When flooring supplier Tongue n Groove Flooring completely revamped their showroom in Brisbane, Australia, where we are based, they had a concept that isn't typical for a flooring showroom. Instead of displays, they show the flooring off in a series of ascending steps and ramps. The project ended up being one of the most challenging but also most special jobs we've ever done. Here is how we did it.
An unusual substructure
Before we started this showroom, Tongue n Groove had already redone their showroom in Sydney with a similar concept, but in their floor, the fronts of all board edges are black aluminum. My partner, Cairo Chapman, and I immediately thought that instead, we should do our thing with the "waterfall" or "origami" edges so the platforms would look like they are actually blocks of wood (we also knew it would be a monumentally difficult task to do). Not long after that we were at the Australasian Timber Flooring Association gala awards night, and we were drinking champagne and talking with Richard Karsay, the owner of Tongue n Groove. He was telling us how he wanted the Brisbane showroom to be next-level and how he didn't want to use the black aluminum—he wanted faces of timber. He said the thing was, he hadn't figured out how to do it yet. Cairo was standing there smiling, and I told him, with a smile on my face, "Richard, I've got it." He said, "You do, don't you?" Cairo and I nodded, we winked, chinked glasses, and the rest is history.
We will always be eternally grateful to Richard for not only trusting us to do this but also funding the extreme amount of additional work.
Building the 'Great Wall of Flooring'
Part of the showroom's design called for a "Great Wall" showing off the company's "Tongue n Groove Massivo" boards, which measure 400 mm wide (15.7 inches) by 5 meters (16.4 feet) long, as seen above. Seven colors of these boards were to be installed on a 45-degree angle, and we were to limit end joints to show off the size of the flooring. Above right, in the red dotted area you can see where I installed boards to the steps where the Great Wall was to fit behind the platform—that way the platform floor could be fitted neat at the stairs, then the flat sections of the platform were cut with a track saw. I cut the angle for the bottom, removed some of the flooring pieces hanging from the ceiling that were in the way, then used the track saw and a laser level to cut the top of the wall and re-installed the dangling flooring pieces.
The monster boards (2 square meters, or 21.5 square feet each) required three sets of hands to install on a 45-degree angle.
The art of the 'origami miter'
I've always said we "fold" timber, but I'm constantly told by Cairo that we technically do not "fold" the boards. She is correct: They are cut and reinstalled on a different plane. Being a fan of 1) things three-dimensional and 2) changing things up, we at Scribed Flooring have a signature I like to call the "flow through." Our medium is the wood, and I love to let the boards talk. So many pros do not care about this simple and "free" use of the same board and placing it where it should be. Feng Shui says that if the master of the home places a rock in the garden on a different angle from how it was placed when it was removed from nature, then he will bring bad fortune down on the household (or at least something like that). My interpretation is if you take a piece of horizontal slate stone and make something unnatural using it, you'll devalue your property, where on the other hand, if we make the grain in the boards flow through walls or upon a different plane and place grain back together like it originally was in nature, than you will add value to your property: good Feng Shui. I try to remember to call this technique the "Origami Miter."
The actual method is relatively easy, with skill and tooling. We use PVA in the tongue-and-groove joints when gluing the floor down and lay just past the edge of the miter by the required distance, adding length for the kerf and some minor trimming. If the fold flow is required to continue, we will number the off-cuts and guard them with our lives—if we mess up one board in the row, ruining the flow-through, we will remove the entire row to start over (or at least search the next few packs for a board with matching grain and color). Next we use a long track and set the saw on a 45˚ angle and cut. The strip that is the off-cut then also gets the same 45˚ cut while sitting on some scrap material … simple. Then everything is glued, dressed and done! This project was just incredibly complicated due to the size of the project and the angles of the ramps.
A massive counter
In addition to the floor and the Great Wall, our work also included adding the wood and brass to this massive waterfall counter in the showroom. Over a few late nights in our shed (what you in the U.S. would call a "shop") I made the long wood pieces and brass detail.
The final product
In these "after" photos you can see how the entire concept came together of people walking the steps or ramps to see large swaths of actual flooring in place, complete with the LED lights under the steps, "Great Wall" of flooring, and the massive counter, too.
The intention for the concept of the showroom was that you can open the doors facing the street, leaving one whole wall exposed to the street, making people stop in their tracks and think: "What even is this place?" Mission accomplished.
Flooring: Tongue n Groove
Owner: Richard Karsay
Architecture: Nick Tobias, Tobias Partners (Sydney, Australia)
Installation: Scribed Flooring