Did you know the herringbone tile pattern is named after the herring fish for its resemblance to the bone structure of the fish? Or that the Romans used the pattern first on their roads before it became one of the most popular hardwood flooring designs in the world?
Architects in ancient Rome found that roads could last longer if the bricks were laid pointed in the same direction as the flow of traffic.
Herringbone timber flooring is a type of parquetry, which broadly describes any hardwood floor laid in a pattern. Parquet floors, for instance, also include chevron patterns as well as triangles, squares and even curves.
Herringbone vs Chevron
Both herringbone and chevron patterns have repetitive V-shaped zig-zag formations with even-sized rectangular planks placed at 90 degrees to each other; however, a herringbone floor features staggered planks with the straight edge of one plank aligned with the side of the next, while a chevron pattern is created by arranging planks cut at an angle and placed to meet in a straight line. A herringbone pattern adds a dynamic element to the floor while chevron lends consistency.
The application of herringbone and chevron patterns in wood floors began in the 16th century and became very popular amongst the French nobility and throughout Western Europe. Parquet flooring arrived in England in the 17th century with the trend continuing well into the 20th century as it came to be associated with architectural styles that epitomised luxury, opulence and grandeur.
Hardwood flooring gave way to cheaper carpet options around the 1930s, with many beautiful wood floors remaining hidden under textile floor coverings for almost half a century. Popular interest in parquetry was rekindled in the 1980s with design trends looking towards vintage and retro looks for inspiration in upscale projects. Since the resurgence, popular interest in wood floors has sustained, especially with both herringbone and chevron patterns being favoured in heritage and contemporary designs across residential as well as commercial developments to add an element of timeless sophistication. Timber floors have also caught the designer’s eye thanks to the natural look becoming on-trend in modern interiors.
Herringbone flooring: Materials, colours and sizes
Though herringbone floors were originally preferred for large spaces, modern installations have been successful in adding depth in small areas. Various hardwoods can be used to create a herringbone floor including Red Oak, White Oak, Maple, Sapele, Hickory and Walnut. The distinctive woodgrain and colour of each hardwood add their unique touch to the final design outcome – White Oak, for instance, has a straight grain with light-coloured sapwood and light-to-dark heartwood. Hardwood floors, with proper care, can last for generations.
Designers often use two or more hardwoods to maximise the contrast of colours as well as woodgrains in modern installations. Herringbone planks can also be customised with special borders to create a personalised version of the classic pattern. In areas exposed to water such as bathrooms and kitchens, ceramic or stone tiles with a timber look can be arranged in a herringbone pattern to achieve specific design goals.
Herringbone floor patterns
Herringbone floors can be created using broad or narrow planks – broad planks are perfect for contemporary interiors while narrow blocks fit in with urban, industrial or shabby chic design schemes. Alternating the colours can also create a rich look in contemporary decor plans.
Engineered wood planks, which consist of an engineered wood or hardwood veneer over a hardwood plywood base, come in a wide choice of colours, finishes, textures and sizes, increasing design flexibility and giving room for unusual colour combinations. Bamboo and reclaimed wood tiles are also elegant material choices for herringbone floors.
Solid hardwood planks or blocks come unfinished and require staining, sanding and sealing before installation. Staining can help you achieve the tone you desire or highlight the grains more but keeping it natural is on-trend when it’s hardwood. Popular shades in a herringbone floor’s colour palette include greys, blacks, browns and whites, transitioning from light to dark in colour depth.
Herringbone flooring: Installation, cost and maintenance
Modern herringbone floors are installed using the tongue-and-groove technique. A professional installer is strongly recommended because of the craftsmanship and precision work involved in creating the classic pattern.
The cost of installing a herringbone floor depends on several factors including choice of material – hardwood or engineered wood, hardwood type, floor thickness and finish. This solid French Oak herringbone parquet, for example, costs $99 per square metre and is supplied unfinished. Boral’s parquetry, which comes in a block style, starts at $51 per square metre. Solid parquet is expensive and is priced in the $150-$250 range. Installation will range from $30 to $50 per square metre based on the complexity while sanding and polishing (for solid hardwood) will cost an additional $30-$35 per square metre.
A pre-installation inspection will check and confirm if the existing subfloor is suitable for the new flooring. The flooring can be installed on a range of structurally sound, flat and dry substrates such as plywood, particleboard, timber, concrete or dry screed. The planks have a tongue-and-groove profile and are glued together using adhesive and nailed in place using a flooring nailer. Alternatively, you can use the floating floor method for engineered wood boards.
A natural oil or lacquer coating protects the surface against spills, stains and wear. Regular vacuuming, mopping and cleaning with an approved wood floor cleaner will keep the floor in top condition for years. Besides, the natural ageing of solid hardwood floors lends to greater authenticity.
5 inspiring Herringbone flooring ideas
1. Herringbone hallways
The dynamic movement of a herringbone floor has a welcoming effect in entranceways and hallways of homes. The application of the pattern depends on the dimensions of the space in the foyer. A herringbone floor in a narrow hallway creates the perception of a large space. Larger, rectangular entry halls could juxtapose the herringbone pattern with straight planks or a stone floor for contrast and relief.
In this application below, the classic dark timber floor featuring straight planks is balanced with marble tiles laid in a herringbone pattern, adding a modern edge to a traditional floor design.
www.houzz.com / Herringbone hallways
2. Double herringbone
Traditional herringbone floors are created using single planks. The double herringbone pattern pairs up the planks, creating a bolder impact visually. Get more creative by mixing up the colours, grains, finishes or species for a stunning two-tone effect. A double or triple plank installation not only creates a larger herringbone pattern but also has a more impressive effect.
Herringbone floors are ideal as feature floors – buy it for select rooms of your home and break it up by laying straight planks in other areas.
3. Timber look herringbone tile flooring for bathrooms and wet areas
Wood effect ceramic tiles laid in a herringbone pattern offer an aesthetic but practical alternative to traditional timber or engineered wood flooring options in wet area applications. Bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms are exposed to moisture with wood-based options running the risk of warping and mould. Timber look tiles in ceramic or stone deliver the same timeless design outcome without the hassle of humidity-related problems.
In this bathroom design by Beaumont Tiles, timber look herringbone tiles have been used on the floor as well as the wall to balance the predominant use of white in the palette. Image: Beaumont Tiles.
Image: Beaumont tiles
4. Heringbone tile patetrs connect different spaces in open plan designs
In an open plan layout with distinct elements, a herringbone floor acts as a connecting thread to create a cohesive look and add definition to the large space. Herringbone floors also allow seamless transition between adjoining rooms.
In the Facet House project, the oak parquet floor running from the living room seamlessly merges with white porcelain tiles in the kitchen area with the herringbone pattern tying up the two spaces.
Facet House/ Dezeen
A classic herringbone floor is a statement floor – it never fails to impress; however, resist the idea to use the pattern throughout your home as it can create monotony over time.
5. Feature walls in herringbone pattern
When recreating the 70s modernist-heritage past of the luxury Mercure Hotels in Charlestown during its renovation, Webber Architects positioned Havwoods' Pallido planks on the wall in the reception area in a classic herringbone pattern to create an eye-catching feature. The prefinished (laminate) planks allowed the work to be completed without any operational interruption.
Heringbone tiles and wood flooring and/or floorboards are available in 12mm thick tiles or wood, laminate or vinyl planks in Sydney and Melbourne.