Nightclub and restaurant designer/architect John Sofio, founder of Los Angeles-based design-build firm Built Inc., often creates statement floors in the venues he designs. He shares some of his strategies for creating floors that make a big design impact and perform well in restaurant environments.
What do you think about first when considering flooring options?
JS: One of the first things I look at is light. You have to consider very carefully what the lighting will be like in the restaurant and what the reflectivity of the flooring might be. Light-colored flooring can be very tricky and can dramatically impact the lighting scenario through the entire space. Color and texture are also big considerations.
And if a client really wants a light-colored floor?
JS: You can reach a compromise. In one of my recent projects, Delilah in West Hollywood, the client wanted a white/black, deco-style marble floor throughout the space, but it would have been too light and bright for the rest of the finishes. So, instead of putting the black-and-white floor throughout, I gave him that vibe in some high-impact areas — the entry, the hallway to the restrooms and in the restrooms. In the main space, I used wide, engineered flooring boards — European white oak stained a dark black — separated by ¾-inch mahogany strips. It’s not just a large black floor; it has some pattern and life to it. We also added brass strips where the wood floor hits the marble and the carpet, which we used in more intimate areas with loose seating. So we’re mixing the materials throughout the space to
create different experiences.
Any new flooring materials that you’re especially fond of?
JS: We’ve been using a lot of engineered flooring. It’s not new, per se, but some of the products that we’re selecting are new designs. One is an amazing natural white oak from Italy. It has an overlay finish on the actual wood and a very stable engineered tongue-and-groove system. We used that with great success recently at Hedley’s, a casual restaurant in West Hollywood, where we did it in a chevron pattern. We always try to create a pattern rather than just laying flooring linearly. The black-stained flooring at Delilah also fits this category. It’s amazing.
What’s one flooring design mistake you see made too often?
JS: Incorrect direction of flooring boards. People typically place boards either perpendicular to the entry, which makes the room feel chopped up and short, or parallel with the length of the room, which can make it feel too narrow and long. I like to install flooring boards at a 221/2-degree angle from the entry. It’s not a harsh angle but seems to make the space expand.
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