This morning, Kevin and…

This morning, Kevin and I went with our contractor Pam to the Merchandise Mart, to look at the design showrooms they have there. We made some tentative decisions on flooring, contingent on budget (which is still being sorted out, as we get quotes back from various sub-contractors). So this post is about floors -- the next one will be kitchens.

We loved the flooring at Carlisle, though it's certainly high end, and we're going to have to think about whether we can afford it. It might be worth the money in this case, as internet research indicates that with wide plank floors, problems of cupping (a type of warping) are generally greatly reduced by choosing a quality dealer who gives you high-end heartwood (instead of badly-cut sapwood), who offers skilled professional installation, and who will guarantee their work. We have high humidity and lots of temperature variation in Chicago, and we don't want to spend $10K on a floor just to have to rip it up a year or two later because it's warping too badly! Will need to talk to Pam about this further.

But regardless, it was very useful seeing the floors in person, and we decided that what we like best is their Bradford Umber stain, which is a rich, reddish-brown, on either the Eastern Pine or Hickory wood. I didn't expect to like the pine, because I have this image in my head of super-knotty unfinished pine, an image which I think may come from planks that I used as bookshelves in college (along with cinder blocks). But their Eastern Pine is stunning. It does dent a bit more easily than the Hickory, but I think it's also notably less expensive, and I'm not sure I mind the dents. They add character, right?

Eastern White Pine:

(These two photos aren't in the right stain, so you especially need to picture the next one in a richer, redder tone.)

If we do Eastern White Pine, we're tentatively planning on wide planks of varying widths, in the 7" - 11" range. Alternatively, for about $2/sq. ft. more, we could do the Hickory in 4" - 8" widths. Kev and I both like the Hickory a bit more, so it may be a question of whether we care about the super-wide widths. I'm not sure we do.


We may not be able to afford to do new floors through the whole house right now; if it would make the budget too tight, I think the plan would be to a) put new floors on the first floor, b) patch the worn out or rotted thin strip oak boards on the second floor, and c) put hard-wearing linoleum or even carpet tiles up on the third floor (which is tentatively the children's area).

It's a little against my instincts, which would normally be to do the same quality materials throughout, but this would actually be a very Victorian plan -- the Victorians were all about the public/private division, and saved all their fancy stuff for the formal public rooms. As you went upstairs, typically the family rooms on the second floor would use notably less expensive materials -- and of course, the servants' rooms on the top floor, even more so! So I guess we're treating our children like servants...

Oh, one more note. If we can, we'll try to do something a little special in the front foyer. Maybe a tile pattern, but maybe something in parquetry. I'm very fond of star and compass medallions, like the ones you can find on this parquetry page. But I'm not sure they're so Victorian. So we might alternatively go with one of the all-over patterns, such as the basketweave (which the internet seems to call 'parquet de Versailles') or this 'castle parquet' pattern:

2 thoughts on “This morning, Kevin and…”

  1. Somehow, I don’t care for either of the first two here. The last one looks awfully labor intensive to install, and probably too expensive for that reason, not to mention being too light colored, as you mentioned about one of them.

  2. The bamboo seems so much more sustainable. I can’t imagine a whole hickory tree or twelve being devoted to a floor but I should try to think like a Victorian, I suppose.

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