to do a bold design is a guest bathroom. "It's always such a small amount of square footage and it's what your guests see, so everyone likes to have that be an impressive space" she says.
Keith Delaune of Modern Flooring, a family-owned local retailer, wants to see carpeting take back the den, and he believes Tigressa H2O, a super-soft nylon carpet that is waterproof and durable, may do it.
"We wanted a carpet that would put people at ease," he says. The H2O carpet "attacks those worries that people have for putting carpet in high-traffic areas."
Nylon carpet has undergone improvements in recent years and now is softer and holds up better than in the past.
"Nylon is the next best thing to wool," Delaune says. "Wool is the best yarn system for flooring, naturally ... [but the new nylon carpet is anti-microbial and it wears great." Carpeting also comes in a wide range of colors, textures and designs. A current trend is warm grays with brown undertones, Delaune says, and patterned carpets are growing in popularity.
Flooring professionals familiar with the many options available can help identify solutions for individual needs.[image-5]
"Every customer that comes into the store, I do a little interview," Hughes says. "I talk to them and try to find out exactly what their needs are, where their home is, the type of home, raised or on a slab, and whether they have kids, pets, how many people are in the house ... and I try to guide them from there."