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.

Fit for a King Best Use of Wood Technology | Artwood Flooring Inc. (Welland, Ontario)Floor of the Year (Master Division) | Honorable Mention Member's Choice (Master Division)

Fit for a King

Every wood flooring contractor dreams of having a client like Si Ywai Lai. "Cost is not an issue when she finds something she likes," says Cosimo Sgambelluri, owner of Artwood Flooring. In the scenic little tourism hamlet of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lai has bought more than $100 million in property that she painstakingly restores, and when it comes to the wood floors, she turns to Artwood Flooring. It was one of her projects that garnered Artwood its first Floor of the Year awards — Floor of the Year (Expert Division) and Best Design in a Commercial Application — in 1998. This year, it's another hotel renovation that earned Artwood three awards for two separate floors in the same hotel.

Lai bought this year's project, a circa-1864, 108-room hotel, in 1996. "She had this vision of restoring it back to what she thought it would look like if it was done in 1864 — a place where the princes and dukes would stay," Sgambelluri says. The hotel, which has been declared a historic building by the government, had played host over the years to all manner of Canadian dignitaries and even the Queen of England. Armed with a budget of $24 million for the interior alone, Lai took care in renovating it back to Victorian splendor. She spent two weeks doing research with a museum curator in England. Back in Niagara-on-theLake, she set up a committee of experts on everything from stained glass to faux finishes to oversee the renovation.

Fortunately for Artwood Flooring, Sgambelluri was asked to sit on the committee, as well. They met every two weeks throughout the summer of 1998 to discuss various design proposals. "It was nice to be able to work with a project where you were almost guaranteed to get the work in the end," Sgambelluri says. When none of the suggested wood flooring designs for the foyer seemed quite right for the project or Lai's taste, he consulted with Dominic Sarracini of Heartwood Architectural Wood Products in Toronto. Sarracini has "a brilliant mind," Sgambelluri says. "He's the one who came up with the design like a lace pattern. He spent more than 60 hours researching just to come up with the concept."

When the idea was presented to Lai on paper, "you could see the sparkle in her eyes," Sgambelluri says. She liked the idea, but she wanted to see a sample. Sgambelluri and Sarracini took the gamble of laser cutting a sample tile, knowing that if she refused it, they would be out thousands of dollars.

As it turns out, they ended up cutting 1,500 square feet of the floor. The quartered white oak and Brazilian cherry pattern was laid in tiles measuring 29 3/4 by 39 inches, while the pattern itself measured 39 by 59 1/2 inches. It took more than 220 hours on the laser to cut it and six miles of tape for the face-taping.

That 1,500 square feet — with a price tag of $125,000 — turned out to be just the beginning. "All of a sudden she started throwing more stuff at us," Sgambelluri says. "By the time we were finished, we did 9,700 square feet of wood floors in the hotel." The custom parquet pattern, which Sgambelluri calls a "chameleon pattern," was hand-cut in Sarracini's shop and brought to the job site in 12inch panels. It was used for almost all of the common areas, such as the hallways and meeting rooms.

Before any flooring could be installed, however, Sgambelluri examined the subfloor and found it lacking. "You've got to remember this was an old hotel, and when we got in to look at the subfloor, there were all kinds of irregularities," he says. The general contractor went to the costly solution of having a new subfloor poured. When that was finished, Sgambelluri's crews laid down 4-mil cork, a vapor barrier and then 1/2 -inch plywood.

To give the floors an authentic patina look and for easy maintenance, a penetrating oil finish was chosen. Using oil also made the project a little less complicated, because the crews could complete the floor section by section.

"For a project of this size and magnitude, it all went very smoothly," Sgambelluri says. "I have to give my guys credit, and Dominic, too.

Everything fit together very nicely." The most troublesome part of the installation, in fact, was peeling tape off: "We always had at least a couple guys just peeling tape off. We had my kids, my wife and my kids' friends peeling tape just to keep up. At one point we had a ball of tape that was four feet in diameter." In the end, tape and all, the entire project took seven weeks on site to complete.

Everything about the end result — from Lai's reaction, to Artwood's winning three more Floor of the Year awards — was better than Sgambelluri could have hoped. Most importantly, Sgambelluri says, "We have gained her trust — it's very important that she trust us to do a nice job." With more property recently purchased and Lai thinking of building a house for herself, that trust could lead to even more Floor of the Year floors. As Sgambelluri says, "She has great vision and a lot of dollars — that's what it takes to generate these types of floors." — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Flooring: Heartwood Architectural Wood Products | Finish: Dura Seal | Nailer: Powernail Company | Adhesive: Bostik | Abrasive: Virginia Abrasives, Klingspor Abrasives | Sanders: Galaxy Floor Sanding Machines | Buffer: Clarke | Saws: Hitachi

 

A Matter of TimeFloor of the Year (Master Division) | Best Design in a Commercial Application | DM Hardwood Designs (Mission Viejo, Calif.)

