Hardwood Trends 2023: Hardwood flooring continues its style evolution - Oct 2023

By Jessica Chevalier

Advancements in hardwood manufacturing technology have enabled producers to turn the basic wood plank into an artful, highly differentiated home finish. Here, three hardwood professionals weigh in on current and emerging trends in hardwood preferences: Sara Babinski, design manager at AHF Products; Dan Natkin, chief commercial officer for Bauwerk Group North America and Somerset Hardwood Flooring; and Brad Williams, senior vice president of sales for Mirage.

The first thing to remember is that trends typically start on the coasts and make their way to the interior of the country, so when we talk about trends, we might be way out ahead of where St. Louis might be. On the coasts, two years ago, the trend was 30 shades of natural, coastal, bleached. Today, we are trending toward warmer browns. On the West Coast, there is lots of variation to that. We’re seeing a lot of reactive stain affecting the tannins in white oak looks.

Oat Milks
The current state of hardwood colorations is lights: white, ivory, parchment, chalky colors for neutrality and effortless simplicity. These aren’t a clinical white-white; some people call them oat milk. These lights are still very current, especially in coastal applications.

The trend has been light, neutral tones, and that is certainly sticking. But what’s interesting is that we are seeing a return to mid and darker tones, especially in the remodel market. That honey-ish color is coming back.

Babinski: In European markets, brown is popular. I was at the plant a few weeks ago; I got out our color standard boards from 2004 and found the same brown color that I want to use again-slightly adjusted. And we’re receiving requests for walnut notes.

Warming Greys
Grey hit the market big time several years ago and now has transformed; it’s getting warmer and is often paired with terra cotta and sunset colors.

Sunset & Sunbaked
Another significant emerging trend is sunset colors or sunbaked hues: cherries, cinnamons, browns, mochas, cocoas. We see these coming out of Europe, and they pair beautifully with blues, greys and greens, so they are a perfect fit for interiors.

At one time, we did have some black SKUs. This time, I think we may get close to black but not exactly black.

Fifty percent of what is sold in the U.S. is imported product, mostly from Asia and Europe, and 95% or more of those imports are engineered white oak because that is what is prevalent in their forests. Domestic and Canadian manufacturers are challenged to keep up with that white oak trend that is driven by imports.

White Oak
What species are trending? White oak, white oak, white oak.

Babinski: White oak has been loved to death. It’s easy to work with, has a beautiful color and features tighter graining than red oak, but it’s becoming harder to get.

Other Species
We are trying to reinvent the wheel around white oak and have recently been utilizing maple, red oak and hickory. We introduced Character LG in hickory and have been happy with the response, so we have sensed a little pivot toward something other than white oak. When you have 80 vendors of white oak in a showroom, a hickory or maple pops.

Lightening Red Oak
Often, people look for ways to soften the red in red oak, including us, which gives you a cleaner canvas that works better with the popular lighter stains. The first of these products hit the market in 2022, and everyone is trying to get on that train.

Subtle remains the dominant trend. Light wire brushing is the go-to and will remain so. The days of piano finishes have passed; handscrapes died off dramatically. All textures today are more subtle and realistic.

Babinski: Customers want a weathered effect.

On a scale of one to 100, our glosses have been around 15 recently. However, at the High Point Market this spring, I noticed an uptick in gloss levels on furniture. We get requests for high gloss from time to time, so gloss levels may be on the move.

It’s all about how low you can go.

Satin & Cashmere
There has been a big trend toward the matte oil look but with wear and tear and maintenance of regular UV-cured floors. That’s a nice finish on natural, lighter colors, but if you put it on darker stains, you will end up with a milky kind of look, so as we trend to warmer browns, that will bring the gloss level up because consumer wants a vibrant pop of color, not a dull milky sheen. I’m expecting a 20 to 35 gloss level coming soon, what might be called satin or cashmere.

It’s a mixed bag. The sweet spot for imported engineered is 7-1/2”. For solid, it’s no wider than 5”. Because of that, people see solid as more traditional, but we also have been doing a lot of 3-3/4”-in part due to the lumber shortage.

Williams: We have gone as wide and long as we will go in the everyday-business realm. We are receiving some A&D requests for more narrow widths: 5” to 7” versus 7” to 10”.

Natkin: One thing that will be interesting is the effect of home sizes getting smaller because of cost. That may drive the market back toward a narrower format. We have had a couple large projects quoted where the customer wanted 3-3/4” rather than a 5” plank. However, the wider format still has a lot of life to it.

Copyright 2023 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:AHF Products, LG Hausys, Mirage Floors