Big Winners: Wood Floor of the Year 2013

The theme of the NWFA Expo in Dallas in April was "Think Big," and this year's Wood Floor of the Year winners reflect that philosophy. The projects, whether in Russia's Kremlin, a Texas ranch or a bedroom in New Mexico, all represent the fruition of big ideas. Except for the Designers' Choice, all winners were chosen by NWFA members through online voting. For details on each winning project, turn the page. Do you have a big idea in the works? For details on entering the 2014 Wood Floor of the Year contest-free to all NWFA members-go to


Remnant Remodel

Member's Choice, Best Residential | Denver Dustless (Denver, Colo.)

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After years of showing doodles of his "woodpile" floor to friends-all of whom concluded he was crazy-Mark Sutton decided to use scraps to install his "floor art project" in his own home in Arvada, Colo., when his wife, Jan, wanted to convert a carpeted bedroom into her quilting room.

Sutton started the floor in March 2012, dry-laying the oak border first to plot out where select boards from the field would lay on top of it. After cutting out the slots for the overlaying boards, Sutton nailed down the border and started the fun part.

"I took probably about 12 to 15 boards and stood at the doorway and just pitched them in there, and wherever they landed, that's where I went in and nailed them down," he recalls.

The rest, however, was more difficult. Creating the illusion of overlapping boards meant a lot of cutting. "I would start with a long board and start cutting the pieces out and try to continue it across the room. Sometimes it would take three, four hours to get that piece all put in by the time you cut it into eight different pieces to make it look like it was laying underneath the pile."

The final step in installing the floor was filling in the remaining gaps with walnut, meant to look like a dark subfloor. These oddly shaped pieces had to be precisely cut on a jigsaw, then sanded and filed to fit. On a few occasions, he sanded too far and had to start over.

After three months of this, Sutton admits, "It was getting a little bit intense. I was at a point when I just needed to take a break, because you'd go up there and work on the thing forever. It's funny, I had several people come over and go, 'Man, are you getting anything done?' and I'd be like, 'Yeah, I got these 10 pieces in over here.'"

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After a summer hiatus, the project resumed in August. By October, the floor was sanded using only an edger and finished with a water-based finish. In all, Sutton estimates he spent more than 250 hours on the floor. "It was a labor of love," he said after the Wood Floor of the Year awards ceremony.

"This was the first time we ever entered anything. And then, of course, when we voted, we looked at all the entries, and I was just like, 'Wow, there is some really crazy stuff going on.' … A lot of people told me the reason I won is just because it's way out of the box from what they typically see."-K.M.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: Norton Abrasives | Adhesives: Sika Corporation, Franklin Adhesives and Polymers | Distributor: Denver Hardwood Co., Palo Duro Hardwoods | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Glitsa | Nailer: Powernail Company Inc.


Commercial Collaboration

Best Commercial | Gaetano Hardwood Floors Inc. (Huntington Beach, Calif.)

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Richard Larson was born into the flooring business-he grew up working for his father's Southern California flooring store out in "the valley," doing floors in old Pasadena homes and Beverly Hills mansions. But even then he knew he only wanted to work with wood. "I didn't want anything to do with carpet and linoleum," he recalls. So as an adult Larson changed his focus and his geography to better suit him, opening his own wood flooring business close to the beach, and the company has thrived there now for more than two decades, culminating in this year's Wood Floor of the Year trophy for Best Commercial wood floor.

Larson's business focuses on the high-end market, with much of the work done in collaboration with interior designers. One of those designers creates custom furniture, and when he was renovating his furniture showroom, the opportunity came about for Larson to partner with him and show off his custom wood flooring. The space was basically a big open rectangle that would have partial walls to create vignettes within the showroom. Beyond that, it was up to Larson to decide what flooring would work best in the space. "They left it up to me as to what would set these areas off; that kind of made it a little bit challenging," Larson says. "I did scale drawings of what I thought would draw people into the store."

