Congratulations to this year's Floor of The Year winners

 

Judges from the American Society of Interior Designers select the winners for all except for Members' Choice awards, which are voted on by convention attendees. The Master Division is reserved for those who have previously won Floor of the Year awards; those who have not previously won awards are eligible for the Expert Division.

 

RECLAIMING THE THRONE Members' Choice (Master Division) | Best Use of Wood Technology | RENAISSANCE FLOOR IN-LAYS (San Francisco, Calif.)

Reclaiming the Throne

The last time Gene Klotz won a Floor of the Year trophy, he said it would be his last—for awhile. "I said, 'I think it's time to give myself a break and allow the contest to grow," Klotz says. "It should be encouraging for others instead of having the same group of faces winning from the beginning." Klotz held true to his word, and when he entered again this year, he found that the number of entries had more than doubled since he last entered in 1997, something he finds "very encouraging." Not surprisingly, however, when Klotz reappeared this year, he hadn't lost his winning touch.

This year's winner is an elaborate floor Klotz designed featuring his trademark scrollwork. The customers were referred to Renaissance by the wood flooring company that installed the other wood floors in the house several years beforehand. The clients were now ready to design the crown jewel of their home—the living and dining room areas.

The home owners came to Klotz with a detailed floorplan sketch and photos of their furniture, which they had found during a trip to Europe. Their goal was to coordinate the floor to the furniture. After several weeks of studying the photos and plan, Klotz created his design. With few adjustments, the clients approved it, telling him to take as much time as necessary because they wanted the floor to be perfect. That was good news for flooring contractors used to harried construction deadlines. "Most of the jobs are on a tight schedule," Klotz says. "There is not much room for crazy schedules and yet trying to achieve something pretty."

The final design features two medallions, which were customized from stock items in Renaissance's catalog. The center designs in both medallions use elements of the patterns on the furniture. Because red oak had been used in other areas of the home, it was used as the primary specie in this room. Red oak and santos mahogany form the parquet, and accommodating the clients' request for subtle contrast, Honduras and santos mahogany were used in the border. The most challenging part of the job from a layout standpoint was sizing the parquet to fit without any partial squares.

Before the floor was even completed, the clients were so pleased with progress that they gave Renaissance's installer, Asmir Begic, a Christmas present. "That doesn't happen too often that a client will do that for you," says Klotz. "They were really great clients to work with."

Klotz finds that these days, an increasing amount of his time is spent talking to clients, and almost all of the cutting for his trademark scrollwork is left to Tommy Krynski. But some essential tasks he still handles himself—he recently flew to Beverly Hills, Calif., to take measurements on a new project that will consist of 900 square feet of inlays. Now that Klotz has returned to the Floor of the Year scene, perhaps the industry will get to see that one on the big screens next year. Given his history, chances are good. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Flooring: Parquet by Dian, Renaissance Floor In-Lays | Finish: Dura Seal | Nailer: Senco | Adhesive: Bostik | Abrasive: 3M Co. | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Edger: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Buffer: Clarke (Alto) | Saw: Hitachi

 

TEAM PLAYERSFloor of the Year (Expert Division) | Members' Choice (Expert Division) | ARTISAN HARDWOOD FLOORS (Austin, Texas)

Team Players

Artisan Hardwood Floors made a splash with its first Floor of the Year awards, earning the two of the most prestigious awards—Floor of the Year (Expert Division), which is the "best of show" as voted on by ASID judges, and Members' Choice (Expert Division), the "best of show" as determined by attendees at the Palm Springs NWFA Convention in April.

The striking installation was a culmination of the efforts of several groups of people. The design team on the project, including Artisan's Vice President David Bailey, artist Uli Kuess, the architect, the builder and the home owner, worked exceptionally well together. Dedicated Artisan employees pulled off the installation to exacting standards. And Artisan's Bob Bailey, a frequent volunteer with NWFA schools and committees, credits the support of his colleagues in the industry for making it possible.

