The final night of the NWFA Expo in Nashville had lots of excitement, from a concert by Grammy-winning country music songstress Pam Tillis to, of course, the announcement of the 2014 NWFA Wood Floor of the Year winners—essentially, the Grammys of the wood flooring industry. This year a panel of expert judges chose all the winners except for the Members' Choice award, which was decided by online voting of the NWFA membership.

 

Celestial Touch

Members' Choice | Ourada Designs, (Nine Mile Falls, Wash.)

Ourada Designs project

"I'm a guy who just loves learning new stuff," says Tom Ourada, owner at Ourada Designs, new National Wood Flooring Association member and first-time Wood Floor of the Year winner. "I'm always getting my hands into new things and always doing a little bit above and beyond the normal, so doing these types of floors is right up my alley." Indeed, Ourada seems to have such a gift for wood flooring that his inaugural entry into the contest took home the always-competitive Members' Choice award.

The unique floor that won the favor of NWFA members is located in Ourada's own home, which he built seven years ago. This part of the home sat with just subfloors for six of those years until inspiration struck Ourada. "When you are hanging out during a full moon, this whole room just glows. I never realized what I had created … I wanted to keep a real celestial feel," he explains.

The medium to deliver that celestial feel came in the form of a Ponderosa pine tree that had to be cut when the house was built. The resulting log was 22 feet long and curved from end to end, one of the so-called "pistol-butt" or "pistol-grip" trees that often occur when a tree grows on a mountainside.

With a friend and a portable sawmill, Ourada spent all day creating slabs from the giant log, not an easy task with the curved behemoth. "We had a great time … at the end of the day you're sitting on a pile of arched slabs, grinning ear to ear," Ourada recalls.

Ourada sketched out three potential designs from which his family chose the winner—a form that uses the curved slabs to mimic a spiral galaxy. The boards between the spirals are straight-cut with a jig saw to meet the curved boards' edges, but the surrounding boards radiate out from the center of black galaxy granite, another material chosen to suit the celestial theme.

Actual pine cones collected by Ourada's son and daughter are inlaid throughout the floor.

With the installation done, Ourada had his kids use hammers and chains to distress the floor. Then, he stained the wood black and used an edger to remove most of the stain. For one more celestial touch, Ourada used glow-in-the-dark filler. "You can't see it by day, but by night it's pretty cool," he says.

Ourada Designs 2014 Wood Floor of the Year projects

Although he previously owned a wood flooring business, Ourada's main business right now is remodeling. With a winning floor like this one under his belt, though, he hopes that in the future, his business will focus more on his growing passion for wildly creative wood floors.—K.M.W

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M • Adhesive: Bostik INC. • Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders • Filler: Woodwise/Design Hardwood Products, Superior Polyesters • Finish: DuraSeal • Nailer, Router: Porter-Cable • Saws, Hand-Planer: Makita • Scroll Saw: Dremel • Kiln: Nyle Systems LLC • Portable Saw Mill: MSG Industries

 

Homage to Old World Brandy

Best Commercial | Archetypal Imagery (Bronx, N.Y.)

Archetypal Imagery project
 

Brandy, Noah's Ark and the winning wood floor by Archetypal Imagery's Avedis Duvenjian—what do they all have in common? More than you may think.

The floor that won this year's Wood Floor of the Year in the Commercial category took three months to design, manufacture and install, but Duvenjian, originally from Armenia, would tell you it has been in the making since Noah's flood in antiquity.

Here's a brief plot summary: God was unhappy with the people on Earth and decided to drown them all except Noah, whom he instructed to build an ark, which caught on a mountain as the water receded. That mountain was Mount Ararat in present-day Armenia, below which, local folklore says, one of the first vineyards in the world was planted. Duvenjian's ancestors used the grapes to make brandy, a sweet spirit that would become as traditional in Armenia as Champagne in France.

And when Duvenjian was commissioned to design and plan this floor for a brandy club in Armenia, his goal was to respect that storied history.

"We didn't go there to put in wood floors," Duvenjian says. "We went there to put in a feeling."

Duvenjian, Archetypal's project manager Vartan Arutyunian and other staff manufactured the floor in their New York location using 150-year-old reclaimed oak end grain-the same species traditionally used to make barrels for aging brandy, and strong enough to withstand high heels, Duvenjian says.