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The result was a large-scale maple and wenge pattern in a main walkway, with many different parquets and species, from Indian rosewood to heat-treated red oak, in the different vignettes. Gaetano specializes in custom colors and custom surface textures, such as wire-brushing, which are also showcased in the showroom floor and have even been incorporated into some of the furniture designs.

It was a big financial commitment to do the approximately 3,000 square feet of custom flooring in the showroom, but the benefit has been substantial for both Gaetano and the designer. "He's got a great client base with high-end furniture, and then they'll see our floor," Larson says. To top it off, the NWFA membership also saw the floor and deemed it a winner.-K.M.W.

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Adhesive: Bostik


Floating Floor

Best Limited Species | Czar Floors (Newtown, Pa.)

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"Everything was challenging about this project," says Edward Tsvilik of the 100-square-foot, Karelian birch and maple floor that earned Czar Floors of Newtown, Pa., its seventh Wood Floor of the Year award since 2007. The floor had to be precisely cut to an oddly shaped room with built-in furniture, the installation had to be 100 percent dust-free (the owner didn't want any dust settling in the vents), and the floor had to be created to a specific thickness to transition to the adjacent carpet.

Also, it's on a boat.

The floor was installed on a 187-foot super yacht named Lady Linda while she floated in the dock. While this was not the first floor Czar has manufactured for a yacht, it was the first one the company installed itself.

Interior designer Evan Marshall envisioned the floor with its wave motif, and the owner requested the Karelian birch and hard maple inlay to match the surrounding furnishings made with Karelian birch veneers. Native to the Karelian region along Russia's border with Finland, the wood is valued for its marble-like grain pattern and rarity. The trees grow only in the Karelian region and only 30 to 40 percent of the trees grow with the characteristic grain pattern. Those that do develop the distinctive warty look grow particularly slowly.

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The floor was constructed as one giant medallion inlay, and templates for the odd-shaped room were created on-site to work around the built-in furniture. Routers were used to cut the design into the maple floor on-site. The floor was glued to marine-grade plywood, which was screwed and glued to an aluminum platform with rubber insulation and springs to dampen the boat's vibrations, because the owner wanted his drinks "stirred, not shaken." Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Allstate Flooring then sanded and finished the floor.

All of the edges were filled with silicone to protect the floor from potential moisture. A brass transition was added to prevent chipping where it borders with carpet.

The $50 million yacht, owned by London-based Burgess Yachts, in addition to its stunning wood floor, also features a helipad, a Jacuzzi and six suites that can accommodate 12 people. It is available for Mediterranean charters this summer for as low as $420,000 per week.-K.M.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Finish: Bona US | Sander: Lägler (palo duro), Bona US

Sanding, Finishing: Allstate Flooring | Saws: Festool


Kremlin Carpeting

Best CNC/Laser Cut | Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet (Khimki, Russia)

The design for Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet's winning floor in the Kremlin's Faceted Chamber was based on the colorful, patterned carpeting it replaced (below).The design for Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet's winning floor in the Kremlin's Faceted Chamber was based on the colorful, patterned carpeting it replaced (below).

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When a homeowner decides to rip out their worn-out carpet and replace it with hardwood floors, rarely do they ask their contractor to make the floor look as much like the old rug as possible, but this was the challenge facing Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet as they replaced the more than 5,000-square-foot, technicolor carpeting of the Kremlin's Faceted Chamber.

In 1487, after a series of fires damaged the mostly-wooden Kremlin, Grand Duke Ivan III commissioned the limestone Palace of Facets, including the Faceted Chamber, located in the heart of Moscow's fortress and named for its textured façade. Since the building's completion in 1492, the Chamber has been the venue for formal receptions of the Czars, coronation celebrations, feasts and state ceremonies. The Chamber is now the official hall of Russian President Vladimir Putin's private residence, used to receive visiting heads of state. The building holds the honor of being the oldest preserved secular building in all of Russia, despite suffering major fire damage several times throughout its history.

