An Anxiety of Influence: Wood Floors
“Eye on Design” Archive from Mann Report (Article By Gail Green)
There is, perhaps, no greater irony of titles in the literary/design mix than that above. I am convinced that Harold Bloom knows as much about flooring styles as those in design know about Bloom, yet the analogy is drawn. In “The Anxiety of Influence,” the notable author talks about the strong influence the poet John Milton had upon his famous successors and how it may have hindered their originality. In fact, a whole school of academic criticism has evolved from such. In all fairness, these “inspired” poets were quite accomplished and original, though Bloom’s book advocates an all too anxious response on their part. Ok, this is not a treatise on either Bloom (who is a genius) or those who followed him but, perhaps, on followers, in general-the Joneses, if you will; chose who follow trends and are thus highly influenced by such, regardless of reason. In effect, this essay is a reflection on whether trends dictate what is right, and in this particular aspect, if they are right in relation to the plane upon which we walk! Just because one follows in another’s footsteps, does that make the path the “chosen” one?
All right! Trends are meant to increase profitability to whatever industry needs profiting. Changing styles mean people switching one thing grown old for something new. Pity the poor ‘old’ souls. In any event, new is good. Progress is a good thing, as Darwin would proclaim, and survival of the fittest is ever the dictum. But, what if the “dictum” was a trend, something not particularly suitable to a person’s use, but simply that of the times, the zeitgeist. I am sure the former word is more academic than lay, yet the irony lies within. And, so you ask, what does this all have to do with flooring?
Most clients, nowadays, desire having wood floors placed throughout their home. When asked why, they responded, “I like, nay love, wood floors.” The point is, if you consider a wood floor a plane and any break into that plane a disruption, than we have an issue. Pioneering in Bloomsian territory, I would say that even Robert Adams, that old guy, had an inclination re: furniture and its relationship to its surroundings, meaning how the properties of proportion and ratio work together in a room. RA had a huge humanistic understanding about space. He knew what made a person feel grand, good, and glad in his rooms. I venture to guess most of us do not have Robert Adam as our Architect or designer, or even Le Corbusier. So, while these eminent architects possessed a particular penchant for “Anxiety of Influence” from their predecessors, they still understood “what works” in their space, in their time. In other words, sure they were influenced by what came before, but they understood what made a space work and what didn’t without undue pressure from the magazines and television shows.
Indeed! What works? Flow works. Continuity works. Harmony works. And, how is this applied to wood flooring? Well, that means really understanding that one plane, albeit wood or otherwise, broken up can create chaos. This is because most do not understand how space flows and what works, design-wise. Most do not understand that, while area rugs are fine on wood floors, they need to be positioned just so. The homeowner needs to understand that “more isn’t always more,” but better, when it’s less. What I mean is that, if an area rug is placed upon a wood floor, a line is drawn upon that floor, defining a space. Thus, if you put a postage stamp size rug in between your couch and chairs, and just fitted below your coffee table, it will look like you a) couldn’t afford a larger rug; b) your rabbit ate the rest of it; or, more likely, c) you didn’t know what you were doing. Area rugs only cover part of the floor and thus create separate distinct areas within a space, unless they are perfectly proportional to the floor and relate to the placement of the furniture under which they are placed. The “noise” created by the disruption of space makes a room appear visually smaller and confusing. Alternatively, if a carpet is placed so that it fits comfortably under all the main pieces of a specific room with some breadth to spare, then the room will appear gracious. The furniture will look as though they were meant to be, and Harold Bloom will be happy. Rugs define spaces; they draw lines on the floor plane. One needs to be conscious of the impact a carpet has upon a room. Using carpets that are correct in both ratio and scale relative to the furniture under which they exist maintains the harmony of the room. So, the trend of all over wood floors with area carpets breaking up space needs to be executed ever so gingerly. Just to be clear, all over wood flooring accompanied by area rugs is fine, as long as they cohabit in a balanced, harmonious way.
Lest I challenge the current trend, I venture some risk-taking suggestions. Here’s a thought: how about wall-to-wall carpeting! Here, the user doesn’t feel compelled to busy the floors with area rugs that, most of the time break up space. Yes, yes, you argue, wood floors are easy to clean and allergy friendly. (Carpeting comes allergy free as well, nowadays.) This is true, they are easy to maintain, for the most part, though less so in the kitchen. Alternatively, as a win-win compromise and as an elegant alternative to having hard wood floors as opposed to wall-to-wall carpeting, you can do as the Europeans often do and place an area rug upon your wall-to-wall carpeting. The key benefit here is that wall-to-wall carpeting creates a larger, balanced and consistent space, where you don’t have to place additional area rugs, if you chose not to.
Trends create economic prosperity. People throw out the old and buy the new. This is great for the GNP, not for your well-being. Trends work only in certain instances and for certain people at a certain time. To create a timeless, elegant interior, don’t follow a trend if it doesn’t work for your space. Instead, create spaces that work in a harmonious way, with panache and style. No Anxiety of Influence, here.
*Note – Article adapted from print. Images reflect reduced quality.
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