But my perspective’s always been a little different. When you consider how much surface area the floor comprises in a given home, the time devoted to installing or restoring it starts to feel fairly minimal. In the span of as little as a few days, you’ve gone from eye sore to the star attraction of your budding modern home renovation.
But a lot transpires during those days, and it can feel really overwhelming in the beginning. I’ve restored a lot of floors through the years and I’ve learned to approach them like a woodworking project. Slow down, think and move methodically, settle into a rhythm. Flooring is one of those things where a small mistake compounds quickly. Before you know it, you’re tearing up tens of planks and trying to account for a lost day.
Weaving in new pieces is especially complex work, trying to match the wood and the dimensions of an old floor. I did a lot of that with the Lambertville kitchen (top, right). There were days where we felt like we were getting nowhere fast. I partnered up with a couple of guys who make floorboards on old machines in a dairy barn nearby. Their work is impressive, and this floor likely would have taken a lot longer without them. Still, we inched along.
But, by the time the last layer of polyurethane had dried, I was staring at something pretty spectacular (in my humble opinion). In that moment, the entire kitchen was transformed, even though the floor was really the only piece we’d touched so far. That’s the power of a floor; it’s impossible to ignore when it’s in a bad way and it’s impossible to ignore when every plank’s perfectly aligned and they’re polished to a magical glow. Just like that, the floor goes from being one thing checked off the to-do list to a springboard. Everything from that point feels a little easier because we have momentum behind us.
There’s life in that floor
I’m also partial to the floor work because it roots me to the renovation. The modern home and my modern furniture are one in the same in that regard. I’m not comfortable calling it one of mine unless I’ve been up to my elbows in every aspect. The craftsman in me needs to attest to quality of each part before he can move on to the next. The perfectionist in me sees the caliber of the work that’s been done to that point and ups the ante for the next phase.
It all, however, comes back to the floor, the literal foundation upon which everything that follows sits. The kiln that I added to my studio this winter is a means to sure up that part even further. With it, I’ll not only be able to stand behind the quality of my work, I’ll be standing behind the quality of the wood, too.
I’ve always invested a lot of effort in sourcing and milling my wood, and I’ll continue to, but now I’m condensing the process. It’ll only leave my sight when it’s milled, and, in time perhaps, not even then. This matters to me because I believe that a tree, as a living entity, gathers energy through its lifetime and nuance through maturity and I want to do as much as I can to preserve that.
Deconstructing the ideal floor
This is probably going to sound like blasphemy after all I’ve said here, but the floor that I fantasize about installing in my dream modern home isn’t black walnut. It isn’t wide-plank pumpkin pine, either. It’s polished concrete—with a few fluffy area rugs. Downstairs, at least. Upstairs, I’ll probably go with some kind of hardwood.
But my reasons are the same as the ones I described here. It’s taking a raw material and meticulously, patiently massaging it into something beautiful.
A few may see the allure in the stone, but only the sculptor sees it in the rubble. In the end, of course, it makes sense to everyone. And it’s as though it always did.