Waikiki Winners: 2005 Floor of the Year Awards

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Announced at last April's NWFA Convention in Honolulu, this year's Wood Floor of the Year winners had competition from around the globe, with 134 entries from seven countries. This year's awards featured all-new categories, and NWFA members selected the winners through voting online or in person at the show. Turn the page to find out more about the winning floors.

Congratulations to 2005's Wood Floor of the Year Winners

Simply Radiant

Best Library/Office | Birger Juell LTD. (Chicago)

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When the Chicago owner of this mid-rise home decided to have his dream office designed, he left the job—from top to bottom—in the hands of Birger Juell Ltd.

The legendary wood flooring company worked with designer Lawrence Jones and interior designer Phyllis Needleman to develop the architectural millwork plan. With that concept in place, Birger Juell's Chuck Crispin turned his attention to creating a spectacular floor fitting with the upscale home. He took his design cues from the owner's many pieces of Biedermeier-style furniture, which feature clean, classic lines and exquisite wood veneer in various matching patterns. "About the time we started investigating floor materials, Kent Mcpherson [of Flame Figured Woods in Nashville, Ind.] called me up and said, 'I have 500 feet of curly cherry all 8 inches and wider out of the same tree,'" Crispin recalls. He took the wood immediately, then told Mcpherson that he also wanted to do a large oval medallion using eight pieces of matched cherry crotch wood.

With the unusual wood secured, Crispin worked with Birger Juell's Jennifer Alomia to create an autoCAD plan for the floor. While the homeowner was particular about approving the woods for the room, he left the actual design in the hands of the design team. "He had a little bit of a difficult time comprehending how we were going to make the floor look like his Biedermeier furniture in other parts of the house," Crispin says. "But he trusted our explanations and was confident that we could pull it off."

The simple-looking design was complicated in execution. Although the rays that radiate out from the starburst appear to be the same dimension, due to the odd size of the room and the oval medallion, the dimensions graduate from 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch, with narrow strips of sapele separating the radiating bands of curly cherry. Once the autoCAD design was finalized, Dan Antes of Nashville, Ind.-based Distinctive Hardwoods and Mcpherson worked together to build the floor in panels, resulting in a floor with a 5/16 -inch thickness over 1/2 -inch Baltic birch.

The Birger Juell crew then installed the floor, and Teles Floro Gonzales and Benjamin Martinez handscraped and waxed the floor on-site. "It is very difficult to scrape crotch material and not tear the grain," Crispin says. In typical Birger Juell style, the floor is not "distressed" in a typical manner. "We just try to make it look like it's been worn and cared for over a long, long period of time," Crispin explains.

Long before handscraped wood flooring was mainstream, it was the signature style for Birger Juell himself. "It's amazing how the industry has fallen in line with his aesthetic ... Birger has certainly been a leader in promoting that old-world, hand-hewn look," Crispin says. Today, at 89, Juell still comes into the office every day. "He's still very creative and active in developing new patterns—still dreaming at 89," Crispin says. —K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributor: Niles Color Center | Flooring: Distinctive Hardwoods | Finish: Dura Seal | Filler: Timbermate | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer: Clarke American Sanders | Saws: Festool

A Stately Floor

Best Restoration | Universal FLoors Inc. (Washington, D.C.)

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Over its fifty years in business, Universal Floors has carved a niche for itself in the Washington, D.C., area by tackling tricky renovations of historical wood floors. It's little surprise, then, that Universal is the first company to take home a Wood Floor of the Year trophy for the new Best Restoration category.

By Washington standards, the floor is relatively new, having been installed by government carpenters when the building— home to the U.S. Department of State—was built in the '50s. The floor is in the Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room, one of several rooms used by the vice president, secretary of state and cabinet members to entertain guests.

It took a crew of three—company President Sprigg Lynn, along with Shawn Gorman and J.P. Hurley—approximately six days to perform board repairs, sand and refinish the floor, which consisted of mahogany and American maple parquet installed over sleepers.