"Our company would not be where it's at today if I hadn't gotten involved in NWFA," Bailey says. "You get around your peers, and the networking is just incredible." Bailey credits past Floor of the Year winners, especially multiple award winner Gene Klotz of Renaissance Floor In-Lays, for freely sharing the knowledge that has allowed Bailey to take his company and his skills to a new level.

On this job, a 3,000-square-foot addition, the Artisan crew had to use all of the skills they've developed. The various rooms involved different parquet patterns with laser-cut inlays and borders. Pattern sizes had to be adjusted to ensure the layouts would be correct; on three sides of the main room, the border converges from both directions on a 3-inch mesquite block, which allowed no room for error. Artisan also cut the parquet, created a complete flight of stairs, cut custom nosing, inlaid flush-mounted wood vents, and in some areas, tied back into existing floors from the 1920s.

The floor not only had to be beautiful, it had to be durable to withstand the clients' frequent social functions. Ipé, cumaru, mesquite, Brazilian cherry, santos mahogany and quartersawn white oak were selected for their color and hardness. To allow for spot touch-ups, a penetrating sealer and wax finish were applied.

The final result was something new for Artisan, David Bailey says—a floor as part of an entire design concept. The artist Kuess did everything from painting the murals to designing the floors. "A wonderful advantage of using her was that the floor has the most incredible sense of proportion. She brought that to the table when no one else could have," David Bailey says.

Both the ASID judges and wood flooring experts obviously agreed that the floor was something special. For Bob Bailey, winning was a thrill, but he believes that he and his company can still do better. "I was really excited, but at the same time, I still don't feel worthy of winning," Bailey says. "I'm a little embarrassed by all the attention. When I look at some of my peers out there, I feel happy as can be about being in that company." — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Builder: J. Pinnelli Company | Architect: Steven Kubenka | Artist: Uli Kuess Fine Art and Interiors | Installers: Bob Bailey, Travis Bailey, Chad McBride, David Bailey, Kimothy Sanders | Sanders/Finishers: Jimmie Lucky, Kristoffer Sales, Kimothy Sanders, Troy Bailey, Ray Herbst | Distributor: Everwood Decking | Flooring: Decorative Flooring, Artisan Hardwood Floors | Finish: Dura Seal | Nailer: Primatech | Adhesive: Bostik | Abrasive: Norton, BonaKemi | Sander: Primatech | Buffer, Edger: Clarke (Alto) | Saws: Delta, Hitachi

 

WATERFRONT JEWELFloor of the Year (Master Division) | BIRGER JUELL LTD. (Chicago, Ill.)

Waterfront Jewel

The word "retirement" doesn't seem to be a part of Birger Juell's vocabulary. Although the 84-year-old is well past the age where most people say goodbye to the working world, Juell's passion for growing his business is ever increasing. He's looking to move his operations to a larger location ("I'm trying to rent or buy some new space," he says)—and ceaselessly works to increase his company's profile ("Have you seen my new ad in Architectural Digest. I got 20 calls in four days.").

It came as no surprise when the industry legend walked away from the Palm Springs Convention with one of the most prestigious awards—Floor of the Year in the Master Division, reserved for those who have won an award before. Juell is thrilled with the award, and even moreso with the fact that the winning floor represents the epitome of his work—clean, good design.

"That is basically what I do," Juell says. "I don't do all this laser cutting and crazy things like that. I do 'simple classic'— that's what I call it. It's just a way of making the whole room come together. You don't want to see just wood floors. If your floor sticks out, it's not a good job," he explains.

Juell's success in achieving that principle is what has earned him notoriety in high-end design circles, and it's what keeps designers coming to him for jobs such as this one in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The designer, Sam Rosenberg, had worked with Juell on a job in the same area and sought out Juell for this one, as well.

For many contractors, it's a job they could only dream about. For Juell, it's a typical project. The waterfront home is approximately 22,000 square feet, most of which features wood flooring. The price tag for the wood floors came in at just under a half million dollars.

