A Stump, an Impossible Triangle and More: Tom Ourada Creates His Own Floor

Kim Wahlgren Headshot
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It will surprise no one familiar with Tom Ourada to discover that he has a massive collection of wood he’s been hanging onto for … someday. “I’ve been collecting stuff that I think I could do something with. It’s one of those things where my imagination is bigger than what I can do in a couple lifetimes,” he says.

For some of those special wood pieces, their time came last fall, when Ourada finally put wood flooring into a room in his own house that previously had only a plywood subfloor—since the house was built in 2008. Because it was his own home, he had carte blanche to let his artist’s imagination run wild. “When I do other floors, I try to connect with what they like and create something they love, and that motivates me,” he says. “This was my home—I was like, ‘I’ll do what I want and have a great time creating this.’”

Going into the creative unknown and figuring out all the design and technical puzzles is what fuels him, he says. “I really love not knowing exactly how to do it—getting into it, jumping into it. What’s going to happen here? The whole process is on the fly but also knowing I can figure out anything.”

For this one, he had a couple main ideas: He had to incorporate a stump he found on the side of the road into the floor, and everything should curve and connect to an impossible triangle in the middle of the room. Another key element was a U-shaped blue pine stump Ourada had discovered one day miles into the backcountry (he and an employee later hiked back to the spot, where they used his 5-foot long “Alaska saw” to cut it and wheel it out on a cart—“it was an endeavor,” he says).

As the design took shape, he built in shading to give a feeling of depth and three dimensions on the flat floor so the wood pieces have the illusion of intertwining. And overall, he says, the design has to make sense. “Hopefully it will draw them in, hopefully they will follow the lines and it will make sense,” he explains. “If it doesn’t, it causes uneasiness. You might not know why you don’t like it, but you don’t like it.”

Ourada (and, probably more important, his wife) does like it—and now it’s on to the next creative challenge at home: Imagining and crafting the stairs that will climb up and tie into the sinuous floor.

Watch Tom Ourada narrate a tour of this floor:

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