The Reemergence of Parquet Wood Flooring - West Wind Hardwood

Featuring Zech Inkster of Plank+Saw

Jan and I have travelled to Europe a few times.  Beyond the usual touristy activities, we are always on the lookout for all-things-wood; especially of times gone by when a joiner was a respected artisan and a guild member.  Tools were specialized.  Consider the curved planer.  What do you think?  Curved stair bannisters or curves of a church window.  Purchased in a German shop of antiquities.

Since we’ve been importing the Oli-Natura line of oils from Germany, we have come to understand that Europeans use the term ‘parquet’ as a loose term for wood floors including floors with patterns.  Parquet floors can also incorporate other geometrical patterns such as triangles and squares but can also contain curves. Design starts from the floor up. A common way to make a statement with wood flooring is through the incorporation of geometric mosaic patterns in the place of straight timber planks. These geometric patterns are known as “parquet”, meaning “small compartment” in French. The most common and well-known style of parquet flooring is the herringbone pattern.

Named after its resemblance to the skeleton of a herring fish, the herringbone pattern consists of an arrangement of rectangles or parallelograms in a repetitive pattern, based on the symmetries in the pattern (known as a wallpaper group).

The beautiful herringbone pattern has been utilized at numerous key points in history, in everything from road design to jewelry. Roadways across the Roman Empire, for example, were all wisely constructed using herringbone brickwork patterns. The herringbone pattern got its start when city architects in Rome realized that pointing road bricks in the same direction as foot traffic lent the roads more stability.

Jewelry designs with strong herringbone accents were even noted during the study of the Ancient Egyptians. It was additionally found in indigenous North American basketry.

It wasn’t until the late 1600s, maintenance-heavy marble floors were replaced with the first type of parquet flooring, called parquet de Versailles as it was the chosen design for the Palace of Versailles. Herringbone hardwood flooring was designed soon after to mimic the appearance of ancient brickwork used to create iconic churches and other buildings. Once herringbone wood floor started being used in castles and homes of the wealthy around Europe, it didn’t take long for it to gain in popularity worldwide.  The rich history of the herringbone pattern for hardwood floors makes it a truly timeless choice for both residential and commercial building designs.  It’s the perfect choice if you would like a range with a diverse look and hint of personality. It reflects the trend for light, modern homes that mix classic design with a contemporary twist. 

Parquet flooring stayed well known through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and spread to England and North America during the 1930s, until engineered texture cover was made and accessible at a lot less expensive cost. A significant number of these excellent parquet floors were covered up under the rug until the 1980s when the pattern to uncover and again praise these multifaceted floors reemerged. Today, parquet flooring designs are back in style, with chevron and herringbone designs driving the way.  I grow up in a 50’s style home in Burnaby and that’s exactly what happened.  We had a large heavy rug that covered the entire floor right up to within 6” of the wall (had inlay around the edges).

Chevron flooring is recognizable through its “V” pattern, which can be laid either diagonally in relation to the walls in a room or parallel to the walls. This floor pattern can make a room appear more spacious than it is, particularly when wide planks are used. At first glance, chevron and herringbone floors may seem the same, however, although they both have “V” shaped formations arranged in a zig-zag formation, they are indeed different patterns. The Herringbone pattern has a broken zigzag design whereas the Chevron pattern has a seamless zigzag design with each side meeting point to point.  With its aligned pattern, the Chevron floor looks like a long line of straight arrows.

Herringbone and Chevron have increased in popularity over the last couple of years, both patterns are timeless and stylish and fit very well in an old traditional house as well as new apartments. Chevron designs wind up making a more present-day and mathematical feel, while herringbone can give a more conventional and legacy impact in a space.  Pick either and you will clearly have an immortal hardwood floor that includes warmth and character.

Not sure as to whether herringbone or chevron wood floors are right for you? Here are four benefits to choosing this type of flooring pattern.

  1. The result gives a unique and luxurious look to your space.
  2. These patterns will give your floors the appearance of movement, which helps make the room feel more spacious, and
  3. make hardwood floors very strong, since the pattern absorbs high compression and provides structural stability.
  4. Wood floors designed with this pattern offer versatility. Depending on the room’s design, they can be either subtle or commanding.

Read on to get in on a conversation with a Professional

Zech Inskter of Plank and Saw

If you’re excited by the endless possibilities these parquet designs offer, our Flooring Manager Lars Nielsen suggests you talk to Zeck Inkster of Plank and Saw.  Laying a herringbone wood floor can be challenging and the best practice is to employ an expert. Herringbone, and any parquet flooring, must be carefully aligned to maintain the look and integrity of the pattern. 