The portion of the job that won the award is a foyer measuring 800 square feet. Herringbone sections are individually framed between the foyer columns. Walnut, maple and mahogany were handscraped, hand-beveled, oiled and waxed in signature Juell style. All of the flooring was manufactured by Juell. The entire job, which features different custom patterns throughout the home, took about nine months to complete.

In large part, Juell credits his employees for his continued success. "I have good people, and that's what it takes," he says. That's true, but the driving passion behind the company undoubtably remains Juell himself. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Designers: Sam Rosenberg, Birger Juell | Flooring: Birger Juell Ltd. | Finish: Dura Seal | Nailers: Stanley-Bostitch, Powernail Co. | Adhesive: Franklin International | Buffer: Clarke (Alto) | Saws: Makita | Handscrapers: Red Devil

 

SMALL TOWN, BIG REWARDSUnfinished Craftsmanship and Design | LEGENDARY HARDWOOD FLOORS (Terre Haute, Ind.)

Small Town, Big Rewards

Terre Haute, Ind., may seem an unlikely place for a Floor of the Year floor. The relatively small town of 50,000 in western Indiana isn't exactly known for having a wealthy population or being a hotbed of high-end design. Yet that's the environment where veteran Floor of the Year winner Chuck Crispin has carved his niche. Although he's traveled from coast to coast to do elaborate jobs, his bread and butter work is right at home in Terre Haute, and so is this year's winning floor in the Unfinished Craftsmanship and Design category.

While continually generating high-end work in a small town may be challenging, it does have its advantages. When the home owner on this project wanted a flooring contractor for her new home in one of Terre Haute's nicest neighborhoods, there wasn't any question about who she would call. She simply contacted Crispin, as many of her neighbors have done in the past.

What the customer initially had in mind wasn't Floor of the Year material. The wood floors in the 8,000-square-foot house would be extensive, and to save costs, she requested a plain floor. "We said, 'No, it will look like a bowling alley,' " Crispin recalls. "So we talked her into panelizing and finally into doing some parquet." The customer was also enthusiastic about the idea of using granite, but was apprehensive about the expense.

"The home owner's main desire was elegance— understated, handsome, rich finishes," Crispin says. "She didn't want it to look too contrived; she wanted it to fit comfortably in the space without overwhelming other parts of the house." To accommodate that desire, panels of quartersawn Brazilian cherry parquet surrounded by wenge feature strips were chosen. Granite was limited to the foyer, making for a dramatic entrance.

Crispin, who has a self-professed passion for "design challenges," found that the granite presented one of the foremost challenges on the job. Its square tiles had to be arranged in a way that would complement the circular line of the staircase. Eighteen-inch tiles were chosen to make them appear more massive, and Crispin's close friend, Mark Scheller of Scheller Hardwood Floors in Lemoyne, Pa., did most of the actual foyer installation.

As often happens, job site conditions proved to be the biggest challenge of all. The floors were installed last summer, with the HVAC system keeping humidity at about 50 percent. The floors were then covered, and in December, after bitterly cold weather, the Legendary crew came back to complete the job. The humidifier on the heating system had failed, and the humidity in the house had dropped to 18 percent. "When we pulled all the covering off of the floor, there were big consistent gaps everywhere—even in the parquet," Crispin says. It took three humidifiers six weeks to bring the humidity up to conditions acceptable enough to finish the floors.

The Legendary crew also had its hands full with other details—the trim, a staircase and 64 doors were also part of the package on this high-end job. The final result is not the most complicated work Crispin has done, but it achieves the ultimate design goal—simple elegance. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Installers/Finishers: Chuck Crispin, John Crispin, Doug Loudenback, Earl Hargis, Bill "Hurricane" Hankins, Jeff Williams, Mark Scheller | Distributor: Legendary Marketing Group | Flooring: Rare Earth, Parquet by Dian | Finish: Berger-Seidle | Adhesive: Bostik | Abrasive: 3M Co., Festool | Sander: K&T | Buffer: K&T, Trio (Lagler/Palo Duro) | Edger: K&T | Random Orbital Sander: Festool | Saws: Festool | Stairs: Heritage | Doors: Chautauqua Woods

 

WIDE OPEN SPACESBest Prefinished Design | THE BECHT CORP. (Tewksbury, Mass.)

