When it comes to figuring out which home improvement projects to tackle first, tearing up your ratty old carpet might just be one of the easiest decisions ever—especially since installing hardwood floors offers a whopping 70% to 80% return on investment. But with so many hardwood options, you’ll likely have a harder time deciding what to put in instead. May we suggest parquet flooring?
Decorative parquet, with its geometric, herringbone, and mosaic patterns made from inlaid wooden pieces, is climbing out of the dustbin of history. The reason? A desire for natural materials—combined with old-world craftsmanship.
“While elegant homes have continued the use of parquet floors over the years, the recent comeback can now be [regularly] seen in entryways, libraries, and dining areas,” reports Beverly Solomon, who has an eponymous design firm.
Interested in adding parquet flooring to your home—or think this gem might already be lurking underneath your carpet? We’ve got what you need to know about giving new life to this old trend.
The history of parquet flooring
Parquet flooring was developed in France and Italy, where it was an integral part of any fashionable home or building for centuries, Solomon explains. In the New World, it was also seen as a hallmark of elegance, and many mansions owned by successful colonists, including shipping and whaling magnates and plantation owners, featured intricate parquet flooring.
Wealthy 19th-century American industrialists continued the trend, installing oak, mahogany, walnut, beech, or maple parquet in their homes and apartments. But with the advent of mass-produced homes in the 20th century, parquet—which was more expensive than plain wood floors—fell out of favor, Solomon says. Sometimes cheaper, modern flooring was even layered on top. In the 1970s, mass-produced floor products like laminate and vinyl, or coatings of paint or stain covered up this sophisticated design.
Parquet pros and cons
But parquet flooring has a lot going for it, chiefly the intricate and delicate design.
“The beauty and elegance is hard to match,” Solomon says.
It’s not only for the elite anymore, either. While parquet is easily double the cost of laminates, it’s comparable in price with other hardwood flooring (you’ll pay up to $10 a square foot).
If you’re not a savvy DIY type, though, you should probably farm out the installation.
“It takes some skill to lay down a complicated, patterned floor—so wood planks are just easier to put in if you’re doing it yourself,” warns designer Darla DeMorrow.
And restoring this type of floor can also add up.
“Original parquet floors are usually decades old, which means you might see warping, water damage, and denting from heavy furniture,” she adds.
Plus, retro parquet floors are likely to be finished with a particular orange hue that was popular in parquet’s heyday but doesn’t really match today’s design aesthetic. Experts recommend carefully sanding away unsightly finishes (the wood pieces are rather thin) and then restaining the flooring a neutral wood shade.
Use parquet flooring to warm up a bath
Parquet is typically seen in public spaces in the home, such as foyers, hallways, and formal dining rooms. But this special flooring is also appropriate in smaller spots like a bathroom or a large walk-in closet. (Skip parquet in the basement, where humidity and flooding pose a risk.)
When deciding on which design to use, look to your own home’s style.
“In a modern house, we tend to see herringbone patterns, though in traditional spaces folks will lean into classic square motifs,” says Anna Brockway, co-founder of the online home furnishings emporium Chairish.
Carefully chosen parquet floors can work with organic modern designs, minimalist looks, and even cottage homes, Solomon adds.
Make your parquet flooring a focal point
Looking to make a statement in one of your rooms? A parquet pattern is just the ticket.
“More complex designs like Greek keys, stars, or sunbursts add an unexpected flourish in large entryways or bedrooms where the floor can be the focal point,” Brockway says.
Transform a spare room with parquet flooring
Where better to experiment with parquet flooring than in a less trafficked area of your home? A guest bedroom, home office, or crafts room is made especially grand with the addition of parquet flooring.
“Many people are now turning spare bedrooms into yoga studios, and they like parquet because it adds depth and warmth,” Solomon says.
Go green with parquet
If you’re striving to be eco, consider seeking out old parquet for an upcoming renovation. Because it’s reusable and eclectic, parquet is a stylishly green choice.
Plus, there’s good news for vintage lovers: “With so many homes being demolished in certain urban areas, parquet flooring is being salvaged and resold at affordable prices,” Solomon says.
Install it yourself—and save cash
Looking for an affordable DIY project? As long as you aren’t going for a complicated pattern, modern parquet could be for you. Prefinished tiles in a wide array of wood styles and patterns are easy to cut and glue in place. And new parquet is also less expensive than it was, says Solomon.
“Laser-guided cutters, improved glues, finishes, and processes make mass-produced, prefinished parquet flooring squares more affordable,” she explains.