Yantarnaya CNC-cut 16 species of wood to recreate the intricate design and variety of colors on the Chamber's former carpeting. In order to transfer the design from the massive floor covering to the CNC machine, Yantarnaya's designers had to draw the carpet's pattern using AutoCAD.

The pieces were then glued down and finished with a water-based gloss finish that reflects the three-story-high ceiling's murals. Laying the 5,000 square feet of flooring took one month, and sanding and finishing took another three weeks.

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"As it is a historic building, it imposed on us an even greater responsibility for the successful project implementation," said Natalia Alekseeva, Yantarnaya's manager of the foreign trade department, of the challenges the contractors faced in restoring a 500-year old national landmark. "Historically, there was no parquet in this room, only the carpet. The challenge was to fulfill the idea of designer and architect and to replicate the design of the carpet."

One small change was made in the floor's design: In a corner of the expansive room, there is now a small ovular piece with "2012" and the Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet logo.-K.M.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive, Filler, Finish: Chimiver Panseri S.p.A | Edger: Mafell | Sander: Eugen Lägler GmbH | Saws: Leitz Tooling Systems


Royal Restoration

Best Restoration | Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet (Khimki, Russia)

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The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world and is home to more than 3 million artifacts. The cornerstone of the six-building Hermitage complex is the Winter Palace, the official residence of the Russian Empire's monarchs from 1732 to 1917. The Hermitage is home to some of the most famous wood floors in the world, and now, almost two centuries after being installed, these floors have won an NWFA Wood Floor of the Year award.

This floor, just outside the Grand Church located within Winter Palace, was restored by Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet for the first time since its original installation. Until recently, the gorgeous, 14 species, hand-engraved floor was under brown wall-to-wall carpeting.

At the time of restoration, the subfloor, foundation and floor battens were badly damaged, with 35 percent of the parquet's design lost. Historical archives and paintings of the Hermitage's halls offered some reference for re-creation.

According to Natalia Alekseeva, manager of the foreign trade department for Yantarnaya, the greatest challenge in this project was matching the variety of species in the original floor. Fortunately, there were 200-year-old boards stored in the basement that the company was able to use in the restoration.

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The engraving on the leaves was all done by hand, and the floor was finished with water-based satin finish.

This project is part of an ongoing program started in 2000 to restore the historically valuable floors in the Hermitage, created by some of the best architects of the 19th century. Since the program began, Yantarnaya has restored the intricate parquet floors in several of the hallways and the exhibit halls for French and German art, as well as the Grand Church itself.

So far a majority of the floors required complete replacement. In the Grand Church in particular, centuries of foot-traffic had worn the boards down to less than three millimeters thick, scuffing away the original hand engraving. In most cases, the structures beneath the floors needed to be replaced or strengthened.

As the restoration program continues, the beautiful historic floors will once more be on display for centuries to come-and hopefully never again be hidden under carpeting.-K.M.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive, Filler, Finish: Chimiver Panseri S.p.A | Edger: Mafell | Sander: Eugen Lägler GmbH | Saws: Leitz Tooling Systems


Into the Woods

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

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In this ultra-modern luxury Minneapolis penthouse, the architect and designer knew they wanted wood flooring. The reason? "Great spaces are created by tension," says WD Flooring President Peter Connor. "Here we had an incredibly contemporary setting meeting all these criteria: a modern building, floor-to-ceiling glass and super-clean design. They wanted something to ground all of that and make it relatable." For the actual flooring, they turned to WD, which the architect had worked with on previous high-end projects.

The penthouse encompasses 18,000 square feet on two floors overlooking the Mississippi River, and in the living room the ceilings are the height of both floors combined-more than 30 feet. Because of the openness of the space, the architect and designer wanted to use the wood flooring to humanize the space. The final decision was to scale down the space by choosing a pattern, herringbone, but then "scale up" the pattern by making the herringbone slats in a 5-by-30-inch dimension. Because the entrepreneur client is also an environmental activist, it also had to be FSC-certified.