A Matter of Time

Dave Marzalek of DM Hardwood Designs knows that nothing is a sure thing with the Floor of the Year awards. "Some of my best work has crashed and burned; I've learned not to expect a trophy," he says. But his stunning entry in this year's Commercial category was, as he puts it, his "ace in the hole." Adding to Marzalek's satisfaction about his Floor of the Year (Master Division) and Best Design in a Commercial Application awards was that few people in Dallas recognized the floor as his work, unlike many of his previous entries with their trademark wilderness designs.

The atypical Marzalek floor spent literally years in the works. The architects had specified that a massive medallion be laid in the center of a 37-foot-wide rotunda surrounded by pillars. The job also involved thousands of square feet of flooring throughout the rest of the financial corporate headquarters. Marzalek spoke with the architects and general contractors intermittently for more than two years, discussing what would and wouldn't work on the job site. All the while he never really considered it a serious possibility for a small company like his. When they wanted a bid, "I said, 'I'm going to give them a go-away bid — an outrageous number,'" Marzalek recalls. It was a surprise when the signed proposal for $200,000 came over his fax machine.

"Once I got the job, I didn't even know what to do," Marzalek says. "I studied the blueprint for two months." The rotunda design called for a 12-point compass to radiate out from a central time capsule and meet the center of each pillar exactly. The time capsule was laid in concrete approximately 1/4 inch off-center in each direction, meaning Marzalek had to adjust the already-complicated layout. A pattern of Brazilian cherry and walnut with a purpleheart band surround the time capsule, and American cherry and Brazilian cherry surrounded by white oak radiate out to the pillars. Brazilian cherry forms the outer points, all of which are surrounded by a band of all the species. Once the outer walls were reached, the layout had to again be adjusted due to the walls being off 1/4 inch. All the wood was cut on site, routed and splined. It was then glued down on a two-layer plywood subfloor that is laid over 1/4 -inch rubber pads.

Cutting the circle for the 12 points outside the columns presented a challenge. Marzalek measured out and marked the lines on the floor. "You would think you're going to set up some big jig, but I just freehanded that bad boy with a circular saw," he says. "It's not perfect, but no one's ever going to get above that thing to see that."

The installation of the rotunda took seven weeks, while the total job — so spread out that Marzalek's crew used walkie-talkies to communicate — encompasses a total of 7,000 square feet and lasted from early May through October. (The parquet floor installed in other areas of the bank can be seen in the "Rest of the Best" entries on page 70.) Marzalek received help periodically from friend Bob Patterson and his crews, as well as Marzalek's 13-year-old son, Dustin.

Marzalek still sounds amazed that his small company pulled off what has been his biggest project by far. "It bought my house, a new truck, and a new trailer. I don't get jobs like that. It's a once-in-a-lifetime job for me." — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Designers: LPA Architects, DM Hardwood Designs | Installers: Dave Marzalek, Roy Allain, Bob Patterson | Sanders/Finishers: Dave Marzalek, Roy Allain, Dustin Marzalek | Distributor: Galleher Hardwood Co., Rare Earth Hardwoods | Flooring: Galleher Hardwood Co., Rare Earth Hardwoods | Finish: Berger-Seidle | Nailers: Senco, Stanley-Bostitch, Erico | Adhesive: Bostik | Abrasive: 3M Co. | Sander: American | Buffer: American, Porter Cable | Saws: Hitachi, Makita, Hegner

 

Gone WildBest Use of Wood Technology — Honorable Mention | DM Hardwood Designs (Mission Viejo, Calif.)

Gone Wild

Accepting at least one Floor of the Year trophy has become an annual event for Dave Marzalek of DM Hardwood Designs — for five years now, he has won at least one trophy. And it's floors like this one that keep Marzalek going for more.

"I'm trying to come up with new, innovative things that keep my interest," Marzalek says. Putting fiberoptic lighting into a floor was an idea he'd been kicking around since the Chicago NWFA Convention back in 1996. The opportunity arose when it came time to install one of his wilderness medallions that had a bit of history to it. The mountainous scene had been created specifically for a client who then refused it. Once Marzalek got the work back, it sat in his garage, where it was in the way and getting dinged up. He was anxious to just put the medallion, which had taken about four months to construct, in a floor.

