Design & Décor

Demand for traditional bamboo fizzles while strand draws attention It’s official: traditional, vertical- and horizontal-grain bamboo flooring is dated. Despite its popularity five years ago, it appears this fad was destined to fade. Strand bamboo, on the other hand, is here for the long-haul, flooring experts say. “There is almost no interest in traditional bamboo in our store,” says John Hill, ecological coordinator at Interstate Flooring in Portland, OR. “It seems to be, been there, done that. When people are looking at bamboo, they want a more evolved look. Strand, stained and hand-scraped bamboo give them that.” This sentiment is not limited to the west coast, which is always on the cutting edge of green-product style. “Traditional bamboo has become a tired look,” says Joe Byrnes of the Allied Flooring Group in Cincinnati, OH. “Consumers are disenchanted with it. It was oversold, treated sort of like it was the second coming of Christ.”

An everyday choice on the West Coast, linoleum is misunderstood in some regions In some areas of the country, people think linoleum is the same thing as vinyl. But on the west coast and east – where green products have been in greater demand for years – consumers not only know that linoleum is a natural, sustainable product, but they also depend on it for high style. And there is one manufacturer – Forbo -- that is dominating the market by meeting the all the needs of these green-savvy consumers, says John Hill, ecological coordinator at Interstate Flooring in Portland, OR. “Forbo’s colors have kept up with design trends, and they are the only ones offering a click product that homeowners can even install themselves,” Hill says. “Until last year, Marmorette (from Forbo competitor Armstrong) had a color pallet that was way too ‘pastelly’ for the west coast, and even though that has improved, they don’t offer a click.”

FSC-certified manufacturing facility does not mean certified flooring or healthy indoor-air quality If DuChateau Floors were the only company offering a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified hardwood floor with an oil finish that emits no chemicals, we would not be living in the United States of America. In the land where competition abounds, customers who want the “greenest” product – one that is best for human health and also benefits the planet -- are a priority for a number of manufacturers. But so are those who do not have the budget for an FSC-certified product with a finish proven to have low-chemical emissions. The end result is a selection of products that range from the “greenest,” to the not so “green,” and it is often up to you to know how to tell the difference.

Woodinville, WA, Wine Company Chooses Wicanders Cork Flooring The use of cork at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville, WA, goes far beyond wine bottle stoppers. The company has installed 15,000 square feet of cork flooring made by Wicanders. It was chosen to replace carpeting at the company’s office and production center for reasons that include dust allergy reduction, sound insulation between the first-floor production facility and second-floor offices, and it is a sustainable product that supports the cork industry, says Carrie Wirth, purchasing manager for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. This company makes two of every three bottles of wine sold in Washington state.

A decade of mistakes I wasn’t wise enough to learn from others guides my New Year My father always said that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who made the mistake you’re about to make, and you don’t know you’re about to make a mistake? When I hired a flooring company to install solid strip hardwood flooring in 1998, I was not yet working in the flooring industry. How was I supposed to know to ask about the chemical emissions that would fill the house when they finished the floor with a toxic, oil-based polyurethane? Okay, some people would argue that I should have investigated when the installer mentioned he had liver damage, and assigned the cause to his profession. He did not expound about finishes or less-toxic, water-based options. So, I assumed he was talking about a different liquid all together.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This article was accurate as of the date it was published, and was signed off on by all of the manufacturer sources quoted. That said, manufacturers frequently change their formulations and ingredients, so this article, given its age, becomes background. DO NOT rely on this article for purchasing these manufacturers’ current products.  Low- or Zero-VOC on the label can create a false sense of security It’s almost time to paint two more rooms in my house, and I think I will have tested every mainstream “zero-VOC” paint on the market by the time we are done. I know which brand works best for me, but it’s not a mainstream brand and is not carried by a local retailer. Call me impatient, but ordering paint from another state, or for that matter having to drive for more than 10 minutes to get it, doesn’t work when you need to finish in the time allotted. Custom colors, like the terracotta in my kitchen, sometimes need re-tinting after I test them on the wall. And, inevitably, we run short on non-accent neutrals, which also means another run to the paint store. As someone who does not do well around chemical odors, I can say with certainty and watering eyes that there are irritating ingredients in popular paint brands, even though their labels read “zero-VOC.” More importantly is that low- and zero-VOC labels don’t mean what many people think they do.

Consider origin, construction, chemical emissions, innovation and responsiveness when you choose cork flooring The call was one no flooring retailer wants.  The customer was furious. Her husband had damaged the cork flooring Cline’s Carpets had just installed in her home outside of West Lafayette, Ind. “She was really honked off, not at us, but at her husband who had done something that took a divot out of the floor,” owner Cary Cline recalls. But a strange thing happened when Cline’s installer went out the next day to make a repair. He couldn’t find any damage. “The flooring had healed itself,” Cline says. Cork flooring, invented more than 100 years ago, is known for its ability to bounce back from abuse. Today’s construction -- which includes engineered flooring and an array of stronger finishes -- has led to a dramatic increase in sales during the past decade.

Part One: A Focus on the Finish You might not see it.  But when you inspect the most popular cork floors, you’ll feel the difference. The surfaces on prefinished cork floors range from rough to smooth. The looks range from stone-like to clear and natural. Only the leaders have obtained “green” certifications that prove their products don’t release harmful levels of chemicals. And there is a little debate over whether some of the harder finishes chosen for durability belong on a softer floor like cork.

While consumer demand for natural products is growing, they are a must-have for people with chemical sensitivities Kathy McDowell was upset to think she would have to stop playing with her grandchildren on the carpet in her family room. Every time she got close to the floor, the West Lafayette, IN, resident had a reaction that triggered respiratory problems. When her doctor told her that the carpet had to go, McDowell persisted. She started investigating wool carpet and learned about chemical-free Nature’s Carpet – surprisingly close to home at Cline’s Carpets & Blinds. “I love the carpet,” says McDowell, who has asthma. “I can get down on the floor with my grandkids. And the wool is easy to keep clean. It seems to breathe. It’s natural. It’s warm when it’s cold, and it’s cool when it’s warm.”