Archetypal wanted a walked-on look, so Artunyunian and Duvenjian studied old wood floors in Europe to better understand how centuries of foot traffic affects the texture of a wood floor. In hallways, that typically means more wear in the center.

Once the 5,000, 5-by-5-inch end-grain blocks arrived at the brandy club, Artunyunian got to work shaping them. He hand-pillowed every single block with sandpaper.

Archetypal Imagery 2014 Wood Floor of the Year projects

It took one month for a five-person team to install the 850-square-foot floor in a Z-shaped hallway on the upper level, the culmination of two months of planning and laying out the design in New York.

"You're in another county, you're flying over there. It's not all of a sudden you need something and you can go to the hardware store and buy it," Duvenjian says. "We have to telegraph the whole installation in our shop in New York before we go. There's no room for mistakes."

The club, called Brandy House, gave Duvenjian and his team a few bottles of the country's best brandy for their dedication. Gazing at the liquor, Duvenjian says, "It's a very deep color, almost like the color of the floor you see."—A.A.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Adhesive: Bostik INC. • Buffer: Bona US • Finish: Woodcare USA

 

Risky Business

Best Reclaimed | Precision Floorcrafters Inc. (Summerfield, Fla.)

photo of Precision Floorcrafters Inc. project
 

photo of Precision Floorcrafters Inc. project

 

For a small husband-and-wife company with only a handful of employees, Matt Marwick's Ocala, Fla.-based Precision Floorcrafters Inc. sure knows how to get noticed. The outside of the company's showroom, located 23 minutes away in Summerfield, is painted like a wooden box; the corners feature painted-on dovetail joints.

It's a place befitting a company that in the past has taken home four National Wood Flooring awards, including three Wood Floor of the Year awards. This year they'll have to make room in the trophy case—at the NWFA 2014 Wood Flooring Expo in Nashville, Precision Floorcrafters Inc. got noticed by winning two more awards, taking home honors in the Limited Species and Reclaimed categories.

"Reclaimed floors are not 'sock friendly,' so don't try and do the 'Risky Business' Tom Cruise slide," Marwick says of this award-winning, 2,000-square-foot reclaimed heart pine floor.

Marwick's client saw a 3-by-4-foot sample of the wood, Carlisle's "Antique Grandpa," hanging in the showroom and told Marwick, "That's it," he recalled. The wood has a natural warmth, and its hues of spice and pumpkin are fitting for an open kitchen, Marwick explains.

The team started the install by planning the kitchen. The client wanted their kitchen floor to be a combination of tile and wood. Precision Floorcrafters came up with a design that featured a row of tile squares laid in a grid of wood planks. The squares were surrounded by a full board on each side.

The flooring took Precision Floorcrafters Inc. two days to install and four days to sand and finish. The team's first responsibility was to sort the wood by widths inside the house and let it acclimate. The floor was going to be installed on concrete, which had to be carefully flattened and prepared.

After the kitchen floor and tiles were laid down, the team went back to basics and installed the rest of the wood floor in the house by starting at the longest straightaway and working outward. The company hand-sanded the floor in order to keep the saw kerfs and antique look intact, then applied satin tung oil finish.

Precision Floorcrafters 2014 Wood Floor of the Year projects

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Adhesive: Bostik Inc. • Finish: Waterlox • Wood: Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

 

Lost Logs

Best Limited Species | Precision Floorcrafters Inc. (Summerfield, Fla.)

photo of Precision Floorcrafters Inc. projectWhen you give a client an impressive floor, they're going to come back for more. Precision Floorcrafters Inc.'s Limited Species award winner was built for a client who had hired the company for six previous floors, the most recent being a 14-foot medallion featuring an intricate fish tessellation design.

That strong working relationship meant the client gave Precision Floorcrafters carte blanche to develop this new floor in a new house, and Marwick, a trained graphic artist, thrives when he's allowed the freedom to experiment. He designed the floor to incorporate end-grain wood rounds, which he had great success with on a previous job for the same client.

"After going over all of the previous floors that we have done for them, the clients were wanting one similar to one of their favorites," Marwick said. "So I got to work and came up with this year's winner."

The wood rounds come from cypress trees grown sometime in the 1800s. Luckily for the client, although the cypress was floated downriver after being cut with an axe, some logs never made it to a sawmill. The original round edges, washed for 100 years by river water, are still visible.