It ended up in the new home of Marzalek's friend Tim Aikman, the person who taught Marzalek the wood flooring business years ago. Aikman had even put a few pieces in the inlay years ago during a party at Marzalek's home.

Now it would go into his floor with, they agreed, the added touch of fiberoptics.

"We got this 2,500-meter roll of cable sent to us; it looks like fishing line," Marzalek says. "We put the inlay on the table and started drilling holes in it. I thought, 'I'm either going to destroy it, or it will be a neat piece of work.' It took three of us three days to drill 560 holes."

Once the holes were drilled, 15-foot lengths of cable were strung into the holes. The "hairy mess" was taped to the back of the inlay with duct tape, and then covered with a piece of foam used for floating floors. To accommodate the cables running through the floor, a track was cut into the home's doublelayered plywood subfloor. With a sharp razor knife, they cut off the cables on top of the inlay flush with the wood.

In distinctive Marzalek style, recovered heart pine was used to accent the wilderness scene with an effect of broken boards. The floor is coated with waterbased finish, which was used after experiments with oil-modified proved to melt the fiberoptic cable. A $20 light source, hidden under the corner table, illuminates hundreds of lights in the water and sky with a twinkling effect.

This won't be the last the industry sees of Marzalek, nor is it his only innovative idea. He's already got more in the works to push the limit of what can be done with a hardwood floor. "I have fun. If I'm going to do a Floor of the Year floor, I'm going to get into it. I usually go 150 percent if I want something bad enough," he says. In fact, Marzalek's almost captive to the Floor of the Year competition: "I did it for five years now; I've got a string going. You're going to keep going until you get beat." If recent history is any indication, that might be awhile. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributor: Galleher Hardwood Co., Rare Earth Hardwoods | Flooring: Galleher Hardwood Co., Rare Earth Hardwoods | Finish: Berger-Seidle | Nailers: Senco, Stanley-Bostitch, Erico | Adhesive: Bostik | Abrasive: 3M Co. | Sander: American | Buffer: American, Porter Cable | Saws: Hitachi, Makita, Hegner

 

Something SpecialFloor of the Year (Expert Category) | Old Country Hardwood Flooring (Calgary, Alberta)

Something Special

It's not very often that Old Country Hardwood Flooring gets a chance to do a Floor of the Year type of job. "We just do your normal flooring — installing, sanding and finishing," says David Laporte, president/owner of Old Country Hardwood Flooring in Calgary, Alberta. "Every once in a while, and not too often, we get a request from a customer to do something special."

Or, in this case, they persuade a customer that his house deserves something different. "Our client wanted just a straight, boring floor," Laporte continues. "Steve [Gerencer] came up with the idea that it needed something special in the entryway, that a regular straight strip hardwood floor would not suit this house."

The foyer of the high-end home fairly begged for a design element — the 16-square-foot space opens to the dining and living rooms and features a chandelier that descends through the ceiling. Old Country's Steve Gerencer sketched out a few possibilities.

"When it comes to designing, troubleshooting, inventing or brainstorming, he's the man," Laporte says.

The client chose a simplified design, maintaining the concepts of the borders, starburst and circle. "He didn't want any loud woods or loud differences, so we just went with Brazilian and domestic cherry and of course the maple, and we kept it quite simple that way," Gerencer says.

Once on the job site, "I think it took about two days to figure out where I was actually going to start it," Gerencer says. "A lot of problems you run into are with things being out of square or proportion, but this house was built really well, so it was easy for me to come off the different lines." What would have been an easy day's installing for a plain strip floor took about 65 hours of installation time. All materials were cut on site from flooring and regrooved. Each board for the maple field had to be tapered — "I was very surprised when the last board went in and actually fit," Gerencer says. Bending the wood that forms a circle around the starburst also took some finesse.

"I remember arriving there sometimes at five-thirty in the morning, and at seven o'clock at night my wife would be calling, begging me to come home," Gerencer says. "I was so into working on this job."

One of the most satisfying aspects of the job was the customer's reaction. "The customer was just great," Gerencer says. "Every day he would come and look at it. He didn't believe that it would look as good as it did. He was like, 'Wow, it was definitely worth it.'"