Wide Open Spaces

A 30,000-square-foot project might be intimidating to most wood flooring contractors, but for Steve Becht at The Becht Corp., it's everyday life. The contractor does commercial work exclusively, so it was a natural when the builder brought him in as the consultant for Reebok's new world headquarters building in Canton, Mass., a Boston suburb.

The architectural firm, Seattle-based NBBJ, had already chosen the sweeping design for the floor layout. The species also was determined—as an athletic apparel and shoe manufacturer, maple seemed to be the obvious choice. Initial plans also specified a job-site finished floor.

Becht was cautious about the latter part. The dramatic design of the four-story atrium would flood the floor with natural light, meaning that a job-site finished floor would have to be near-flawless to be acceptable. As the plans were discussed, it became apparent that budget and schedule constraints wouldn't allow a job-site-finished floor, so Becht's task became finding a suitable prefinished engineered product. The square-edged product chosen has milling that is "absolutely beautiful," Becht says, and the client approved it immediately.

Becht's crews had to patiently wait to get on the job site. In the atrium area, substantial overhead work was completed using large hydraulic lifts that ran back and forth across the floor. Once the lifts were gone, the crews got on the floor to take a look at the subfloor, which Becht says was "horrid." About $30,000 had to be spent in subfloor preparation alone. "We spent real careful amounts of time preparing the subfloor with latex underlayment," Becht says. Then crews calculated the specified layouts, involving huge areas with radiuses, as well as direction changes. "In many cases, we had to build a paper template because the radiuses were 200 and some odd feet, and the center points were outside the building. With the help of the job site engineer, we laid out the radiuses to make the sweeping transitions between carpeting and hardwood floors," Becht explains.

The key to the job's success, Becht says, is that so much time was spent on subfloor preparation and layout. Once that was accomplished, there were fairly wide open spaces for laying down the floor. All transition areas and direction changes were accented by a zinc feature strip, and areas against glass railings featured cork expansion details. Becht says his foreman and crew on the job were "outstanding."

From a technical aspect, it wasn't a terribly difficult job, Becht says; "it was more dramatic than anything else." The building itself has won some national design awards, and now the dramatic scope of the floor helped it garner its own award, more firmly entrenching The Becht Corp. as a Floor of the Year favorite. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Designer: NBBJ | Flooring: Firebird Industries | Adhesive: Bostik | Saws: Dewalt | Latex Underlayment: Masco

 

NO PLACE LIKE HOMEBest Showroom or Personal Floor | MISSION HARDWOOD FLOOR COMPANY (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

No Place Like Home

When consumers think of a typical showroom, they conjure up images of a sterile, jam-packed room filled with towers of floor samples and high-pressure salesmen— that is, until they step foot inside the showroom at Mission Hardwood Floor Company. Mission challenges the perception of what a showroom should be, and turns it into a warm, home-like environment. "Frankly, a lot of us live here more than we live at home. So we thought we might as well make this look as good as our homes," says Peter Fay, general manager. With all of the detailed workmanship and varied use of species and design elements, it's easy to see why Mission earned top honors in the Showroom and Personal Floors category.

Formed in 1972, Mission Hardwood Floor Company caters to higher-end residential and commercial clients in Scottsdale, Ariz., and surrounding areas. Borders, medallions, inlays, moldings and stairs are some of the specialty items offered. The company sells solid hardwoods and restores various types of hardwood floors. Offering more than 300 different hardwoods, 20 percent of its work is done with reclaimed wood. Most of its business is through word of mouth, and the company spends little on advertising—so a top-notch showroom is a high priority.

