October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10
By Reginald Tucker
Hardwood flooring suppliers are providing retailers with additional profit opportunities by looking up (literally) for new revenue streams. Several companies have either launched dedicated collections specifically designed to be installed on the walls, while a few others are encouraging dealers and installers to utilize their existing flooring products in unconventional ways.
Case in point is the Rowlock Plus line of wall accents from Johnson Hardwood Floors Initially launched in 2016, the program has been expanded due in part to the growing popularity of the trend. “Sales have been steadily growing on both the residential and commercial sides,” said Bill Schollmeyer, CEO. “Residentially, most orders are for a feature wall of some sort to complement an already chosen Johnson Hardwood floor. We’ve supplied several smaller commercial projects and have been specified in several hotel projects still under construction.”
End users have their pick from more than a dozen Rowlock Plus SKUs currently available, allowing designers to coordinate with the corresponding Johnson Hardwood flooring product based on their personal taste or style. Schollmeyer reports particular interest in the trendy, newer colors recently added to existing lines. Among them: Copper Mountain Walnut, which he said “coordinates perfectly with our Tuscan Walnut Lucca floor.” Breckenridge Walnut, Aspen Acacia and Loveland Oak are also great sellers, he added.
DuChâteau is another player with a proven track record of success in selling dedicated wood wall programs. In just a short time, the company has refined its offerings, growing its selection of wall accents and panels to 15 styles and 13 colors. This fall the company also plans to launch a new collection, Celestio, which features unique shapes and profiles of wood mounted to acrylic substrates. The addition of the acrylic allows for installation with LED lighting, creating unique atmospheres.
Beyond hard-wax oil and traditional wood finishes for the wall accents, DuChâteau also offers metallic color treatments such as Wave Gold and Kuadra Silver, which have proven to be very popular with its customers, the company said.
“When we first created our wall coverings, we were inspired by the desire to move the beauty and variety of wood from the floor to the wall, opening a whole new way to feature wood in the home,” said Misael Tagle, CEO and co-founder.
Provenza, whose forte also lies in the high-end spectrum of the hardwood flooring market, is reporting success with its dedicated wooden wall accent and paneling programs as well. Popular lines include its Wall Chic brand of wood accents, a peel-and-stick wall panel line geared toward the DIY market. It comes in more than 25 colors—some of which are painted to coordinate with the company’s Beacon Point hardwood flooring line. Also available are wall panels designed to coordinate with its Lighthouse Cove collection—the breakthrough hardwood flooring line that earned Provenza the Surfaces Style & Design award in 2017.
For Surfaces 2019, Provenza plans to kick it up a notch or two. There, the company will roll out its Wall Cladding line, which—unlike the peel-and-stick long boards—consists of an “up-and-down fingerblock pattern” in various sizes. “This product will be more dimensional and needs to be professionally installed,” said Ron Sadri, principal owner. A separate wood wall accent line available through Tri-West, one of its distributor partners, will also make its debut.
Provenza also plans to launch a “charred” wall covering product, which employs a surface-altering technique similar to the traditional Japanese method (known as shou sugi ban) used to burn wood. “It looks absolutely awesome,” Sadri said.
Other major manufacturers are encouraging retailers and designers to utilize hardwood flooring in unconventional ways. At USFloors, for instance, the company’s popular Castle Combe line of handcrafted floors is suitable for both horizontal and vertical installations. The natural oil finish applied to the product provides the look and feel of an ancient reclaimed floor while modern performance features give consumers the durability they have come to expect from wood. According to Philippe Erramuzpe, COO, the wide portfolio of products allows customers to express their creativity. “This allows the designer or homeowner to make a personal statement or add a customized element to the home,” he said.
Customers looking to coordinate their hardwood flooring installations with accent walls have no shortage of options. The Cabin Pine series from Mercier, for example, matches well with the company’s long-plank, rough-textured boards. “Whether the consumer is looking to add to the rustic charm of her home, or simply give a bit of pop to an otherwise bland space, she will find the perfect look and feel in one of the six featured colors that will harmonize beautifully with the rest of the decor,” said Michel Colin, director of marketing. “You can’t ignore the lightness of pine boards when looking for a quick and easy install, as they can simply be glued to the wall.”