Zech has an extensive history in the construction industry with 25+ years of experience specializing in wood flooring, including two decades as a wood floor fitter/refinisher. As an educator for the AIBC (Architectural Institute of BC), he provides accredited CES (Continuing Education System) seminars for building professionals, such as architects, designers, contractors, developers, etc. Furthermore, he is a member, in good standing, with the CHBA (Canadian Home Builder Association), IDIBC (Interior Design Institute of BC) and the NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association).

Here are some nice shots of Zeck installing a White Oak Chevron pattern.

If you’re looking to do something a little different with your wood floor that will take your project to the next level, we recommend you consider a herringbone or chevron design.  Each piece must be spread out and fitted with accuracy, ensuring that the plan remains in arrangement inside the room. 

Working with wood seems embedded in your work-life DNA. Can you give us a brief history of your work with wood flooring? I started working with wood in high school and haven’t looked back. Starting as a summer job, I worked in a sawmill in Sointula, milling wood for boat lumber. We were grading lumber when it was still done by humans, not machines. This is where I gained my appreciation for wood. Eventually, I made my way back to Victoria and worked at Active Hardwood Floors, the largest wood flooring company in Victoria at the time. That was 28 years ago now. I was mostly sanding and finishing at Active Hardwood. I took many years off the tools and worked in sales and distribution at European Flooring. I was one of the pioneers to introduce engineered wood flooring to Western Canada. Now 90% of sales are engineered compared to 10% in those days. Finally, I went back to the tools as an independent contractor for big hardwood flooring companies. I was working so hard I ended up with a workplace injury and a lot of free time. This is where I came up with the idea for Plank and Saw. That was two-and-a-half years ago.

Do you have an area of expertise in your industry? We are one of the only companies that does everything in the flooring market: subfloor levelling, installation, sanding, and restoration. When I started Plank and Saw, I imagined us mostly doing installation, but refinishing floors is so specialized and there is such a demand for it. We are a full-service flooring company with two main specialties. The first is heritage restoration, which is our favourite; it’s the hardest work but the rewards are big when we get to see our clients’ reactions to the dramatic transformations. We also specialize in custom bespoke floors. We just finished a 3,000-square-foot luxury home with a rift-cut in select white oak. We tried 30 different stains to get the final tones just right.

Let’s deep dive into some of your specialties. After sanding floors a particular way with the old belt sander for 25 years, I recently learned a new sanding system and bought all the latest tools. It’s a more European style I call ‘upright sanding’ — it has a lot to do with ergonomics and dust containment. There are only a couple of other companies on the Island sanding like this; it’s a unique specialization. I really wanted to set myself apart out of the gates. There is a professional sanding school that comes to Western Canada every couple of years. I took it 20 years ago and enrolled again to update myself on the new technologies with the latest equipment. A lot of these new tools are easier on the body and designed to extend your career which fits with my goal of career longevity.

Do you have a company philosophy? Plank and Saw takes a service-first approach which is reflected in my personal mission statement: in order to build a quality home one must employ the use of both high-quality materials and skilled workmanship. We do a job right the first time and provide value for our client’s dollar. We use the best finishes and machinery on the market to achieve those goals. I strive to bring handcrafted, old-world craftsmanship back to the industry.

We can see how committed you are to your profession. What do you like to do on your days off? I have a passion for music and have been in the entertainment business for many years. In the past, I curated and performed on a stage at Rifflandia which was a lot of fun. But with the growth of Plank and Saw, I can’t keep up with the business aspect of music, which is more of a passion project now. I grew up on the Island and like to do a lot of camping in my vintage camper van. Hardwood flooring work is physical, almost like running a marathon every day, so I like to make quality time to relax and enjoy Vancouver Island. Guilt-free relaxation.

Excerpts from Zech’s recent interview by Michelle Heslop from our local design magazine, Modern Home Magazine.

To sum this up, the design world can be your oyster.  Use contrasting colours to elevate the herringbone pattern.  Floor designers have started adding other modern touches to dress up this design. Many of these modern touches involve the use of stains to highlight the grain of the wood or cover it up completely. 

If you prefer to highlight the woodgrains, consider using a tinted stain to brighten up the surface of your hardwood herringbone floors. Otherwise, freely choose darker stains to hide the woodgrain and transform your hardwoods with a solid finish. With this approach, you will still enjoy the robust strength of hardwoods while mimicking the look of stone or other hard-to-maintain materials.

You can also use the strategic placement of borders to personalize the look of your herringbone floors. Encase the herringbone planks in a contrasting border, consisting of geometric and organic shapes. You can even integrate custom elements into the border planks to create a unique design that is all your own. 

Keep in mind what Zech of Plank and Saw says when choosing your professional:

“It is my goal to make a difference in improving the quality of construction by providing quality building material with knowledgeable and honest service. In order to build a quality house or building; quality material and service must be used”​.

Like ordinary hardwood flooring, a wood parquet floor will give enduring excellence for decades.

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