In keeping with the company's teamwork atmosphere, this $72,000 showroom renovation represents a collaboration between many people in the company. To showcase the talents of its staff, a section of flooring was assigned to each of Mission's craftsmen, who were given free rein to create a design representative of their work. "We can't say enough about how proud we are of our craftsmen," says Peter Fay. The installers came up with several ideas, and Superintendent Greg Lashbrook narrowed them down to create the floor layout. The result was a floor that features more than 60 types of wood and various designs.

The 900-square-foot showroom is broken up into a series of panels and offices. Owner and President Beverly Fay worked with the interior designers to create a theme for each room. "Every room is a selling point," she says. Faux painting, custom cherry and alder furniture and specialty molding are just some of the added features that give this showroom its character. Beverly Fay says the different rooms give customers ideas on what to do with their own homes. "I think one of our ideas was to give our showroom more of a living room look, something that people can relate to," says Peter Fay.

Mission not only wants to provide a cozy environment, but educate the customer as well. A Southwest-style kitchen, complete with cherry cabinets, granite countertops and wine racks, is the site of Friday "Wood 101" seminars for architects, designers or anyone else who's interested in wood floors. Because the average customer returns three times before making a purchase, the first few visits are usually education-oriented rather than sales-oriented. The showroom is also filled with more than 1,000 2-by-3 foot heavyduty wood samples that customers can borrow to see how they look in their own home. Maverick Bednarz, partner and CEO, recalls when a home owner and her designer walked into the showroom: "She made it four steps in the door, turned to her designer and said, 'These people understand.' That's exactly what we were looking for." — C.L.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Flooring: Aacer Flooring, Aged Woods, Avance Hardwoods, Carlise Restoration Lumber, Classic Millworks, Fine Lines Manufacturing, Galleher Hardwood Co., Grafco Hardwood Floors, Handloggers, Historic Floors of Oshkosh, Intermountain Lumber, Kentucky Wood Floors, Mountain Wood Products, Naturecork, Patina Old World Flooring, The Roane Co., Seneca Millwork, Rare Earth, Saroyan Wood Floors, Texas Woods, Timbergrass, Vintage Lumber, Virginia Hardwood Company | Finish: Dura Seal, BonaKemi | Abrasive: 3M Co. | Sander: Lagler (Palo Duro)

 

THE WEDDING INSTALLERBest Design in a Commercial Application | EXTREME HARDWOOD FLOORING | (North New Brunswick, N.J.)

The Wedding Installer

Skilled flooring contractors often impress home owners with creative designs and timely, quality installations. However, it's not too often that a flooring professional can install a floor to save a wedding reception. This year's Commercial Application Floor of the Year winner not only impressed the owner of an upscale banquet facility, he made the bride's day by completing this magnificent dance floor in time for the wedding.

When Stephen Sommer began installing hardwood floors fifteen years ago, he knew he wanted to specialize in high-end installations. After working for Hoboken Hardwood Floors for five years, he started his own company, Extreme Hardwood Flooring. "When I went on my own, I concentrated on perfection," Sommer says. "That's where I've steered my company over the past 10 years—doing the best possible floors I can do." While most of Extreme's projects tend to be residential, Sommer focuses his few commercial endeavors on high-end projects like this one, the Brownstone House banquet hall.

Aside from this project, Sommer completed several other projects for the Brownstone House, including a 3,000-foot dance floor. For this most recent project, the co-owner, Tom Manzo, wanted a circular dance floor installed in the new, 4,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed atrium addition. Sommer went over several different patterns with Manzo and developed a final layout, which consisted of an 18-foot, red oak circular floor with a 3-inch, laser-cut walnut border and a medallion in the center.

