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the story of our herringbone flooring

Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

The following post was contributed by the amazingly talented and resourceful Emily Henderson from her lifestyle blog

Check out her gorgeous flooring renovation below, featuring the installation of BuildDirect’s own, very stylish, Tungston Herringbone White Oak floors!


When we bought the house I had zero intention of replacing the original flooring. I have, what many might call, the ‘if you can’t see it in a photo, then it doesn’t exist’ syndrome – it mostly affects life-style bloggers. When the previous owner’s furniture was in, I didn’t notice the condition of the floors.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

The 2″ oak flooring was 126 years old and after years of the elements, and many times being refinished it was absolutely done. When our contractor came in to quote for the job, he said, ‘there is no way this floor can be salvaged’. That was not in my plan (nor the budget). My hope had been to simply refinish them. Sand, stain, easy peasy! You may or may not be able to see in the photos but the floors are insanely bleached/dried from the sun (yes, we are doing LLumar window film to prevent this from happening to our beautiful new floors, just like we did in our old place since we loved it so much).


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

I felt really, really bad ripping out the flooring. They were ORIGINAL. But then our contractor (and everyone else) told us that these floors weren’t particularly unique. They were un-refinishable, replaceable 2″ oak. They were also stained with cat/animal pee and bleached a lot by the sun. Fine. You don’t have to twist my arm. 

I started fantasizing…. Is THIS the time that I finally have a herringbone floor? I’ve wanted one forever, but I truly think it only belongs in older style homes (70 + years) – which I finally had!! If you have a brand new home then go for a new pattern or extra wide straight planks. If you have a midcentury then do something appropriate to that time period because the traditional herringbone belongs in a European style or older world style home. Brooklyn Brownstone? YES. After all, look how beautiful these are:


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I didn’t really know where to start. I had ordered a lot of flooring from BuildDirect before and their service/product had always been great. But herringbone? Surely they wouldn’t have an option. But they had one on their site, white oak, but with only one simple iphone photo that was seriously not doing it justice. I was skeptical but figured ordering a sample wouldn’t hurt.

When I received it, I was shocked at how good it was. Such pretty wood, with tongue and groove connection and a great scale. Here’s how it looked, unfinished in a little moodboard we created when we started the design process:


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

We LOVED it. Soon after, we confirmed the order and it arrived within weeks in 3-4 weeks (the straight plank normally comes quicker, but this is made to order). Now, one thing to note is that it’s not pre-finished, in other words you have the additional cost of staining, sanding, then staining (and sanding) on-site. This really depends on your square footage but could be anywhere between $1.50 and $4.00 per square foot. We decided to go for it as we loved the look of the wood.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

In it came and down it went. We let it acclimate for a week (they recommended two but we were RUSHING). If you are doing herringbone, hire a VERY good installer. Our flooring contractor was super meticulous and took a lot of pride in making sure that it was perfect. Also start the pattern the in middle of the room and work your way towards the sides.

We needed to figure out the orientation of the whole house, which isn’t as easy as you think. Sure the living room was easy but what happens everywhere else, once the angles of the walls change? We drew a map and a little guide to help us determine how it would all go down:


Emily Henderson Design

There were a few awkward areas where we just used a straight plank to separate the herringbone from the straight – like between the kitchen and entry.

Next we chose the stain color. We wanted it to be medium toned – not too dark. Dark could look amazing but our general aesthetic as you know is light and bright (again, it’s a So-Cal thing). In case you missed how we lightened and brought life back to the houses beams head HERE. One of the furniture carpenters we work with gave me the tip to use Bona sealant (with no color or stain) to simply bring out the color, seal it safely, without making it look darker. We sampled a rectangle on the floor – below:


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

And it was a unanimous and instant decision. I’m typically REALLY slow at permanent decisions like this, needing at least a few days to feel the confidence to pull triggers, but Brian, Ginny, Mel, Scott and myself ALL agreed immediately that it was perfect (I like how I pretended to make that decision by myself…..)