With a high-profile job such as this, obtaining the security clearance to get on the job site is the first challenge. "When we do these jobs, it's like a football roster," Lynn says. "We might submit 15 names and five of them get kicked out." Once on the job site, it took about a half day to get through the security checkpoints. The crew was allowed one vehicle, which was checked by a team of three dogs and three people. All the equipment was removed and X-rayed three times, then the individuals were screened. "Once you get to the job site itself, Heaven forbid if you forgot something," Lynn says. "We've learned you always have to have a backup for everything, and if something breaks, sometimes we have to resort to what we call 'old-school ways,' because you're locked in." Lynn credits his father and grandfather for passing along the old-fashioned skills that he still sometimes finds necessary today.

Once on-site, armed guards watched the crew at all times, and progress was occasionally held up due to the long work hours of some occupants, such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. "We would be geared up and ready to go, and Colin Powell would work late hours, and we'd have to wait it out. We'd say, 'Our taxpayers are sure getting their money's worth out of that guy,'" Lynn says. Due to the security and schedule hold-ups, the crew sometimes worked as much as 36 hours straight.

The trio had to take utmost care, including using dust containment systems, to protect the marble baseboards and the recent $100,000 paint job. Wood flooring the company makes a habit of salvaging from old area buildings was used for board repairs, and after setting many nails, the old wax finish was sanded off. The crew spent substantial time on their hands and knees to ensure the floor was as flat as possible before coating with waterborne finish. "This is one of the finest finished floors we've done," Lynn says. That seems appropriate, considering the company the floor keeps. —K.M.W.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributors: Cherokee Wholesalers Inc., Derr Flooring Co. | Abrasive: 3M, Festool Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Filler: Woodwise/Design Hardwood Products, Timbermate | Finish: Basic Coatings LLC | Nailers: Powernail Company, Stanley-Bostitch | Sanders: Clarke American Sanders, Festool, Lägler (Palo Duro) | Edger, Buffer: Clarke American Sanders | Saws: Fein, DeWalt, Festool

Floating Floor

Best Commercial Application | Johnson Yarema Hardwood Floors (Oakland, Mich.)

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Whoever said that water and wood don't mix obviously hasn't seen this winning floor—a custom creation from Johnson Yarema Hardwood Floors for a businessman's yacht. Though it only spans 875 square feet, intricate detail was added to almost every inch of the floor.

Though the boat was located in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., John Yarema, owner of Johnson Yarema Hardwood Floors, created most of the design from his Oakland, Mich., shop. Yarema worked with the owner, a boat designer and a local artist to come up with the elaborate design, which plays off a British colonial map. "They wanted an old-world look. It came from some old paintings and pictures," Yarema says. In particular, the owners wanted a navigational theme in the pilot's house of the vessel. The artist rendered drawings, then Yarema transferred them to a CAD program to laser-cut the wood. Though there were some concerns about creating a wood floor for a marine environment, the boat is climate controlled, and Yarema used marine plywood and engineered wood for more stability.

The resulting design is a detailed, laser-cut globe inlay comprised of more than 50 species of wood set in a 2 1/4-inch santos mahogany field. The whimsical design features all the continents, a mermaid and images of Columbus and Galileo on the globe's perimeter.

Once the design and creation of the inlay was complete, Yarema and his crew had the task of transporting the large inlay from Michigan to Florida. They combined the laser-cut pieces into eight large sections, loaded it in a 20-foot truck, then drove it to Ft. Lauderdale. Once at the job site, they assembled the large sections and added more details to the floor. The bloodwood that creates the latitude and longitude lines was inlaid by hand on-site.

With such a small space and intricate design, measurements had to be precise. "The post is where the captain of the yacht sits, so he sits on top of the world," Yarema explains. "Everything had to come off that point and still have room for the guys on the left and right. There was no room for error."

