Wood floors have been perennially popular in homes throughout the country. Polished hardwoods and wide plank pine are traditional and comforting in homes large and small, from the East Coast to the West and from the North Woods to the seashores of the Gulf.
Painted finishes are no less popular than waxed or stained topcoats, and wood floors can be warmed and brightened by woven rag rugs, sisal, seagrass and hides just as easily as rich Oriental carpets.
Wood floors have never really slipped from favor on the home scene. Today, however, wood is again at the top of the trends as new greener options catapult wood flooring ahead of all its competitors.
Purists might say that two of the hottest flooring materials -- cork and bamboo -- are not true wood. But there is no denying that they are trendy. Both are available in multiple style options and price ranges, and both are durable, fast-growing, natural resources. Bamboo is technically an extremely fast-growing grass; cork is a natural product that requires stripping the bark off cork trees, but the tree is not harmed. It is perhaps less eco-friendly than bamboo, but it is prized for its insulating and sound-absorbing qualities, and is extremely comfortable underfoot.
Reclaimed wood flooring is another smart choice for the environment. Usually milled from old timbers and siding of demolished early 20th Century mills and factories, it is also culled from old barn wood and even older flooring. Distressed, imperfect wood constitutes high style for the home, and today's sustainable forests supply most of the new wood that is used for flooring and for general building materials.
With a nod to ease of care and industrial chic, two other options create the same kind of buzz among home designers today: scored and stained concrete, and oversize tile. While some homeowners will still opt for carpet, the "wall-to-wall" look is not a popular choice except for bedrooms. And, although modern seamless vinyl is practical and affordable, its most popular contemporary style is wood grain.
The take-away from style-setters on the residential scene point in a single direction today -- and it's often wood. Light or dark, planked or parquet, formal or rustic, you won't go wrong by choosing solid or engineered wood flooring for your home. The availability of wood patterns for tile and vinyl means every room in your home can be in step with the times.