"The lazy bear is finally home," a proud Dan O'Connor of Colorado Custom Floors (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) wrote in an Instagram caption describing an inlay two years in the making. "I had it in my mind for a long time," O'Connor says. "Just had to find the right client." So when he was approached by the owner of a newly built, high-end rustic home, which coincidentally was named Lazy Bear Ranch, it was a match made in heaven, and O'Connor took the gloves off. He bid not only a 1,600-square-foot, random-width band-saw-kerf-texture reclaimed floor, but he also threw in a nine-species, 4-by-8-foot inlay of a grizzly bear loafing on a fallen log in front of a stand of aspen trees. It's an image O'Connor saw in a photo, and it's pure Colorado high country, he says. He sent the photo to Oshkosh Designs (Winneconne, Wis.), where the image was recreated in wood using maple, coastal maple, American and Brazilian cherry, steamed and unsteamed walnut, and red oak. O'Connor wanted bird's-eye maple for the fur around the bear's head because it creates a life-like, scruffy look. "We were looking for movement. It's hard to create 3D movement in a 2D piece," O'Connor says. "The light hits the maple and it looks like it's floating. That's what we were going for." Oshkosh pressure-dyed certain pieces, keeping them a couple shades lighter than the final color O'Connor desired to accommodate the effect of the finish. Oshkosh glued the pieces to a ¼-inch backer board and shipped it to Colorado, where O'Connor's team glued the inlay into a field of white oak surrounded by a 12-inch-wide walnut border. The team hand-sanded the inlay edges to blend it into the floor and then applied Loba ImpactOil and Supra ceramic finish to the entire floor. Finally it was time to reveal the inlay to the customer and his wife, who had been kept in the dark about the inlay this whole time. "Their jaws dropped, basically. Everybody was speechless," O'Connor says.

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Andrew Averill is the former associate editor at Wood Floor Business. A graduate of journalism at the University of Wisconsin, he had internships at newspapers across the country—San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, The Flint Journal—before a bad case of rug burn turned him into an advocate for floors of a harder disposition.