Past, Present, Perfect: The rich and patterned history of parquet flooring

Drifting in and out of vogue throughout the generations, traditional block parquet flooring is once more enjoying a rather splendid revival. Of course, if we cast our minds back to childhood memories, images of warm wood floors immediately spring to mind.

Throughout the ages parquet floors have featured in commercial buildings such as hospitals, factories, museums, libraries and hotels for centuries. These hardwearing and highly patterned wood floors were not solely used within environments with high footfall however, more refined and decorative installations also featured in prestigious private homes worldwide.

 

Geometric DesignRecords indicate that the first parquet floors were introduced in 16th century France and originally included wood blocks laid in geometric patterns with the shapes of the individual blocks being varied in colour and size.

These wood floors were used to replace grand marble or stone floors that were quarry cut and expensive to install and maintain and that also caused long term damage to joists and timber frames. Simple plank wood floors existed at this time but during the 16th Century the tongue and groove system was devised which allowed more extravagant and sophisticated patterns to be integrated within flooring designs.

  

Parquet de Versailles

During the 1600s parquet flooring became the epitome of elegance in stately homes, palaces and chateaux throughout France. It was only in the 1680s when Louis XIV, the king of France, installed exceptional parquet designs at Versailles that the fashion became a universal trend in Europe.

Parquetry arrived in England in the 17th century when Queen Henrietta Maria made Somerset House (then Denmark House) her official residency in the late 1620s. Queen Henrietta ordered a major reconstruction and redecoration of the Tudor house, overseen by Inigo Jones, who specified the French style parquet floors within the architectural design. The trend for parquet continued well into the 18th century, with patterns becoming more elaborate and more ambitious. During the 18th century lavish parquet designs were included within the building of St. Petersburg where wealthy property owners used opulent designs to display their wealth.

Carpet and the demise of parquet

Parquet floors remained a good alternative to marble for several centuries being much easier to look after (the wood could be easily replaced when it warped over time). Parquet’s imaginative designs gave an artistic opulence that complimented the architectural style of grander houses, palaces castles and châteaux across Europe.

However, the popularity of parquetry would not survive in contemporary Europe and the rise of textile production and new techniques meant that in the 1930’s, carpet became available to most households, even the more modest homes enjoyed the comfort of carpet underfoot. Almost overnight, people stopped using hardwood floors in their homes in place of the inexpensive synthetic alternative.

 Hidden Gems

Sadly, many parquet floors were hidden beneath carpets from the 30’s onwards with many floors being ripped out and destroyed. However, many floors survived and simply remained a hidden for over 50 years,. It was a keen interest in vintage interiors during the 1980’s that bought interest back to these architectural timber masterpieces.

An astounding return to the use of wood flooring and improved manufacturing techniques gave designers and architects the opportunity to experiment with abstract and intricate patterns, integrating different types of woods and finishes.

Parquet floors are once again the flooring of choice for many with traditional parquet patterns being used in both period properties and contemporary builds.

While there are numerous well-known designs of Parquet flooring, the herringbone design remains a firm favourite with homeowners in the UK. In 2015 parquet floors are being reintroduced within both private and commercial properties. With the possibilities of using flooring as art designers and architects are able to integrate bespoke patterns within the block flooring designs. However it is the classic rhythmic patterns of the herringbone weave that have a nostalgic place in the hearts of many.

Flooring experts Ecora supply a collection of different parquet options including both original restored parquet blocks and new contemporary panels and parquet designs.