Precision Floorcrafters 2014 Wood Floor of the Year projects

The floor took one week to install. After flattening the concrete floor, each individual round was laid once it had been hand-scraped to fit snug with adjoining pieces. The pieces were glued to the concrete. It took three more days to edge, sand and finish the floor.

"The biggest challenge was getting the materials cut, kiln dried and planed down to a thickness of 3?4 inches in time to meet the deadline of a house that was to be completed from A to Z in four months," Marwick says.

Marwick says the Precision Floorcrafter team's biggest triumph was installing and finishing the floor on time and, most importantly, upholding the company's dedication to quality installs that get it noticed.—A.A.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M • Adhesive: Bostik Inc. • Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders • Filler: Timbermate • Finish: Bona US • Sander: Lägler (Palo Duro) • Wood: Goodwin Heart Pine Co.

 

Better than New

Best Restoration | Brookens Wood Floors Inc. (Springfield, Ill.)

photo of Brookens Wood Floors Inc. project

photo of Brookens Wood Floors Inc. project

 

When Ralph Brookens was in college, he started doing carpentry on the side, which along the way morphed into doing wood flooring, but there was one problem: He had no one to teach him the craft. "I started all by myself, twisting in the wind," he recalls, adding that he found a Time-Life book on sanding that was useful. He finally found two local older men with wood flooring businesses, one of whom mentored him for a day, but the other wanted nothing to do with him. "He thought I was stealing his lunch; he didn't want anything to do with me. I just hung in there."

Brookens sought out every training opportunity he could, including the now-defunct NOFMA school in Memphis. From that foundation he's built his successful wood flooring business in central Illinois, where he says his bread and butter is sand-and-finish, as well as many remodels that require tying new flooring into existing floors. This winning floor, however, presented a special opportunity beyond the company's typical floor repair.

The job site was a Craftsman-style farmhouse originally built by the current owner's grandfather in 1914 as a top-of-the-line Sears catalog home. The entire first floor of the home has original 1 1/2-inch-wide, 5/16-inch-thick quartersawn red oak flooring, and in the dining room a patterned linoleum floor was glued on top of the wood floor. The individual pieces of linoleum were glued onto a cloth backing, which was glued to the wood floor. Because it was on top of the wood floor, there was a 1?8-inch height difference, and the linoleum had seen better days. "It had some repairs and patches in it that just didn't match," Brookens explains. "I know you can resand linoleum, but the glue was giving, and it just wasn't very feasible."

Brookens decided to recreate the patterned floor from wood. He sanded the linoleum down enough to see the accurate color, and then headed to Pekin Hardwood in Pekin, Ill., to select wood with the closest color match to the original floor. He chose afrormosia and beech for the patterned area and kempas for the border. Then his employee Andy Ogden, who had attended the NWFA's Jigs & Medallions school, did a majority of the cutting, creating the interior pattern from afrormosia and beech. Eric Salrin did much of the layout and installation along with Ogden, who also sanded the floor. Ralph Brookens' brother, Leroy Brookens, helped with the finishing.

"So what we did was we kept the look, the feel, the whole original idea together and made it into a much nicer floor, really," Brookens says, adding that now there isn't a height difference in the flooring.

Brookens credits his employees for creating a beautiful floor that thrilled the homeowners. "I have a whole crew of guys who love what they do and take pride in what they do, and any of them could have done this job," Brookens says with obvious pride.—K.M.W.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive, Adhesive: Bona US • Edger: Clarke American Sanders • Filler: Woodwise/Design Hardwood Products • Moisture Retarder: Fortifiber Corp. • Moisture Meter: Wagner Meters • Nailer: Powernail Company • Sander: Hummel & Trio (Palo Duro Hardwoods)

 

Man Cave Makeover

Best Extreme Makeover | Czar Floors (Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

photo of Czar Floors projectTheir floors have been inspired by Roman ruins and Europe's Middle Ages, and they've installed them in yachts and palaces. But it wasn't until this year that the seven-time Wood Floor of the Year-winning company Czar Floors finished a project at the noblest location yet: a man cave.

And in so doing, Czar Floors won the company's eighth Wood Floor of the Year award, this time for the Best Extreme Makeover category. While not as large as Czar Floor's 1,600-square-foot medallion that was part of the company's 2007 award-winning project in an Eastern European governmental facility, the Boston Celtics logo certainly confronted the Czar team with challenges to overcome, said vice president of operations Edward Tsvilik. And overcome them they did.