Yarema's attention to detail and hard work paid off. From beginning to end, the job took 2,000 hours to complete. The owner was ecstatic, and he's now enjoying his one-of-a-kind floor on the blue waters of the Mediterranean.—C.L.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Flooring Design: Gabrielle Meaney | Distributor: Erickson's Flooring & Supply | Flooring: International Hardwood Flooring | Finish: Glitsa American | Filler: Eclectic Products Inc. | Nailer: Primatech | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Abrasives: Ceno Group | Sanding Equipment: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Buffer: BonaKemi USA | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Saws: DeWalt

French Connection

Best Kitchen/Dining Room | Johnson Yarema Hardwood Floors (Oakland, Mich.)

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Previous Wood Floor of the Year winner John Yarema, owner of Johnson Yarema Hardwood Floors, is no stranger to elaborate, time-consuming flooring designs. So, when the owner of an Oakland, Mich., Chateau-style home wanted a floor to match his antique French furnishings and décor,Yarema knew he could fill the order.

Yarema worked with the homeowner and a local artist to create a design that would replicate the 100-year-old French pieces of furniture the homeowner had acquired. The result in this dining area is a mix of custom-engineered walnut parquet, a colorful handchiseled border and a fish-scale-patterned walnut center.

Walnut was chosen for both the parquet and the fish-scale design to match the woodwork in the home. Though there were more than 50 species used to create the entire design, oak was not used on the floor or anywhere else in the house. "There's not a piece of oak out of the more than 27,000 square feet," Yarema says. "He wouldn't let us put in any oak."

There are many species of wood found in the round border, which is fashioned after old French marquetry. Exotic woods used in the border include European pear, holly, cinnamon burl and wenge. These woods combine to create an elaborate design that required painstaking attention to detail. In keeping with the old European-style craftsmanship, everything was hand-chiseled into the floor. Even the the marquetry, which includes flowers, vines and two men at either end of the border, was hand-chiseled. "It took us a month just to chisel it in," Yarema says. Yarema wanted to showcase his craftsmanship, sparing no detail in the process. "If you look at even the smallest pieces the size of a dime, they are in the direction of the parquet behind the piece," he says.

Once the floor was laid, Yarema hand-scraped the entire floor. "No sanding equipment was ever brought into the room," he says. Yarema and his crew used their own 3-foot-long, 20-pound scrapers with 4 1/2 -inch blades to create a subtle hand-scraped look while keeping the floor relatively flat. To preserve the hand-rubbed look, Yarema applied three thin coats of conversion varnish.

All of the hand-detailing required a massive amount labor in a short period of time. Because the job was two months behind schedule when Yarema started, his crew of four logged 80-hour weeks, while Yarema worked back-breaking 100-hour weeks. All of the hard work was worth it for Yarema, however. Not only did he win the Wood Floor of the Year award, but the homeowner was thrilled with the floor. Yarema enjoyed working with the homeowner so much that to show his appreciation, Yarema gave the homeowner the trophy to display on the mantle. "It's better for you to have this," Yarema told the homeowner.—C.L.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Flooring Design: Gabrielle Meaney | Distributor: Erickson's Flooring & Supply | Finish: Glitsa American | Filler: Eclectic Products Inc. | Nailer: Primatech | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Abrasives: Ceno Group | Sanding Equipment: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Buffer: BonaKemi USA | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Saws: DeWalt

Blue Ribbon Floor

Best Entry/Foyer | Signature Floors inc. (Salt Lake City, Utah)

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Usually, ribbons are given as awards, but in the case of this floor installed by Collin Barrus of Signature Floors Inc., it was the other way around—the Wood Floor of the Year award was given for a ribbon. A delicate, 500-piece, laser-cut ribbon of Brazilian rosewood, wenge and movingui twisting elegantly in a field of sapele, to be exact.

Although Signature Floors does many high-end jobs, it's not every day that such a highly designed floor is installed, Barrus says. "I've worked on a couple of other pretty high-end projects where we've done a couple of parquet floors of this caliber, but nothing with that much designing as far as the curves," Barrus says of the architect-designed floor. "Everything else has pretty much been your basic high-end stuff—your parquets and borders."

