The no-no's about using hardwood near a water source are vanishing as more design professionals are saying yes to client requests for the warmth, charm and richness of natural wood no matter where it's used, in the bath, the kitchen, and even the basement.
Rule of thumb: Be sure to protect the surface against standing water and wear, and use it wisely.
- "I recently designed a bathroom that was all hardwood," reports Douglas Wright, of Miller & Wright Architects in New York City. "The only place we used stone was in the shower. Everything else was maple - floor, walls, ceiling." And for greater dampness protection, "we applied several coats of matte polyurethane. If water splatters out of the sink or shower, it doesn't stain anything and with that low-luster finish, the wood looks completely natural."
- Indianapolis kitchen and interior designer Janice Pattee had no qualms about specifying a walnut countertop for the peninsula in a kitchen makeover. "The cabinets were white-painted maple. For contrast, the client chose grained wood." She particularly loved the double ogee edge that made the peninsula look like fine furniture. Though it's mainly a breakfast bar, it often serves as auxiliary work space.
- New York City interior designer, John A. Buscarello, completed a wood-enhanced basement in a Long Island home where dampness was a potential problem because the space was mostly below grade. But according to Buscarello, "The white oak floor is over a plywood subfloor that was built above a liquid vapor barrier applied to the concrete. Several coats of polyurethane were applied to the oak, so the surface is protected and can be cleaned with a damp or dry mop."
- For a Southampton homeowner, Architect Douglas Wright designed a wine cellar entirely of oak. With a floor of dark-stained oak and the walls and ceiling of limed oak, Wright confesses, "I'd never done a wine cellar where every surface was hardwood. When considering wood in areas like this, it's important to make sure the homeowners know what to expect in terms of maintenance and durability. There's always a little humidity in a wine cellar, but once you've protected the surfaces with a vapor barrier, they're fine."