Ornamental Floors

 

Ornate Wood Flooring History

 

With ornate wood flooring being subject to wear, fire and water damage, it is hard to find examples more than 500 years old. Prior to that, ornate floors were mostly made from stone. Ornamental wood work was generally reserved for areas of higher architectural importance like the ceiling.

The designs used to create ornate wood floors are as old as man himself. Since the beginning of civilization man has had an irrepressible desire to create. This was followed with the desire to add ornamentation to his creations. Throughout history we have decorated our objects, buildings and even ourselves. No one civilization created ornamentation.

Nature has provided an infinite amount of inspiration and guidance. The geometric forms that we use for our designs were not invented by man. They were only borrowed from the shapes of naturally formed crystals. The veins on a leaf radiate from a central stem perfectly symmetrical. They continue on dividing out over into smaller more delicate subdivisions showing us the law of equal distribution. It appears that the basic rules of ornamental design are all present in nature.

The designs used to create ornate wood floors originate from the cumulative contributions of all civilizations over the world. For example, Egyptian designs date back to approximately 3100 BC. Their designs show no influence from another culture and may have been directly inspired from nature. Assyrian designs originate around 2000 BC and has many similarities to Egyptian designs.

Greek ornamentation seems to be based partial from Egyptian and Assyrian designs. The Greeks concentrated on refining the shear beauty of ornamental designs and were less concerned with the restraint of having ornamental symbolic meaning.

Early Romans designs were influenced from Greek designs. The Romans exhibited less restraint in the use of ornamentation and lavishly embellished their creations to affirm the greatness of their culture to the rest of the world.

The Roman Emperor Constantine transferred the capitol to the city of Byzantiumand renamed it Constantinoplearound middle of the 4th century. TheByzantium style evolved through the influence of the craftsmen employed from different cultures in the city. The city was captured by theOttoman Empire in 1453. The ornamental designs of the city further evolved with the combination of the two cultures. 

With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Turks closed universities of theByzantine Empire. Many Greek scholars went toItaly. With them they brought ancient texts that had been forgotten byWestern Europecivilization. This helped fuel the already on going Renaissance inItaly.

Most historians agree that the Renaissance started inItalyand spread throughEurope. Renaissance is a French word that means rebirth. During this period art, science, literature, politics, philosophy and religion flourished. 

During this periodItalyproduced exquisite ornate marble floors in parquetry and marquetry designs. Parquetry designs are geometrical and angular, while marquetry designs utilize curved and natural shapes.

Ornamental wooden designs flourished in the form of intarsia. The word intarsia is derived from the Latin word “interserere” which means to insert. The Italians made decorative wood panel from 1/4 in. to 1/2 in. thick designs. The edges of each of the pieces of wood used to make their designs had their edges slightly rounded.

During the Renaissance Italy produced ornate marble floors and had endless supply of artisans skill in decorative wood inlay yet it is seems decorative wood floors might have had it start inFrance.

It appears ornamental wood flooring started making an appearance in the sixteenth centuryFrance.Fontainebleau’s ballroom has an intricate parquet floor which were designed matches its elaborate wooden ceiling. They were the creation of the brilliant French architect Philibert Delorme in 1547.

One hundred years later the King of France wanted to consolidate his power. He required his nobles to spend time at hisPalaceofVersailles. This hindered them from developing their own regional power. ThePalaceofVersailleshad many ornate wood floors. The noble men duplicated these designs in their own homes. The ornate wood floor designs quickly spread throughFrance.

The earliest geometrical parquet floors inEnglanddate back to around 1650. Queen Henrietta Maria after a visit toFrancehad them installed in herPalaceofSomerset House.

In 1717 Russian czar  Peter The Great stayed at Versailles. He studied the palace and gardens, which he later used as a source of inspiration when he built Peterhaf Palace. It is some times referred to as the Russian Versailles. The French architect Leblanque was the chief architect pf Peterhof and a played a key role in having parquet floors installed.

In theUnited Stateswood ornate wood floors were uncommon. Thomas Jefferson the third President of theUnited Statesand also the Ambassador toFrancefrom 1785 to 1789 installed parquet floors in hisVirginiaestateMonticello. The parquet pattern has since been named after his estate.

Parquet floors didn’t get mass produced inAmericauntil the end of Victorian Era. Most homes built prior to 1870 had softwood linear floors of varying widths. Some times the floors were painted to make them easier to clean.

Around 1870 parquet wood flooring started making a come back. But many homes just installed with parquetry borders around the outside room because oriental carpet covered the center of the room

 “Wood carpeting” a product made of 5/16 in. thick strip of wood glued to a heavy canvas also became very in vogue. Home owners realized how much easier they were to clean than carpets. Wood carpeting could be laid over existing wood floors. The rolls of wood carpet flooring were cut to size and just top nailed with small tacks.