For one, color. The Celtics' green isn't just any green. The customer demanded nothing but the truest of Irish greens for the finished product.

"We try to persuade people to use natural colors, but in this case with this color there's nothing close to it," Tsvilik said. "Especially since it's a logo, we had to stick to the official colors of the logo."

This required Czar Floors to seek the help of a custom stain shop to develop the green, which took multiple iterations to get just right. The stain also had to soak into the wood deep enough so that the color stayed on-hue through post-installation sanding. The magic depth was a quarter of an inch, achieved with a long period of stain saturation and heat treatment.

The second issue was caused by Lucky the Leprechaun. Lucky's walking stick, shoes, basketball and part of his bowler hat extend outside the medallion circle.

"With a circle you can pretty much orientate it the way you want," Tsvilik said. "With this, you have one shot to get it right and glue it. You cannot turn the medallion the way you want."

After a couple weeks of testing stain chemistry and planning the design, Czar Floors installed the medallion in the Massachusetts home. The final medallion uses maple, wenge, oak impregnated with the custom green stain, walnut and ash.

"We've heard nothing but praises from the client and their guests," Tsvilik said. "It makes no difference about the size of the piece."—A.A.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M • Adhesive: Bostik INC. • Filler, Finish: Bona US • Router: Festool • Sander: Lägler (Palo Duro)

 

Keeping the Art Alive

Best CNC/Laser-Cut | M P Caroll Hardwood (Buffalo, N.Y.)

M P Caroll Hardwood project

M P Caroll Hardwood project

 

Everybody in his market is pushing prefinished flooring, but at M P Caroll Hardwood, site-finished is so popular that business is booming. "We're one of the few companies here in Buffalo that promotes site-finishing floors the old-fashioned way," says company Owner/Operator Mike Caroll. "But we still want to keep that art alive. As long as we have talented men who are willing to go out and get it done, we'll still offer it."

Those talented men are a crucial reason for the success of the company, which has gone from just one employee to 25 in its 10-year lifespan. As part of the 10-year anniversary of the company, Caroll decided to expand the showroom and dedicate the expansion entirely to hand-scraped and distressed products, resulting in this winning floor.

The design consists of a striking center radius medallion, as well as traditional parquet patterns Caroll says were inspired by the historical homes in the area. "That's how I decided to go with some of the materials and patterns for the showroom; they replicate what was installed in homes here in Buffalo 80 or 100 years ago," Caroll explains.

For the actual flooring, Caroll turned to, as he has many times before, Bill Adams at Louisville, Ky.-based Custom Hardwood Supply Inc. Adams' team took Caroll's drawings and made them a reality. The floor was so special to Caroll that he flew to Louisville to be present when the floor went into production.

The resulting floors were "just perfect," Caroll says, making the job painless for his team when it came time to install, sand and finish them in the showroom expansion. The lead installer on the project was Tom Evans, who installed all the patterns and then routed out the area for the round medallion. Once installed, the floor was turned over to sanding and finishing pro Doug Thurston, who Caroll says was sanding and finishing floors when he was still in kindergarten.

Archetypal Imagery 2014 Wood Floor of the Year projects

Caroll is so thrilled with the fruits of their labor that one of his favorite parts of every day is being the first person to get to work. "I get in at 6 or 6:30 in the morning, and I'm just mesmerized to walk across that new floor," he says. "I'm most proud of the fact that the group of men who made this project a reality are just professionals in every sense of the word, because only top-notch guys could put together a project like this and make it a reality."—K.M.W.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M • Adhesive: Bostik INC. • Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders • Fasteners, Nailer: Primatech • Finish: DuraSeal • Wood Flooring: Custom Hardwood Supply Inc.

 

A Floor For The Walls

Best Residential | Natural Wood Floors & Design (Miami, Fla.)

photo of Natural Wood Floors & Design project
 

photo of Natural Wood Floors & Design project

 

The floors that receive Wood Floor of the Year status tend to be show-stoppers, from huge medallions to palace floors and cosmic spirals like this year's Members' Choice winner. They're all floors that demand your attention, and for good reason.

