Whether it’s top-selling visuals/species, new engineered formats or even enhancements to the product’s performance, there are hardwood trends and developments RSAs need to keep in mind when helping the consumer make an educated decision.
Here’s a look at some of the primary hardwood trends driving continued interest today.
Moderating colors, shades
Gray tones and darker wood stains may have been all the rage eight to 10 years ago, but now that’s starting to shift. Designers and manufacturing executives alike are witnessing a dramatic shift in the color palette for hardwood.
“The darker grays are transitioning into more of a taupe,” said Sara Babinski, design manager for AHF Products, owner of the largest hardwood brand portfolio. “Requests for mid-tone browns have also been increasing. People want to see warmer colors.”
Dan Natkin, CEO and managing director, Bauwerk Group, parent company of the Boen and Somerset brands, agreed. “The trend continues to be toward soft, neutral colors absent of red. Naturals, pale whites, and mid-brown tones all dominate, while dark grey tones have begun to fade in favor of more transparent and lighter grey tones.”
This overriding trend, observers say, is not simply regionally inspired—as it has been in the past. For instance, the lighter, softer colors that have become so popular on the West Coast are gradually moving eastward. “The lighter, cooler colors we’re seeing in California, for example, are making their way over into the middle part of the country and even into markets in the Northeast and Southeast,” said Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surfaces, Dixie Home, which markets the high-end Fabrica Wood line. “Collections like our Relic, Bastion and Fortress lines that we launched mid-year last year were all designed around blonde, natural tones—very clean.”
Indeed, suppliers across the board are not only tweaking their color and stain offerings, but also the various techniques that alter the visual appearance of a particular species. At Mannington, for example, the focus of its recent wood line expansions and new product introductions is getting the hardwood hues just right. The company’s popular, upper-end Prospect Park for instance, has been updated with colors consumers are clamoring for. According to Cristen del Bove, director of residential styling, the collection—based on European oak species—now features more muted tones—”a little more of a California vibe,” she explained. New additions that fit the bill include Amber and Flaxen, which hit the warmer end of the color spectrum. “These are more traditional colors,” she added. “We didn’t have anything like these two colors in the line before.”
Other major suppliers, including Mirage, have also adjusted their product offerings to keep pace with emerging trends in color. The company’s top-selling DreamVille, Flair and Herringbone collections have been refreshed to satisfy shifting consumer tastes. DreamVille gets three trendy new colors: Bow Valley, Loveland and Tofino; while Flair gets Patina, a rich, new color boasting a pale hue. The company’s Herringbone collection has been expanded to include Mirage’s most popular colors—Isla, Rocking Horse and Carousel, available in Brushed White Oak, as well as Château and Treasure, available in Brushed Red Oak. All feature Mirage’s low-gloss, DuraMatt finish.
“Today’s trends are still oriented towards return to nature, and matte floors that express the natural authenticity of wood,” said Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, Mirage. “That is what our new products evoke. They will meet the requirements of the most daring in terms of design as well as the most traditional and while offering a timeless and sought-after look.”
Wider/longer still dominates…
If there’s one trend that has demonstrated its staying power, it’s the wider/longer format. This was readily evident across the exhibition floor at Surfaces 2023. At the Harris Wood booth, for instance, attendees got their fill of wide and long with the company’s Pinnacle series. This hefty product boasts a thick, 4mm sawn face on a massive 9 ½-inch-wide footprint. According to Renee Tester, vice president of sales and marketing, it’s well worth the $16-per-square-foot price consumers will need to fork over to get their hands on it. “It’s our most robust product within our lineup,” she said. “We have developed nine colors in that line—mostly neutrals and taupes—and it features that oil-rubbed look, with just a little bit of sheen to highlight the cerusing as well as some of the grain patterns and the wire brushing. The Texas and California markets are doing well with it—especially the multi-million dollar homes—as well as the Panhandle market and parts of Chicago.”
Another perennial show stopper was the ever-popular Dutch Masters collection from Provenza. This high-end hardwood flooring line available in planks measuring nearly 9 inches wide x 82 inches long and features an overall thickness of 5/8 of an inch. For added effect, the prefinished engineered offering boasts light to heavy wire-brushing coupled with a multi-stain process that is hand finished by Provenza master wood crafters in its Tustin, Calif., manufacturing facility. “It’s a wide-width, long plank option featuring European oak, which offers a very clean and natural look for end users who want a more contemporary visual,” Ron Sadri, principal and co-owner explained. “It’s mainly for residential applications, but it can be used in new high-end homes or light commercial applications.”
Some of the widest boards on display at the show could be seen at the three-story RIVA booth. Most of the company’s products, in fact, span 8-feet long x up to 10 inches wide. Depending on the collection and format, RIVA’s wood products may range from $12-$25 per square foot. “We position ourselves as a luxury producer,” Borja Iglesias, the company’ s CEO, noted.
…but narrower formats are re-emerging
Everything old is new again. That sentiment helps explain why certain markets and applications are witnessing a return to narrower boards—those measuring 5 inches or less. Case in point is Mohawk’s TecWood line, whose latest additions mark a departure from the wider/longer craze. “In the past, everything was longer/wider; 7 inches became the new standard,” said Paige Nichols, director of hardwood, Mohawk. “However, we’re starting to see a shift to thinner products right now—especially in builder where you have these high-rise buildings, condos where the space is smaller and they’re looking for something a little thinner.”
That’s where Camden Isle—a 5-inch-wide product with a 2mm face veneer and lengths up to 72 inches—comes in. “We still have the longer; it’s just a little bit thinner in width,” she noted.
Select product line extensions in the Harris Wood offering also support this trend. These include additions to the company’s Cottage and Chalet collections—two of its entry-level offerings. “We are seeing more demand for 3- and 5-inch products,” Tester explained. “But even ith that narrower visual, you still get that fashion-forward, timeless visual. I think we’re at that plateau where we’ve seen wider planks for so long, and now the narrower widths are re-emerging.”
Many of these narrower offerings, experts say, allow for the creation of eye-catching patterns such as herringbone and chevrons. “It’s a classic look that’s still very popular among upscale consumers in the market for hardwood,” said Jimmy Setiawan, CEO of Urbanfloor, whose entire floor space within its Surfaces booth was laid out in a herringbone pattern.
One trend that seems to transcend all categories and formats of hardwood flooring today is the type of finish suppliers are using. Long gone are the days of the shiny, high-gloss finish that was in high demand 20 years ago. Instead, finishes have become so low gloss that the protective coating on many wood floors have become nearly imperceptible to the naked eye. It’s all part of a move, suppliers agreed, to let the natural characteristics of the wood species and traits to shine through without compromising durability.
“The main driver in the consumer’s decision-making process when it comes to hardwood is the look of the floor,” said Wade Bondrowski, director of sales. U.S., Mercier Wood Flooring, a pioneer in the prefinished wood market. As a case in point, he cited the company’s advanced Generations technology, which gives consumers the best of both worlds—clarity and durability. “The finesse and beauty of a finish depends on its capacity to preserve the natural beauty of the wood, while letting the richness of its grain shine through, and maintaining the transparency of the finish.”