It’s easy to take for granted just how much our flooring can affect the mood of a room, from its aesthetic appeal all the way to its actual feel.
Flooring is one of the most important elements in a home, but it’s also one of the easiest to take for granted. It’s the first thing we step on early in the morning and the last thing we feel before crawling into bed.
Visually, floors contribute a lot, too. We like to think our homes look warm and cozy, but what’s underfoot can seriously impact our perception. And coziness matters, especially in these cold Midwestern winters.
These days, a room full of carpet isn’t always the top choice. From hard wood to lookalikes, and lots of materials in between, choices abound.
Incorporating everything into a room that looks and feels warm and inviting takes some special considerations.
Start with Color and Function
When it comes to selecting the right flooring, it’s important to have a plan, and that should include a careful consideration of what your floors will endure. Not all flooring is created equally, nor is it necessarily the best choice for a particular application. The amount and type of foot traffic, the function of the room, and the possibility of moisture will impact your decision.
“Once I’m able to clarify function, we can talk about aesthetics and the array of personal and trending styles that might resonate for them,” says River Sonnet, an interior designer at Benson Stone Co., in Rockford.
Choices abound in flooring. There’s carpet, hardwood, engineered hardwood, ceramic tile and luxury vinyl, in both plank (LVP) and tile (LVT). Then, there are more unique choices like cork, which has a warm, comfortable and cushiony feel. It’s also durable and looks similar to a traditional hardwood floor.
“I designed a TV room in a small basement area for a couple in Janesville using Wicanders Cork flooring and a one-of-a-kind curved coconut shell mosaic on the walls by EcoTessa,” Sonnet says. “The sound-resistant properties of the shell kept noise from bouncing around, and the thermal and sound properties of the cork insulated the room.”
Good flooring should match with the rest of the house, and a designer like Sonnet can help to tie elements together. Selecting the right color tones in the floor requires a careful consideration of what else is in the house. Is there artwork, wallpaper or a special print that could complement or clash with this flooring style? Is there a general aesthetic in the house that will help to narrow down choices? What are the emotional experiences to color and textures? A good salesperson will guide the customer through these questions.
“A floor is generally your background canvas. It’s meant to tie everything together and it’s generally not something you bring immense focus to,” Sonnet says. “When I talk to customers, I like to get an idea of what to steer away from. Customers that are not good at articulating what they desire are generally very good at articulating what they don’t like or want. From there, I’ll start introducing tones that correspond with the colors that they like.”
These days, those colors involve a lot of earthy neutrals, colors that add a subtle hint of warmth. Taupe, brown and gray factor heavily into the modern color palette – in walls, on floors and in furniture.
“If their color palette is calm blues or contrasts to something warm, I’ll know that, so I’ll know what color undertone I need that floor to be,” says Sonnet. “It obviously needs to work with everything that makes them happy, and that choice is different for every customer.”
A Cozy Combination
These days, homeowners are installing more hard-surface flooring in their homes, such as hardwood flooring, ceramic tile, luxury vinyl plank and luxury vinyl tile. The latter two are an amazing replication of hardwood flooring and ceramic tile, but at a lower price point.
As the trend moves away from a roomful of carpeting, homeowners are shifting toward an option that draws together the best of both worlds.
“Homeowners usually end up putting some type of area rug down, and that adds warmth and a little bit of aesthetic to a room,” says Mark Unger, a flooring and sales specialist at Floor to Ceiling, in Freeport. “It’s also noise-absorbing, because a room with hardwood flooring gives off a little more noise. There’s an echoing effect, and noise is noticed more, especially when the room is empty. So, that area rug goes a long way toward absorbing the noise, and it provides some softness.”
As with everything in flooring, choices abound. Selecting the right area rug – one that fits both your design and your space – isn’t always easy. So, Floor to Ceiling constructs custom rugs that will fit a house just right. They can match particular shapes, patterns and colors with ease.
“Last year, we made an area rug in the shape of a kidney bean, because the homeowner wanted it to go around the back of their sofa,” Unger says. “We can take one piece of carpet and border it with 10 inches of another color around the main color. So, they can have a bordered rug as well.”
Even in the area rug, gray tones still reign supreme, yet not all gray tones are the same. Those cooler tones that have been popular for a decade are giving way to warmer tones and earthier tones.