Gerencer was pleased with the results, as well. "We've probably done jobs that were more complicated but were what I would call gaudy. This is elegant as far as I was concerned; it really fit." Laporte agrees. "This project just had a complete natural balance with its surroundings," he says. "It's not too busy or overpowering; it's exactly what the customer wanted." — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Designers: Steve Gerencer, Chester Krala, David Laporte | Distributor: HFI | Flooring: Stanley Knight Ltd., Stuart Flooring Corp. | Finish: BonaKemi USA | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Adhesive: Franklin International | Abrasive: Norton Company | Sanders: Clarke | Buffer: Thoro-matic | Saws: Hitachi

 

Changing DirectionsMember's Choice — Expert Division | Bray's Hardwood (Sacramento, Calif.)

Changing Directions

When distributor Golden State Flooring planned to remodel its Sacramento branch location, customer Tom Bray of Bray's Hardwood asked if he could make a medallion for the floor. As it turned out, he got the entire remodel job and his first Floor of the Year winner for Member's Choice in the Expert Division (for companies that have not previously won a Floor of the Year award).

The award-winning design involves a grid pattern of species laid in a field of quartersawn maple. Each rectangular shape has a different specie laid on a 45-degree angle and bordered by wenge and white oak, with those on the outside also bordered by purpleheart. Each panel is also bordered with a 1-inch strip of wood used within that panel. Together, the changing directions of the panels form a large diamond pattern. Clear, No. 1 common, select and quartersawn oak are shown in a triangular pattern.

"It took about four-and-a-half months for the installation, sanding and finishing. It was a slow installation — real slow," Bray says. "Within each square, everything runs at an angle. There are no cuts in that floor that you can leave rough or cover with a baseboard."

Because of all the woods involved, sanding was also a painstaking process. "Sanding was tricky," Bray says. "There's 27 species and everything from pine to Brazilian cherry; they all sand differently." Slightly different thicknesses from the various mills also meant that everything had to be carefully sanded to one height.

Once sanding was completed, the panels were coated with a neutral stain. To keep the whiteness of the maple, it was taped off during staining. The entire floor was then coated with two coats of a commercial-grade waterbased finish.

The centerpiece of the floor is an elegant 42-by-48-inch medallion crafted out of various domestic and exotic species. Although some might mistake it as the work of Gene Klotz, it was actually hand-cut by Bray and designed by his wife, who is a clothing designer.

Bray hopes to do more such work in the future. "Sacramento is growing; there's some money here," Bray says. "But unfortunately, most of my business is refinishing or basic straight-lay floors. I'm trying to figure out how to market this." With the high-profile exposure of Golden State's showroom and his first Floor of the Year award, Bray's certainly going in the right direction. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributor: Golden State Flooring | Flooring: Shelman USA, Boral Timber, Lauzon Hardwood Flooring, Firebird Industries, Green River Lumber, Memphis Hardwood | Finish: BonaKemi USA | Nailer: Powernail Company | Abrasive: 3M Co. | Sander: ProSand (BonaKemi USA) | Buffer: Squar-Buff | Saws: Dewalt, Makita

 

Creative CurvesUnfinished Craftsmanship and Design | Champion Floor Company (Maryland Heights, Mo.)

Creative Curves

When Ralph Kuehn started Champion Floor Company 11 years ago, he founded it on the basic principles of customer service. The concept worked — today Champion has 40 employees and a history of happy customers. It was one of those previous customers who was the spark for this year's Unfinished Craftsmanship and Design winner.

The customer decided that something special was needed in the entryway of the very contemporary home, which already had maple floors in the living and dining room areas. After decorator Melissa Umbarger of Directions in Design did some initial concepts, Champion took the project and refined it to its final design.

"The owner had a very specific destination for the ball at the end of the curly Q," says Kuehn. "It's dissected by the wall in the alcove there. So to make it come from the middle of the front door to its destination — and make it look good — took some creativity."

Figuring out the design for the large granite area wasn't the only challenge. The floor also features a large wenge "snake" that meanders from the entry, through a glass block wall, and continues down several hallways before it stops. In the dining room, a mahogany floor was laid on the diagonal and bordered with radius corners by wenge. In the living room, a mahogany border with a wenge feature strip sets off the marble floor.

Kuehn and his operations manager, Dennis Smith, went out to the job site and taped paper to the existing floor, then hand drew the entire design fullscale. The drawings were sent to Dynamic Laser Applications, where cardboard renderings of the designs were created. The cardboard designs were laid out on the job site, tweaked, and sent back, and the wenge inlay was then laser-cut.