After lengthy discussions with the architect and designer, samples with custom colors and hardwax oil finish were presented to the client, and he rejected all of them. After an hour and a half of the client describing what he wanted, Connor went back to his sample room and grabbed a board created for one specific job, not thinking about the challenges of sourcing it. It was a black ash floor. "When he saw it he locked on it like a dog on a bone and would not let go," Connor recalls. "Despite our best effort to switch the job to white ash, which is easier to source, the client would have none of it. In the end, we ended up having to put a special crew in the woods to source the black ash."

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Once found and milled, every piece of the 9,000 square feet of the black ash wood was hand-sanded on the edges to give it a "consistent inconsistency," and the hardwax oil applied. Due to the lack of a freight elevator, the flooring had to be delivered to the job site via crane, and contractor Belrose & Co. installed the floor over a subfloor, including a soundproofing membrane, that was "the most complex we have ever done," Connor says. "Hats off to Steve Belrose and his guys, who fought a tough construction environment and executed beautifully," he adds.

Connor himself couldn't be more pleased with the final floor or with winning the company's first Wood Floor of the Year trophy. "I feel like Steve Wynn winning the World Series of Poker. The most rewarding thing is knowing that this award was voted on by our peers," he says.-K.M.W.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik | Architect: U + B Architecture | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Rubio Monocoat | Nailer, Fasteners: Bostitch | Moisture Meter: Delmhorst Instruments | Moisture Retarder: Fortifiber | Router, Saws: Festool


Under the New Mexico Sea

Best Extreme Makeover | DM Hardwood Designs (Farmington, N.M.)

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Many of Dave Marzalek's winning floors were in the works for a long time before coming to fruition and earning a trophy. Nothing if not creative, Marzalek often gathers inspiration and makes sketches for years before actually starting work on a specific floor. Such was the case with this floor, which won Marzalek's 19th Wood Floor of the Year award, making him the most honored contractor since the contest began. Marzalek can trace this floor's beginnings to a book report he did in seventh grade on the sea god Poseidon; he's been hooked on Poseidon ever since.

The opportunity to place the god in a wood floor came in Marzalek's own home (this marks the third time a floor in his home has won the award). Like Marzalek, his daughter loves the ocean, and for her bedroom he created an underwater oasis from top to bottom, airbrushing the ceiling himself and then turning to the floor, which originally was a just a straight-laid quartersawn beech floor. Marzalek, along with some help from his friend Randy Harris of Eagle, Utah-based High Desert Hardwood Inc., transformed the plain floor into an elaborate, fanciful medley of sea creatures and mythical beings, from Poseidon to Aphrodite's mother. Myriad exotic woods, among them bloodwood, padauk, purpleheart, wenge, figured walnut, kingswood, yellowheart, Amarillo, leopardwood, zebrawood and pink ivory, were used to create different elements in the scene. There is a turtle carved from a biocomposite material, rocks from scraps of Corian and Poseidon's trident made of brass. Pine trees were made from lacewood on which Marzalek used different-colored Sharpie markers to draw the foliage. The scrollwork for the border was hand-cut using a scrollsaw and features a design inspired by another multi-Floor of the Year winner, Eugene Klotz.

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Although most of the inlay was flat-sanded, other parts of the floor were hand-carved to further the effect. Seaweed was hand-carved into the floor and hand-painted by Marzalek, and the water around Aphrodite's mother is hand-carved to enhance the effect of flowing water. The entire floor was coated with four coats of waterborne finish.

