Something I learned about wood floors.

I have been working for the last 4 months on the remodel of a home. The owners built this house 20 years ago and still loved it and the location but it was looking worn and in need of updating. The main change was that a new and well laid out kitchen was need. The existing kitchen was a U shape: very hard to work in and very hard when you have guests. At first glance it did not appear to be wide enough for an island but then upon seeing the size of the laundry room I realized I could build cabinetry in to the kitchen wall that would give me space for an island. So excited as I saw the plan develop because I knew the result would be a much more functional kitchen.
The interesting part of this project was that the original cabinet maker was still building cabinets, in fact we work together frequently. The orignal trim carpentar is now a remodeling contractor and the person who installed the original hardwood floors was also still in business. Or in other words: many of the original key people could be involved in this remodel which would help make it seamless.
The job proceeded well after much drawing, discussion and material selection. Foremost in the owners mind was that all the finishes “match”. As a designer this is one of the scariest phrases a homeowner can use. I prefer the term blend. I can blend but matching is sometimes impossible.
It took many attempts to get the stain on the cabinets right and to blend with existing cabinetry at the other end of the room So I was not suprised when staining the floors presented challenges. Floor stain is different than cabinet stain, you cannot use cabinet stain on the floors and so again, with the help of a great floor finisher we mixed a stain: 2 parts ginger, 2 parts nutmet and 1 part red sienna which gave us just enough red to blend with the cabinets. This stain worked beautifully on the new red oak floors which we added to the living and dining. Then they started to refinsih the old existing floors. The finish was sanded off, the floors were bare wood and the finsher started his stain. Luckily he started in the entry next to the dining which had new wood and had been finished the week before: the color was totally different. He saw the differnece and stopped. What we learned was that both floors were red oak but because the original floors were 20 years old, had dried out and been finished, they took stain differently. I had never experienced this before. We were able to modify our mix by adding more brown and finally got a great blend. Then though, he faced the newly remodeled kitchen which had new wood mixed with the old where cabinets ahd been torn out. This required an artists touch to actually blend the wood by graining it and painting in some darker accents. Never would anticipated this and may never encounter the problem again. but as with every job: I learned something new!

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Hi! I am Kathy Borth, an interior designer in Austin Texas. I have been working and loving this business for over 30 years which means at this point of my career: many of my clients are getting up there in age. I am new to blogs and have enjoyed reading a few of the blogs and so far no one has addressed what I am seeing so much of in my business: people who love their homes but need to adapt their homes to fit their changing life and health needs. I thought it might be fun and relevant to write about some of these people and their challenges and how we will meet those challenges.
Today, I met with an old and dear friend Maurine. I first met Maurine and her husband Larry in 1987, when she was 37 years old. They had recently purchased a house in spite of its run down condition because they loved the location and the yard. We proceeded over the next year to gut the house and redo a 50’s bungalow in to a clean soft contemporary space. The color palette was black, white and grey with accents of turquoise. The finished product was fresh and interesting and fit their lifestyle perfectly. The back yard with its lovely natural pool and heavily wooded setting was the focal point for the main living, dining and study on one end of the house and the Master bedroom looked out on the pool from the other end. Life was good, the house won awards and was published. I got great publicity and may referrals, exactly what a designer hopes will happen.
then, in 1997, life took one of the turns you hope it will not take and Larry got cancer. Throughout his illness we kept in touch and one of my favorite memories is of stopping by one Christmas with my 5 year old niece and singing Rudolph to Larry as he sat in the kitchen, smiling, his IV in one arm and he other gripping the table. He died a few weeks later, surrounded by those who loved him.
We made some changes a few years later: the bed needed to be different as it reminded her too much of Larry. We replaced the black toilet and sink in his bath with a white one. We added a few pieces of artwork.
Today, I met with Maurine to see the house 25 years later. The bones are still great: black granite counters and black and white tile in the kitchen are ageless and has served her well. But the grey wool carpet is 25 years old and has literally worn through at the back door but it with stood 7 dogs: boston terriers and the latest ones are now house broken and past the chewing stage. She had cleverly held it together with black duct tape. We discussed carpet, would love to do wood but too cost prohibitive and Maurine summed it up by saying: I will let the next people who live here decide what to do when that time comes.
The time has flown by and so many changes for both of us, yet as I say in my mission statement: my goal is to provide timeless interiors and this visit today confirmed that I am doing something right.

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