The actual installation presented several challenges, one being that the installation was retrofitted into an existing floor. "Going into the existing maple made it harder," says Kuehn. "You couldn't not put nails down where you didn't need them." Making precision cuts with the wenge also required meticulous attention. "Putting it against the glass block wall for a nice, smooth transition was pretty tough work — both parts where it dead-ends into the glass block wall and doorway were tough areas. The guys did a good job," Kuehn adds.

Spearheaded by lead installer Jeff Everett, installation on the job took about a week, with the wandering path of the wenge hand routed out of the existing maple. Another week was spent on sanding and finishing. After the floor was in, the granite curly Q pieces were installed by Keyes Marble and Granite, which also installed a matching fireplace hearth in the living room.

Kuehn was pleased with the final dramatic result, and he credits his loyal employees, such as sander Jeremy Lauck, for the success of his first Floor of the Year project. "A project like this is a culmination of all the experience we gather as a company," he says. "Even the guys who didn't work on it still have input on it." — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributor: Lockwood Flooring, Hydraflow, Interstate Supply | Flooring: Superior Floor Company, Dynamic Laser Applications, International Hardwood | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Finish: Basic Coatings | Abrasive: 3M Co. | Sanders: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Buffer: ProSand (BonaKemi) | Saws: Makita

 

Patience Pays Off Best Limited Species Design | Brickman Consulting (Norwell, Mass.)

Patience Pays Off

This 6,000-square-foot summer home sits atop one of the highest points on Martha's Vineyard, a location offering 270 degrees of panoramic views down to the ocean and the surrounding islands. "It's the kind of house that they don't build anymore, with very traditional building methods," says Howard Brickman of Brickman Consulting in Norwell, Mass. Brickman was called into the high-end job to do a typical Brazilian cherry random plank installation.

"We actually had the flooring probably 75, 80 percent installed and it seemed a shame that we weren't going to be doing anything fancy," Brickman recalls. "The entry was very nicely proportioned with a beautiful staircase and a balcony overhanging it — it seemed to me to be the appropriate place for a compass rose or medallion or something. The owner expressed interest, I showed him a full-size drawing, and he said go ahead."

In the home full of beautiful woodwork, Brickman was careful to go with a design that would add a high-end custom touch without clashing with the subdued, traditional style of the house. "The neat thing about one specie is that it doesn't limit you in design," he says. "You can do whatever you want with design without worrying about the colors working."

Additionally, Brickman saw a specific opportunity with this job: his first Floor of the Year entry. "It was a unique opportunity to design something; I designed this particular floor specifically for the contest," he says. "I could've used a number of different species, but I decided that it would be fun to add this kind of complexity, to develop a design and execute it in the Limited Species category."

Brickman's design mimics a tile or marble mosaic, using instead squares of end-grain Brazilian cherry. As the rest of the flooring and the four stairways were installed, pieces of Brazilian cherry with a particularly interesting color or grain pattern were set aside for inclusion in the medallion. The 1/2 -inch squares — more than 4,000 — were cut and installed on the job site. "It wasn't particularly challenging technically, just very time consuming," Brickman says. "It took a lot of patience." Wenge was used as a subtle accent for the compass points and to accentuate the rope pattern. The outer ring of Brazilian cherry planks are all routed and tongue-andgrooved together, while the final circle surrounding them is a ring of bent wood. The completed medallion measures 7 feet across.

The end result was a happy client and a contractor suddenly hooked on the Floor of the Year contest. "I have some ideas for future floors if I can just get the right client to let me execute it," Brickman says. "I'm going to make it happen; it really gets in your system." — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributor: Wood Pro, Derr Flooring | Flooring: International Hardwood Flooring | Nailer: Powernail Company | Finish: Basic Coatings | Adhesive: 3M Co. | Abrasive: Virginia Abrasives | Sanders: Lagler Hummel (Palo Duro) | Router Bit: Start-to-Finish Hardwood Floors

 

Back in Black Best Prefinished Design | Alberta Hardwood Flooring (Edm) Ltd. (Edmonton, Alberta)

Back in Black

Phil and Brenda Smith have found a niche for their wood flooring business: They're not a floor covering store, but they specialize in prefinished wood flooring. They started in a more traditional way 15 years ago, doing typical contracting work out of their home. But after taking on Boa Franc's Mirage prefinished line as a distributor for the entire province of Alberta in 1993, the prefinished business kept growing. Today, the company has 15 employees and two retail locations in Edmonton, where showrooms not only feature prefinished flooring, but also custom options such as borders and corner knots using the prefinished product.

