The tradition of parquetry
Drifting in and out of vogue throughout the generations, traditional block parquetry flooring is enjoying a revival. Throughout the age’s parquetry floors have featured in commercial buildings such as hospitals, factories, museums, libraries and hotels for centuries. These timber floors are hardwearing in areas with heavy foot traffic.
However, there is also a long history of parquetry flooring being installed in more refined and decorative homes all around the world. Records indicate that the first parquetry floors were introduced in 16th century France and originally included wood blocks laid in geometric patterns with the shapes of the individual blocks varying in both colour and size.
Parquetry through the centuries
Before parquetry was used on floors, a technique known as marquetry was used as furniture decoration using small pieces of inlaid wood. Marquetry is the centuries old process of creating pictures out of materials such as shell, stone, and wood. In the 16th century, technological advances allowed marquetry techniques to be applied on a much grander scale. For example, creating patterned floors of tightly fitting blocks of wood. The detailed geometric designs have their origins in historic European palaces and chateaux. The same traditional patterns are still used today.
These timber floors were used to replace grand marble or stone floors that were quarry cut, expensive to install and maintain. The water used for cleaning 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. This allowed more extravagant and sophisticated patterns to be integrated within flooring designs.
Parquetry during the during the 16th century.
The geometric block pattern Parquet de Versailles became the standard flooring for the formal rooms of 17th century French chateaux. More elaborate designs developed for Russian mansions and palaces. The use of parquetry flourished during the building of St Petersburg in the 18th century. The aristocracy commissioned craftsmen to create grand buildings as beautiful as the furniture and art works within them. Parquetry floors remained a good alternative to marble for several centuries being much easier to look after.
Standing the test of time
However, the popularity of parquetry only just survived in contemporary Europe. Particularly, 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. Sadly, many parquet floors were hidden beneath carpets from the 30’s onward with many floors ripped out and destroyed. However, many floors survived and simply remained a hidden for over 50 years.
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. Of these, many integrated different types of woods and finishes. Parquet floors are once again the flooring of choice for many. Traditional parquet patterns are used in both period properties and contemporary builds.
Parquetry timber flooring is a sustainable, high end luxury product, pleasing to the eye and easy to clean and maintain. Every floor is unique and can reflect the preferences of the designer and owner. While respecting the timeless craftsmanship of the past, parquetry is a unique floor system adding quality and value to new and renovated interiors.