After the hundreds of hours of craftsmanship put into this ultra-custom floor and the others in his home, it may come as a surprise that Marzalek has put his house on the market as he eyes a relocation to the much bigger Denver market. He acknowledges that it will take the right buyer: "Whoever buys my house better have a daughter who loves mermaids."-K.M.W.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik | Applicators: Padco | Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders | Distributor: Palo Duro Hardwoods Inc. | Exotic Wood: Rare Earth Hardwoods Inc. | Filler: Woodwise/Design Hardwood Products | Finish: ProCoat | Nailer, Fasteners: Powernail Company, Senco | Router: Bosch | Saws: Hegner, Hitachi | Wood Flooring: Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring, WD Flooring


Trash to Treasure

Best Reclaimed | Schenck and Company (Houston)

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The best wood floor artisans seem to always be thinking about wood floors, and they will tell you they get design inspirations from varied and sometimes unlikely sources. This floor is no different-it struck Schenck and Company owner Greg Schenck years ago when he noticed the ceiling while having an adult beverage. "I was sitting in a bar at the Gage Hotel in far west Texas, and I thought, 'Man, that would be a really cool floor, but it would have to be a special wood, not just any wood,'" he recalls. The ceiling Schenck was considering was a design typical in Southwest construction called "vigas and latillas," with exposed beams and narrow timbers.

A long time passed before Schenck was struck again by a related idea. Driving by one of the many pallet yards common to Houston's shipping industry, he thought about the piles of old pallets. "I thought, why couldn't you do a floor from old shipping pallets? Everybody's interested in the newer ones, not the older or broken ones." Schenck ended up making a sample for his showroom, and he's now sold the floor twice-to the same customer. She had it installed in her Houston home, and about 10 years later, when she was building a new home on a ranch, she wanted the exact same floor.

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The vigas-and-latillas-inspired pattern was perfect for the space. "I didn't want to do a parquet, because that's too formal-they wanted rustic-and because of the volume of the rooms we couldn't do random-length plank because the scale was too small; it wasn't appropriate for the room," Schenck explains. "So I came up with this, and it seemed to work well."

The company bought truckloads of pallets, denailed them, disassembled them and searched for the right mix of hardwoods and softwoods, since "anything goes" for making pallets-any width, any thickness and any species. The boards were fumigated, and, to preserve the weathered face of the boards, they were planed from the back to get a more consistent thickness. The sharp cuts on the board were then distressed. On-site they were glued to a plywood subfloor over the slab and face-pinned with headless pins. The floor was "smoothed"-with an old screen or a nylon pad, just enough to get any roughness off-and penetrating oil sealer was burnished into the floor.

Just as she did the first time, the owner loved her unique floor. "This is what we thrive on-thinking outside the box, trying to do something different," Schenck says, "trying to take something people view as trash and make something beautiful out of it."-K.M.W.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Abrasive: Norton Abrasives | Finish: DuraSeal


A Step Above

Designers' Choice | Natural Wood Floors & Design (Miami, Fl.)

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It is not often that a staircase wins a Wood Floor of the Year award, but the unique form of this floating staircase caught the eye of the designer judges.

Installed in a new home in Hollywood, Fla., the staircase started as a concrete form. It was covered in plywood and then solid walnut. The homeowner was looking for something dark and domestic for the stairs and the home's second floor, says Fernando Avila, president of Natural Wood Floors and Design in Miami, so walnut fit the bill with the added bonus of being easy to work with. Both the stairs and the solid, 5-inch, American walnut floors on the second story were given a natural-color, water-based finish. The panels in the balusters are glass with embedded slices of cattle horns.

The design was coordinated with Nieto Design, also based in Miami, as well as the homeowner. The cubic design required extreme precision in every cut, as the treads do not extend out over the risers.

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While Natural Wood has done floating staircases before, they tended to feature stainless steel and glass, with less focus placed on the wood treads. Avila decided to enter these stairs in the contest because they looked so different from anything the company had done before.

Avila's instincts proved correct, as the unique stairs also caught the eye of the designer judges. Avila says his team's passion for their craft is what results in such beautiful work. "Having qualified craftsmen combined with a passionate team that truly loves the art of wood floors is key. Also lots of patience-remaining calm when faced with difficult moments-makes for wonderful finished projects," Avila said.-K.M.

Advertisers in this issue appear in bold.

Distributor: Custom Wholesale Floors | Finish: Bona US

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

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

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