It's not surprising, then, that Alberta Hardwood Flooring won the Floor of the Year award for Best Prefinished Design for the second time. (The first was at the Chicago NWFA Convention in 1996.) This year's winning installation features a field of solid prefinished maple with a striking border of blackstained oak.

"It's a very open floor plan," says Brenda Smith, the company's secretary/treasurer. "The kitchen opens up to a family room, and the owner decided he would like a border to break up the floor." In fact, the home owner knew exactly what he wanted, from which company's product to use to what the design would be. The maple field was chosen to coordinate with the maple cabinetry in the kitchen, while a black border runs through the kitchen and into the family room, where it borders the fireplace. "The kitchen's beautiful; everything with that little black border in there just set it off," Smith says.

Because Mirage doesn't make a black product, custom staining was done for the border. Oak was used, since it accepts stain more readily and evenly than maple.

Due to the exclusive use of prefinished products, the entire project took only about three days for the approximately 900 square feet of wood flooring, which was used without border work in the bedrooms. Not surprisingly, the kitchen took the most effort. "It was a straight lay, but a very angled room, with lots of cuts," says Smith.

The end result was simple, but seemed to fit in perfectly with the design. Brenda hired a professional photographer and entered the floor in the contest over the nay-saying of the her husband, Phil, who said the floor was too plain to win. Luckily for Alberta Hardwood, the ASID judges agreed with Brenda. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Installers: John Van Leeuwen, Nikko Van Leeuwen | Distributor: Alberta Hardwood Flooring | Flooring: Boa-Franc | Nailer: Primatech

 

Labor of LoveShowroom and Personal Floors | Jeffco Flooring & Supply Inc. (Nashville, Tenn.)

Labor of Love

"I've always enjoyed working with wood and I've always enjoyed being in the wood business. I didn't know how to stop," says Jeff Johnson, president of Jeffco Flooring & Supply in Nashville, Tenn. Johnson started out as a contractor, but when the opportunity came along in 1992 to start his own distributorship, he took a chance. Jeffco has since moved locations twice and now employs 14 people. The change rescued Johnson and his family from a crazy schedule — "I was always working Saturdays and Sundays and until 2 a.m.," he says — and most recently, it's given him a chance to build his dream floor, the winner of this year's Showroom and Personal Floors category.

Jeffco's most recent move was to a larger location, where space was framed in for what would eventually be the showroom. Johnson chose to take his time with the award-winning floor. "We just had so many items to take care of that the showroom was one of the last projects. We're very slow and methodical in the way we've built the business; everything we do is 110 percent. That's why we waited so long to put the showroom in."

Armed with careful plans and advice from employees and his wife, Renee, Johnson began construction about a year after the move. He did the project almost entirely alone, a job that took about three months. "My crew was supportive with being able to take care of the customers so that I didn't have my time demanded so much when I was building the floor," Johnson says.

The 1,100-square-foot installation showcases 26 species, three parquet patterns and four borders. The field of ash was laid first, then Johnson went about the meticulous task of cutting out the panel areas and making sure all the parts were tongue-and-grooved together. Panels of both domestic species and imported woods are coated with neutral stain, while the ash field has a clear waterbased sealer. The entire floor was then coated with multiple coats of waterbased finish.

Johnson didn't concentrate solely on the floor, however: "We tried to create a homey feeling when you come in, the deep South feel," he says. "We've got columns, exposed beams, ceiling fans and arched windows." The decorating is still a work in progress, with more final touches such as furniture and plants on the way.

The official grand opening date is June 9, but Johnson can already see the effects of the showroom on business. "There's more awareness of everything that I've incorporated in the showroom that people hadn't been able to see before," he says. The displays of different species, especially exotics such as Brazilian cherry, have piqued customers' interest. The showroom also provides a high-end environment for contractors to show their customers. "When I was doing contracting, all you had was some panels behind the seat of your truck — it's kind of tough that way," Johnson says. "Now you can bring people in and not be embarrassed."

For a flooring guy who's a contractor at heart, the floor also provided an opportunity to do what he loves. "It was fun for me to be able to do this; I've been out of it for so long. It was like a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity for me to build my dream floor," he says. — K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Flooring: Mullican Flooring, Rare Earth, Historic Floors of Oshkosh, Dynamic Laser Applications | Finish: Basic Coatings | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Adhesive: Bostik | Abrasive: 3M Co., Norton Company | Sander, Buffer: Alto | Saws: Makita, Skil

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

Master Craftsmen: 1999 Floor of the Year Winners