But Fernando Avila, whose company Natural Wood Floors & Design has done a number of eclectic floors for the rich and famous near its headquarters in Miami, approached the project that would eventually net him this year's Best Residential Wood Floor of the Year award with humility. The homeowner wanted a fantastic wood floor, certainly, but he didn't want any of his guests to actually look at.

The homeowner is an art collector. On the house's white walls are colorful paintings, kaleidoscopic glass shells and a hanging bloom of jellyfish with silver heads and LED-lit tails. The floors, he told Avila, should only draw attention to the art.

"The most important part is the art," Avila said, adding that the company wanted to effectively make the floor invisible. "[W]e wanted the floor to be more like a gallery."

Avila, in cooperation with the space's designer, started planning: Wood color would be important; maple was out-too yellow. Wood grain couldn't be too strong. The planks had to be wide. The stain, subtle.

They eventually found the perfect material in riftsawn white oak, cut into planks 10 inches wide to give the floor a clean look. Because it was a high-end client, Avila scrutinized each board.

Natural Wood Floors & Design installed 4,000 square feet, which covered two stories and stairs, in two weeks. The sanding took 10 days. Each board seems to blend into the next, giving the appearance that the floor is one solid piece. It's a testament to the company's expertise that, when given a directive to be unnoticeable, the result is still an award-winning floor.—A.A.

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Finish: Rubio Monocoat

 

Natural Wood Floors and Design 2014 Wood Floor of the Year projects

 

Tall Order

Best Manufacturer-Finished | WD Flooring (Laona, Wis.)

photo of WD Flooring project
 

photo of WD Flooring project

 

"Whenever we engage in these super-high-profile jobs, it always is a bit of a gut check," says WD Flooring President Peter Connor. For this project, the gut-check came in the form of providing 7-inch engineered walnut off the company's new engineered line for a luxury waterfront home in Florida.

The "fantastically contemporary" home provided a tall order: It has floor-to-ceiling glass walls and ceilings soaring upwards of 25 feet. The ultra-modern style dictated that there be no baseboards, door casings or any other woodwork. It all meant subfloor flattening was critical, and installation had to be exact.

"When I installed the wood, there was no drywall on the lower 4 feet of the walls," explains Alex Calderon, whose company, Cal & Son Carpet & Wood Floors in Miami, worked with the designer to specify the product and also install the flooring. "They used what is called a 'tech-trim' at the foot of the drywall. When I finished the installation they went back and installed the remaining 4 feet of drywall on the metal black tech-trim that rested on the wood. If I cut the wood even slightly beyond the 3?4 inch, then it would show. If I cut it less than 3?4 inch, then my expansion space would be insufficient," he says. The finished effect is that the drywall appears to be floating above the wood floor.

Although it was feared walnut flooring would look too traditional in such a modern space, with its bare concrete staircase and stainless steel finishes, when the designer saw this plank coated with an oil finish, "it was love at first sight," Calderon says. The hardwax oil finish enhanced the right tones of the wood, helping warm the space without clashing with the finishes in the home.

"By the time I get the call, the designer already has a concept in mind," Calderon says, explaining that designers rarely even come into his showroom. "It's my job to understand what they want and get it right the first time. At this level of design, price is the last factor they consider."

WD Flooring 2014 Wood Floor of the Year projects

Connor credits distributor Custom Wholesale Floors in Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami for providing his company with the opportunity, and he says Calderon "did an exemplary job of getting the product specified by clearly and concisely explaining the features and benefits … ultimately it is the whole NWFA chain that makes a project like this come together."—K.M.W.

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Finish: Rubio Monocoat • Wood Flooring: WD Flooring

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

Big Winners: Wood Floor of the Year 2013

Honored in Orlando: 2012 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

San Diego Spotlight: Wood Floor of the Year 2011

Prizes on the Potomac: 2010 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

West Coast Winners: 2009 Wood Floor of the Year Awards

Florida's Finest: 2008 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

Best of the West: 2007 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

Baltimore's Best: 2006 Floor of the Year Winners

Waikiki Winners: 2005 Floor of the Year Awards

Show Stoppers: 2004 NWFA Wood Floor of the Year Winners

In the Spotlight: 2003 Floor of the Year Winners

Best in Show: Floor of the Year Awards 2002

Sweet Victory: 2001 Floor of the Year Winners

That Winning Feeling: 2000 Floor of the Year Winners

Master Craftsmen: 1999 Floor of the Year Winners