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

We were right! It could have gone darker and would still be STUNNING but what can I say? I like a bright house. You’ll also notice that we put a border around the living room to add a traditional detail. It’s subtle, but a pretty way to finish it off.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

I’m just obsessed. The only time we could take ‘before’ photos where the protective paper was off the floor but the furniture wasn’t in yet was the morning that we moved in, at the time of day when the sun was BLASTING. So I’m sorry it’s not more clear but over the next few months and years you’ll see ample usage of this beautiful floor.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

Above and below you can see the transition where the hardwoods went from herringbone to straight plank.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

We also replaced the stairs after realizing that the subfloor was practically falling apart. It now no longer squeaks or creeks and man, now that we are living there with two kids and realize how much sound carries, I am SO grateful that we fixed them. Charlie all of a sudden insists on keeping his door open when he sleeps, and those creeks would’ve ruined my nights/life.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

Now in the entry/den and upstairs we opted for straight plank over the herringbone. We were tempted to do the herringbone but honestly we felt that it should be a feature in a couple special rooms, not in the whole house. It’s not that we would get sick of it, but more like it’s so special that we didn’t want to get too used to it and have it everywhere so that we stopped noticing it.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

But as you can see the straight plank is just as pretty and simple. It’s white oak, practically unstained (sealed with Bona).


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

I love both the straight and the herringbone so much and so does every single person who comes over. This is how the master was looking after everything was finished and before we moved in.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

I have zero regrets with the flooring. NOT ONE. We nailed it (pun, intended) and I’m so glad that we took the risk and replaced that lovely old, falling apart wood with an even lovelier, stronger wood that will keep the house alive and sound for so much longer.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

Ok, here’s the pertinent information: We used: 707 square feet of Herringbone (103 in kitchen, 178 in dining room and 426 in living). We ordered 12% overage for a total of $791.84 of Herringbone for a total of $3, 674.88 (materials, not labor)

For the Straight Plank, we needed 1075 sq ft including 10% overage for the rest of the house, + 160 linear feet for the border, totaling: $3, 472.90.

So how much was the labor? I wish I had an easy answer for you. It was $18k for the entire house – to demo, remove, repair all the sub-floor – which was extremely damaged and rotting, – plus install, prep, sand, stain, sand, stain, seal, etc. This included both floors and the stairs – roughly 1800 square feet(ish). God, that’s a $10 a square foot for installation! Nuts, but definitely worth it.

I loved this house before we did anything to it, but now it feels more solid and secure, not to mention bright and airy. When every step you take is creaky, squeaky and loose with nails, that charm quickly turns into worry. Now we worry no longer.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

These before and afters are making me so happy. That living room is looking gorgeous (see how we refinished the faux painted beams here). You can really see some of the damage in the below pic. I would say it is a vast improvement.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

The entry area into the kitchen looks brand new as well. In case you missed the post where we talked about how we rearranged the layout click through HERE for the upstairs, and HERE for the main floor.

The upstairs honestly looked great before. Had we been able to refinish it we would have:


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

But the after is nice, too  (plus we repaired all the windows so that we could actually open them!)

The painted brown doors bummed me out (please note, these were PAINTED not stained) so we painted them white and the upstairs hallway looks 10 times the size.


Emily Henderson Design with Photography by Sara Tramp

I asked my contractor how much more installing herringbone is than straight plank and he said about 30% more labor, and if you purchase unfinished like we did then the average cost of staining hardwood is between $1.50 – $4.00 per square foot. Ultimately you’ll want to get a couple quotes to compare, but hopefully that gives you a good idea of how much replacing or installing herringbone or straight plank costs.

A huge thanks to BuildDirect for gifting their beautiful wood. They were so easy to work with from start to finish and their selection, customer service and availability to answer any of my questions along the way made the process so easy. I’m happy to say that so many people have already purchased it from my instagrams and insta-stories and people love it. They also have just launched their new Design Center – Kitchen Edition, which is a such a great tool to help you design and build out your kitchen or bathroom in a 3D model to help you visualize how it is all going to come together. Speaking of kitchens, in case you missed the full reveal of ours, click through HERE.

Hopefully I covered everything. In a perfect world I would have stained the wood 10 different shades for you to look at, but you can’t just use any stain on flooring and my flooring guy, however great as he was, he wasn’t interested in that homework since we had already so quickly decided on the stain. But, feel free to order extra samples and do that yourself if you are going for a different look or vibe.

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Emily Henderson

I’m Oregon bred, New York trained and reluctantly adopted by L.A. I’m a home style expert who spends time designing, styling, art directing, writing, hosting TV shows, running and writing this blog, and trying to keep my son (and soon to be daughter) normal in Hollywood. I’m currently Target’s Home Spokesperson and kinda loving every single second of trying to figure out the world of new media.