A quartersawn white oak parquet, a santos mahogany floor and a maple sports floor also were installed in the home by Signature, but this 400-square-foot octagonal foyer was the true showpiece of the home. "It's like a piece of art. There is a lot of other art throughout the house, but this is the main focal point of the entire place," Barrus says.

To install the floor, Barrus laid the 3 1/4 -inch sapele on a 45-degree angle to the sapele floor of the great room into which the foyer led. Then, the 1/2 -inch plywood pattern, which was supplied by the manufacturer along with the wood pieces, was laid out on the field. "We basically had to sort through [the pieces] to figure out what went where … kind of like a puzzle," Barrus notes. Then, a router was used to cut out the space for the inlay. "The tricky part was not to damage the surrounding wood as we routed out the 1/4 -inch void for the inlays to go in," Barrus says, noting that the key was to keep a sharp router bit and to keep the patterns down tight on the floor. "We went through probably 100 router bits," he adds. In some areas, such as where the ribbon turned on end or where the pattern ran up to a wall, a router wouldn't fit, so the areas were worked by hand with a chisel. The different hardnesses of the species also made sanding difficult for Barrus and crew-member Travis Bellantino. "Trying to make the floor as flat as we could was hard," Barrus says."We basically had to use an edger and edge the entire floor flat, because we didn't dare to put a drum sander on it."

As an added detail, Signature also installed metal air vents flush to the floor, hand-crafting a 3/4-inch frame with a 1/8-inch rabbetted indent to cradle the vent.

The hard work resulted in a floor that is blue-ribbon all the way.—N.S.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributor: Ottley Floor Company | Flooring: Kentucky Wood Floors | Finish, Filler: Precision Technology | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Abrasive: BonaKemi USA | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Buffer, Edger: BonaKemi USA | Saws: Hitachi, Makita, Bosch

Golden Oldie

Best Living Room/Family Room | Fulford Flooring & Antiques (Wilson, N.C.)

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You can't beat Mother Nature and Father Time. That's the mantra that Ted Fulford, owner of Fulford Flooring & Antiques lives by … at least when it comes to wood flooring. And, his dedication to that statement is reflected in the choice of wood used for this winning floor—old-face heart pine reclaimed from an old factory.

Fulford Flooring & Antiques has been in business for 35 years as a manufacturer of heart pine flooring and other reclaimed products, but it is only in the last eight years that it has ventured into wood flooring installation. And, working within a four-hour radius of Wilson, N.C., Fulford's experience with old wood has come in handy many times, as his clients seem to prefer an unembellished, character-rich wood floor over a more design-laden floor. "I do a lot of reclaimed wood floors … and most of the floors we do are straight floors. I don't have anyone really going for medallions and inlays," Fulford says.

Although this floor takes full advantage of the time-worn appearance and naturally rich color of the wood, this design strays from the traditional plank, featuring a cross design, angled wood and a border of reclaimed heart pine beam ends. To install the floor, Fulford and his lead installer, Joanne Jamison, squared up and laid out the cross pieces at the center of the room. Then, they filled in the four corners made by the cross pieces with oldface reclaimed heart pine laid on roughly a 45-degree angle. "When you lay a pattern like this, you have to cut a board several times to get it to fit properly. If the boards are straight, they are easy to cut, but if you are trying to fit both ends of [a board], you have to cut it and cut it and cut it until it fits," Fulford says, adding that it took three times as long to install this floor as it would a regular floor.