In the 1950’s cheap parquet was made that could be direct glued to concrete with cutback asphalt adhesive. By the 1970 parquet was trying to compete with the cost of carpet. Contractors found themselves having to install as fast as they could to make a living. These poorly installed and finished floors made parquet floors fall out of favor.

Today ornate wood floors are seeing a rebirth. Computer controlled machines can efficiently create any design that can be imagined.

Ornate Wood Flooring Design

There are many elements that come into play when creating a successful ornate wood floor design. People’s tastes vary widely as do their personalities. The designs used to create ornate wood floors are composed from the cumulative contributions of all cultures around the world. The principles of ornate wood flooring design are base on the relationships of the elements used in the floor and their organization to create the composition as a whole.

The design should take into consideration the appropriate scale and proportions of the elements for the room while all the time maintaining harmony between them. Harmony is achieved through the balance of wood tones and flooring patterns. Although a subtle contrast in elements can be used to create visual interest which pulls the eye towards focal points.

Ornate wood flooring designs should have a sense of unity. The elements of the design should look like they belong together and when combined create the over all a whole composition. Ornate flooring design can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical depending on the need to balance the focal points of the room. There should be a balance on how much the eye is pulled in any direction. There should be some recurrence of elements throughout the floor creating some unity in color, proportions and shape

More elaborate designs are meant to maintain visual interest and will guide the eye various levels of focal points throughout the room various focal points. The subtle use of dissimilar elements is sometime employed to maintain visual stimulation. The floor design should exhibit some functionality for the room it serves.

Most ornate wood floor contains certain basic elements. These same elements are generally present on oriental carpets. The field is the main area of the floor. The field can be composed parquet designs or straight flooring. A decorative element called a medallion is sometimes inserted in the focal point of the room. The medallion can be of any shape and is generally placed in the center of the room.

The field is many times surround by a single board call an accent strip or feature strip. The accent strip is generally made from a wood species with a contrasting color of the field. It width is generally narrow in comparison to the proportion of the floor. Boarders are a decorative band used to define an area such as the field of the floor. Borders may have a pattern that continues around the room uninterrupted or be divided into segments. Corner blocks are decorative elements that divide border segments. V-Block are decorative elements placed in a manner that allows the border to have uninterrupted corners. Aprons are an outside band of flooring that ties in the entire ornate design to the walls of the room. 

The field is the main body of the floor or the canvas which we add decorative elements to. The field might consist of simple strip flooring which might be installed straight or on a diagonal.  The field can also be composed of a decorative element s such as parquets. 

Medallions are decorative element that is normally incorporated as the center piece and focal point of the floor.  Typically Medallions are intricate and elaborate design element of the floor. 

Accent strips help defines the field of a floor and adds a degree of formality to the room. The accent strip is can be made from a wood species with a contrasting color of the field on just faux with stain. Accent strips are useful in high lighting focal points or manipulating the size of the border. The size of the accent strip can help a border coincide with the proportions of the field. This can prevent the field flooring boards or parquets from being installed having to be noticeable modified in size. 

Boarders are decorative flooring bands used to define an area such as the field of the floor. A border generally contrasts the field while complimenting it. Boarders normally incorporate a species of wood of contrasting color to the field. A complicated parquet pattern will normally be bordered with a simpler design. The width of the border should be in proportion to the size of the room and the flooring material used for the field. 

Aprons are one of my favorite elements on a wood floor. The apron can be manipulated to compensate for discrepancy with the walls or the rooms proportions. The apron allows an area to place furniture. The apron also acts like the frame of a painting. 

Parquets are wood tiles composed of smaller pieces to form a pattern. Parquets patterns can take advantage of parquetry or marquetry designs. Parquetry designs are geometrical and angular, while marquetry designs utilize curved and natural shapes.

 It appears ornamental wood flooring started making an appearance in the sixteenth centuryFrance.Fontainebleau’s ballroom has an intricate parquet floor which were designed matches its elaborate wooden ceiling. They were the creation of the brilliant French architect Philibert Delorme in 1547.

One hundred years later the King of France wanted to consolidate his power. He required his nobles to spend time at hisPalaceofVersailles. This hindered them from developing their own regional power. ThePalaceofVersailleshad many ornate wood floors. The noble men duplicated these designs in their own homes. The ornate wood floor designs quickly spread throughFrance.

The earliest geometrical parquet floors inEnglanddate back to around 1650. Queen Henrietta Maria after a visit toFrancehad them installed in herPalaceofSomerset House.

 

 

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