“It’s probably half and half,” says Unger. “I think about half of people are doing the warm earth tones and half are doing the various shades of gray.”
Before deciding what’s best in your home, Unger suggests taking a few samples to try out. That way, there’s more certainty that it’ll match the rest of the home.
“If a customer is an impulse buyer and takes something because they like it without taking a sample, they might get home, get it installed and realize it doesn’t look the way they thought it would,” Unger says.
And, if an area rug is in the plans, remember they aren’t designed to cover up the entire floor. Exposing some of the floor around the rug will frame the room, creating a unique, custom look while making a focal point in the room.
“A mistake that some people make is they don’t make that exposed area around the perimeter large enough, and most of it gets covered with furniture,” Unger says. “You still want to show off that beautiful hardwood flooring or ceramic tile.”
Sonnet agrees about the style and comfort of area rugs. He also says area rugs can add an additional element of warmth to a room by acting as a blanket to shield against colder floors, like ceramic tile.
“The reason tile feels so cold is because it’s great at holding heat,” Sonnet says. “And when you walk across it with your warm feet, it’s actually pulling that heat into the tile, which is why it feels so cold. There’s no thermal resistance between the tile and your foot, whereas on top of an area rug, or cork, there’s thermal resistance, so you’re not losing the heat in your foot and the area does not feel cold.”
Another fun thing about area rugs, Sonnet says, is that they also serve as decorative accents to a room. Some can even be rotated throughout the year.
“It’s something that can easily be changed by rolling it up and putting down a new one,” he says. “It’s a nice and easy way to cozy up a room or change up a room’s feel.”
Carpet, Still a Reliable Choice
Every home remodeling source might be telling you hardwood floors are “it,” but for some people, there’s nothing quite like the plush feel of carpet, especially when the temperatures drop.
“At least 50 percent of our business is still carpet, because we’re in the Midwest and it’s the most comfortable as far as warmth goes,” says Kevin Rose, owner of Carpetland USA, in Rockford. “When you get out of bed, you want to step on something that’s warm, comfortable and soft. When you go down south, like Florida or Texas, you’ll see very little carpet.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common places for carpeting are the rooms where plush surfaces matter most: bedrooms, family rooms and finished basements.
“In a family room, I’d prefer carpet because you lay on the floor in a family room and you want it to be comfortable, warm and cozy,” Rose says. “In a dining room, you may want hardwood with an area rug to create a more elegant feel. People are going for carpet in the more relaxed areas of a home.”
In basements and family rooms, wall-to-wall carpet helps limit noise, and it’s softer, so it’s more comfortable for walking on, playing on or sitting on. Visually, too, it provides a warm and cozy feeling that’s hard to replace.
But don’t rule out all hard surfaces. Rose sees more homeowners using heating mats and electric coils under their floors, especially underneath ceramic tile and hard wood. These products provide warmth and comfort in areas like the bathroom, where hard flooring is a must.
“In my master bathroom, I can heat my floor up to 80 degrees, so it’s nice and warm in the morning,” Rose says. “It’s controlled by a thermostat on the wall, much like a furnace thermostat. At the end of the day, the hardwood is nice, but people in the Midwest really like the warmth of carpet.”
To ensure carpet remains a popular flooring choice, producers are adding more fibers to each rug, thus creating extra comfort and softness.
“The manufacturers are taking the fiber and continuing to twist it and heat it, and the more they do that, the softer it gets,” he says. “You can buy some carpets that feel like silk, because it’s so soft. It’s all about comfort and feel.”
Simply put, carpet can make the entire dwelling a warm and relaxing place.
“It brings warmth and comfort to a home, much more than the hard-surface products,” Rose says. “Nothing is going to bring warmth, comfort or that cozy feel to a home as much as carpet.”
And this time of year, there’s nothing more important than a warm and cozy home. Having comfortable flooring adds warmth to a home while also adding a sense of style and beauty.
The great thing about selecting floors is there’s no right or wrong answer. It all just depends on one’s needs and wants.
“Cozy is a word that can mean different things to some people, whether it’s a feeling they get when they see something, or it’s an actual feel to the touch,” Sonnet says. “The look and feel of something can make a difference in what a customer might deem as cozy.”