Beyond pine, birch floors—which are known for their hardness and durability—also make great candidates for wall accents. “Pricing is similar to other hardwoods, but birch stands out for its color variations that can run from light tones to dark ones and its natural highlights which add visual appeal,” said John Lee, CEO of Arte Mundi. “The highlights are due to the lighter sapwood and darker, contrasting hardwood that birch contains. These provide the appearance of light, creamy shades mixed with red and brown tones.”
Lee cited several birch options in particular that are conducive to wall installations: Nantucket Mist, a tea-like brown tone that provides a smooth surface with natural crevices and mineral streaks; Morning Haze, which provides a creamed coffee tone with heavy hand scraping, natural crevices, saw marks and mineral streaks; and Coffee Bean, the darkest of all the Arte Mundi birch offerings. It is marked by rich, chocolate-brown hues and features a smooth texture that complements its lighter and darker highlights.
The surge in wood wall accents has inspired non-traditional uses of products previously designed strictly for the floor. Companies like Naturally Aged Flooring, for example, said its engineered hardwood planks can safely be installed on most wall surfaces as an accent piece to complete a unique interior design.
“Accent walls provide a striking level of style and design and become the focal and talking points of any space,” said the company in a prepared statement. “Engineered hardwood provides natural, warm beauty, and Naturally Aged Flooring’s distinct colors and distressing create a captivating design element that immediately sets a room apart from any other.”
From a functional perspective, Naturally Aged wall panels feature a protective UV coating. In addition, the panels can be easily installed via tongue-and-groove construction. What’s more, multiple species, finish type and levels of distressing are available, thereby allowing for creativity and freedom in design.
“Whether you use the accent wall to complement or contrast a floor, provide a rustic charm, or bring additional warmth to a room, the combinations are endless,” the company stated.
Other specialty hardwood flooring suppliers are getting into the act. Case in point is Ribadao Wood Boutique, which—after launching its signature Exotics line of hardwood flooring several years ago—followed up with a corresponding offering for the wall. Much like the unique species offered on the flooring side, the wall covering collection from Ribadao focuses on various exotic species from South America and Africa as well as wide-plank European oaks planks. “We have a mixed bag of products that bring value and selection to our customer base,” said Bruce Hammer, vice president of sales, North America.
Noted designers such as Emily Morrow, CEO of Dalton-based EF Floors & Design, attribute the craze behind the use of wood on the walls to creative applications often employed by celebrity designers on cable television.
“In the past three or four years, we have witnessed a resurgence of wood finishes working their way from the floors to the walls and even ceilings,” she told FCNews. “Adding elements with character and warmth to interiors has become not just a trend but a major design movement. Thanks to design personalities like Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper,’ we all find ourselves loving the shiplap treatment on walls, beams and wood treatments to ceilings—which, besides creating three-dimensional authenticity, adds to the home’s actual value. What’s not to love about hardwood on the walls?”
All in the positioning
Not all consumers will be predisposed on supplementing a wood flooring purchase with an accent wall installation. In these cases, the power of suggestion—and some creative merchandising strategies—may be in order.
“This is a product that needs to be sold, or at least enthusiastically presented, by a retail salesperson,” Johnson Hardwood’s Schollmeyer said. “It’s a tactile, three-dimensional product that a consumer needs to touch as well as see. The most successful retail sales seem to start with a floor selection, followed by a design suggestion of a complementary Rowlock Plus product. Whether the home is country or contemporary by design, the retailer needs to make the suggestion, and the consumer’s tastes will take it from there.”
The secret to success, experts stress, is helping the customer envision what a flooring installation with a corresponding wall treatment might look like.
“We believe the key is to show the customer how the wood wall covering can be used,” DuChâteau’s Tagle said. “People love the look and feel of a wood wall covering, but oftentimes they have no idea how they can integrate it into their design plans. Showing varied installations at the point of purchase is critical.”