Our search for the perfect flooring for the bottom story of our house has been long, complicated, and – I’m just going to say it – pretty tedious in parts.
I’m really not joking about the “long” part, either: the flooring samples you see in this post actually started arriving over a year ago -which is how long we’ve been thinking about this – and continued up until this week, when we finally made our decision. It’s been a saga, basically. And now I will tell you all about it, obviously, so I hope you have a strong coffee to hand, or, you know, maybe something stronger…
So! Our journey towards the perfect floor has been complicated by four things:
Although the largest part of our current renovation project centres around the kitchen, the flooring will cover the entire bottom floor of the house, minus the bathroom. We wanted to have the same flooring throughout, so although I flirted quite hard with the idea of tile in the kitchen, I was eventually over-ruled, and we decided to go for wood. But!
We couldn’t have hardwood, or even engineered wood, because of the heights of the outside doors, patio windows, etc. There just wasn’t enough room to fit in some of the floor types we looked at, without having to do major renovations, which would have cost a small fortune. So, laminate flooring it was. But!
We’ve had laminate flooring for years now: we had it in our first house (We actually went through two different types, and would have moved onto a third, if we hadn’t moved first, because it just kept getting wrecked: the lesson is to never buy cheap laminate flooring, kids – it’s a false, false economy…), and it was also in this house when we moved in. The type we have here is a much better quality than the stuff we’d had previously, so it hasn’t gotten damaged, but I’m going to confess to being slightly disappointed by that, because, man, I hate those floors. With a passion. Which brings me to my fourth complicating factor:
ME. As in, I’m a straight-up basket case when it comes to flooring. I don’t like to use the term ‘OCD’ here, because I know it’s an actual medical term, which gets thrown around way too lightly, but it’s the closest I can come to describing how I am about those floors. Or “those &^**&%^$ floors,” as I think of them. See, because the ones we have are both dark and shiny, they highlight every single mark or speck of dust. I know I’ve brought this up once or twice or a million times before, but I honestly clean those floors every day – and often more than once a day – and they STILL never look clean. Like, ever. I can spend ages cleaning, and buffing and polishing those damn floors, and then, the second someone steps on them – or even looks at them, it seems to me – they’re back to being filthy again. I don’t hate the look of them when they’re clean, but because they never ARE clean, my life is basically just one endless cycle of floor-cleaning now – to an extent that even I can see (But can’t actually stop) is starting to get ridiculous. (Terry’s reading this post, thinking, “Starting to get ridiculous?!”)
I was pretty dubious about replacing the existing laminate flooring with MORE laminate flooring, in other words. But then, a couple of years ago, we put down white laminate flooring in the master bedroom, and it was a complete revelation, in terms of how much easier it was to maintain than the darker wood we’d always had. From this, we learned three things:
How to choose laminate flooring
01. Light floors are easier to maintain than dark ones
I know I say this all the time, and it’s the complete opposite of what you’d assume, but it’s true: any floor will show up things like spillages and dirt, but darker floors will also highlight dust, footprints, and everything else that lands on them. We knew we didn’t want to go for all-white downstairs (Well, I didn’t: Terry’s taste is actually even more minimal than mine is, so he’d have considered it…), but we DID still want something light and bright – not just because of the maintenance, obviously, but also because, living in Scotland, with its lack of light, we want to make the house as bright and airy as we can.
02. The wider the plank, the better it looks
This us purely a personal taste thing, but we love the look of wide plank floors, and knew that was what we wanted for the kitchen/livingroom/hall. This actually eliminated about 80% of the laminate flooring we looked at, because while I feel like I see the look all the time on Pinterest etc, it’s not something a lot of manufacturers around here seem to have cottoned onto yet, so that narrowed the field a lot.
03. Texture is essential
Colour aside, the thing that makes our current laminate flooring (and all of the ones we’ve had before) so hard to maintain, is the smooth, shiny surface. Without any texture to break it up, that floor will just pick up every single mark, even from bare feet. God, I hate it. The floor upstairs, meanwhile, is textured, which means it doesn’t pick up nearly as many smudges, and other random marks, so our third requirement was that the floor we chose be fairly textured – oh, and also semi-waterproof, given that there are three outside doors which will be opening on to it, plus my obsessive cleaning habit to content with. Because, let’s face it, no floor is totally maintenance-free, is it?
With all of that in mind, we started ordering samples. Then we ordered some more. We touched them. We put them in various places around the house, to see what they’d look like in different light. I frequently whipped off my shoes and walked barefoot on them, to make sure they wouldn’t instantly pick up footprints. Then, once we had almost enough samples to create a whole new floor with them, we branched out, and started visiting flooring showrooms, so we could look at the floors over a larger area (This is absolutely essential, by the way: as you can see from the photo, most suppliers just send out a tiny sample, which doesn’t really give you a great idea of what it’ll look like on your actual floor…), and congratulate ourselves on having the most exciting lives EVER.
All of that brought us… well, no further forward, really. Especially given that I kept going off-plan, and suddenly insisting that my entire life depended on having a white gloss tile floor in the kitchen, even if I had to give up work in order to dedicate the rest of my life to cleaning it. (This, needless to say, was also vetoed, and now that we’ve actually started the kitchen reno, all I can say is THANK GOD FOR THAT.)
Then, last week, a good five days into the demolition project, when I was seriously starting to think that, if we didn’t pick something soon, we’d be living with concrete floors for the rest of our lives, we finally found our perfect match:
This is ‘Desert Oak Light Natural‘ from Quick Step’s new ‘Majestic’ range: these are the widest, longest planks we managed to find in our search (Also the largest samples: high-five to Quick Step for realising we’d actually need to SEE the floor to be able to get an idea of what it would look like!), and they’re also very water-resistant, so I can clean it with my beloved stream cleaner (Always on the lowest setting, kids!), and not have to worry about rain and snow coming in every time we open the doors. Our friends Steven and Lindsay have this brand of flooring in their kitchen/family room, and any time I’m round there, I’m always impressed by how immaculate it looks (Even although they’re fellow white-lovers, AND they have a toddler!), so in the end, this was actually a fairly obvious choice, albeit one that took us a long, loooooong time to arrive at!
Still, we got there in the end, and by the time you read this, we should hopefully be taking delivery of a truckload of flooring, all ready to be installed. I am SO EXCITED, and I’m honestly not joking about that: I’ve been looking forward to the day we got rid of that high-maintenance brown floor since the day we moved into this house (Well, OK, maybe a couple of weeks later, when I realised I was going to have to clean it twice a day: before that, I actually liked it, and thought we’d totally lucked out getting a house with floors I didn’t hate – such innocence!), so this is by far the best part of the reno project for me… and next week I will tell you aaaaalllll about it. Probably in excruciating detail. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, guys…