Sommer installed the four red oak "pie pieces" first, then separated them with walnut feature strips. With the oak and walnut in place, Sommer needed to cut a perfectly round, 18foot circle to fit the laser-cut arcs. His friend who owns a metal fabrication business created an adjustable jig that Sommer could use with his router to cut the circle. Once the walnut border was installed, a medallion with oak, walnut, cherry and mahogany was placed in the center.

With several events planned far in advance throughout the facility, scheduling became a factor in the installation. Sommer had to be careful not to make too much noise, not kick up too much dust and not let the finish fumes overpower parties in adjacent rooms. This meant working odd hours to coordinate with the event schedule in the building. To complicate matters further, there was an unexpected delay with the border, so Sommer had to do a temporary sand and finish job on the floor, without the walnut border, to accommodate a few scheduled parties. However, the temporary floor wasn't going to satisfy a crying bride whose wedding reception was planned in the new atrium. But to the bride's delight, the border arrived in time for Sommer to complete the floor, and the wedding guests were able to dance the night away. — C.L.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributors: Hoboken Floors | Flooring: Historic Floors of Oshkosh | Finish: Harvester | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Abrasive: Virginia Abrasives Corp. | Sander, Buffer, Edger: Clarke (Alto US) | Sawa: Makita | Router: Ryobi

 

ON THE BORDERBest Limited Specie Design | STROBEL HARDWOOD FLOORS (Jefferson City, Mo.)

On The Border

Seasoned flooring contractors who have been in the business a long time dream of doing a job that showcases their artistic talents and expert craftsmanship. Todd Strobel, who has been in the hardwood flooring business for 15 years and owned his own contracting business for five, seizes the opportunity when such jobs come along. Strobel primarily works on residential projects in Jefferson City, Mo., a market he finds favors 2 1 -inch strip flooring. Although he's been fortunate to land several jobs installing custom borders and medallions, Strobel is always hungry for more of a challenge. So when the opportunity arose for him to install a custom border in this new home, he jumped at the chance. A high-end building contractor approached him to do the project. Strobel had installed floors in a home for him before, and the contractor was impressed with the quality of his work and his attendance at the NWFA Advanced School last year.

This six-room, 2,200-square-foot new home features riftand quartersawn white oak floors. Originally, the home owners wanted to do something bold with granite inlays, bird's-eye maple and other materials, but eventually they decided on a simpler, understated look, limiting the wood species to oak and walnut. Since the home owner didn't like the large grain of lower-grade oak, Strobel suggested rift and quartered white oak. Strobel also worked with the interior decorator to design the walnut border, which was created to complement the furniture in the large, formal dining room. The decorator created the border pattern to match a custom dining room table, and Strobel fine-tuned the design.

The entire job took about three weeks to install, and Strobel spent one week of that working on the border. "I spent about 60 hours on that border. I was going to send it off and have it made, but we got into a time crunch, so I spent the full week on it," he says. Though the border was time-consuming, it was a labor of love. All border pieces were cut at the job site, and Strobel spent many hours at the table saw cutting and re-cutting pieces to fit, which meant precisely resetting the saw to size the boards. To reduce the number of topnails, he also put splines in all of the boards so the border could be nailed tongue and groove. It took extra time, but the finished product was well worth it.

While many contractors would complain about having to spend 12 hours on Sunday finishing a floor to meet a deadline, Strobel was more than happy to do what it took to get the job done and utilize his talents. "I really enjoy doing that kind of work. You don't get to do it that often," he says. "Best of all, it's not the same old 2 1/4 strip." — C.L.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributors: Lockwood Flooring, Select Flooring | Flooring: Carroll Hardwood, Canoak-USA | Finish: Ultradec | Nailer: Primatech, Senco Products | Abrasive: 3M Co. | Sander: Lagler (Palo Duro) | Buffer: Drumco | Edger: Unico | Saws: DeWalt, Festo, Porter-Cable

Take a look at past Wood Floor of the Year winners:

That Winning Feeling: 2000 Floor of the Year Winners

Master Craftsmen: 1999 Floor of the Year Winners