Once the rectangular field was in place, Fulford and Jamison took a router to the perimeter so the border could be connected with spline. The beam-end tiles were manufactured by hand, and each one was tongue-and-grooved. The tiles required extra care during manufacturing and installation. "The tiles are extremely fragile. When you cut a beam on the end like that, the rings will fall apart. You have to handle them very carefully," Fulford says. He used a router table to rout the edge of each tile, then glued the spline in. Every board of this floor is locked in on every side, Fulford says. Once the beam-end-tile border had been installed, straight planks were laid around the perimeter of the room. Because of the old wood, not much sanding was needed. Instead, the floor was buffed with a 120-grit screen to round off the edges and take out any splinters.

An old beam mantel above the fireplace and reclaimed brick add to the warmth of the room, but it's the floor that makes the room inviting. "If it were straight, it would still be a great room, but the room is enhanced by the design of the floor and the border," Fulford says. "It's warm and inviting. The only way to achieve that is to use something old."—N.S.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Abrasive: 3M | Finish: Sampson Coating Inc. | Filler: Kamtel Wood Fill Epoxy, Timbermate | Nailer: Powernail Company | Adhesive: Sovreign Specialty Chemical | Sander: Hummel/Lägler (Palo Duro) | Buffer: Oreck | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Saws: Hitachi

Simply Stunning

Best Bedroom | Majestic Wood Floors inc. (Frederick, Mo.)

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The philosophy of Bob Humphreys, president of Majestic Wood Floors Inc., is that every job is a custom job, because even if the house receiving the floor looks identical to the one just down the street, a wood floor by Majestic will be what sets that house apart. "We treat every job as a one-of-a-kind job," Humphreys says, explaining that, somewhere on every job, there will appear something that hasn't been done in another home. This bedroom floor is no exception. The design is simple but striking, designed to mesh flawlessly with details on the furniture, as well as with the warm, spicy colors of the bedding and paint.

Humphreys and one of his lead craftsmen, John Evans, worked on the floor, taking it from just a design concept in Humphreys' head to the more tangible form of the finished floor. Since the rest of the home featured simple santos mahogany plank flooring and one room of santos mahogany parquet, Humphreys decided to keep the design for this bedroom uncomplicated, yet eye-catching. To do this, he took a hand-cut maple basketweave, infused it with geometric pops of color and surrounded it with a classic border and feature strip. "I like the look of the basketweave, but, kind of like herringbone, it's been done so many times that you almost get sick of seeing them. I wanted to do something that was a little bit different than normal just to spice it up enough to make it interesting," Humphreys says. The main colors in the room were rust, chocolate and tan, warmed by rich cherry furniture and plaid linen—colors echoed closely by the maple, wenge and oak used in the floor.The geometric, nautical-looking dresser, nightstands and cabinets, meanwhile, featured square knobs and posttops that seemed a natural shape to mimic in the floor.

The basketweave field of the floor was installed first, and plywood blanks were used to replicate the size of the accent squares that would be used. Humphreys and Evans ran the field wild. Then, "We cut all four sides off so that it broke halfway through some of those accent strips … So, it's very symmetrical all the way around the room, " Humphreys explains. Once the field was laid, the accent blocks— 3/8 -inch wood with a 3/8 -inch plywood backer— were glued into place. From there, the border and feature strip were installed, and the floor was sanded and finished with three coats of oilbased polyurethane.

The installation, sanding and finishing were straightforward, and the design was a "home run" from the get-go, Humphreys adds."We try to screen the jobs from start to finish to make sure that not only are we giving the customers the best job, but that the job itself runs smoothly so that everyone involved is happy in the end. This was really no exception. The job ran really well," Humphreys says.

And, the simplicity of the design is probably what garnered Humphreys' second Wood Floor of the Year win. "This was designed to be somewhat simple, yet very attractive and slightly different," Humphreys says. "That was what we want to do with every custom job, and that is what we have here—another of our run-of-the-mill custom projects that we try to give each homeowner."—N.S.

Suppliers listed in boldface are advertisers in this issue.

Distributor: Indiana Floor Supply | Finish: BonaKemi USA | Filler: Woodwise/ Design Hardwood Products | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Abrasive: 3M | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Buffer: Ceno Group | Saws: Festool

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

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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