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Imported Wood at Home

As people become more attuned to the practical and aesthetic advantages offered by imported and exotic wood species, they find themselves experiencing it in more and more physical spaces and emotional spaces throughout the day.

Home Sweet Luxury Condo

Jill Riley, Designer with McGrath Associates

“The popularity of exotic hardwood floors has been on the increase, so we're careful to show off the beauty of these woods in our model units.”

Jill Riley, Designer with McGrath Associates

Downtown Madison, Wisconsin, has been undergoing an upscale building boom in recent years. The state capitol building – second only in scale to the Nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. – stands authoritatively on an isthmus between two scenic lakes, and the area has become a magnet for developers of luxury condominiums, office buildings, and trendy bars and restaurants.

In exchange for giving up greater square footage of a traditional home, condo owners usually opt for luxurous materials like granite or engineered stone, tile fireplaces, designer paint schemes, and of course, exotic hardwood floors.

"There’s definitely a draw for people who want to live in the heart of the city, but I wouldn’t say it’s easy to profile them,” says Jill Riley, designer for McGrath Associates, a Madison-based developer with several projects in the vicinity. Some are empty nesters. Some are younger professionals. Some are retirees. “The one thing that many of them do have in common is that they’re well-educated, and they’ve done their own research about the materials they want to have in a condo. They are willing to forego the square footage of a traditional house in exchange for location and luxurious surroundings, so we try to give them a custom home right downtown.

“The popularity of exotic hardwood floors has been on the increase, so we’re careful to show off the beauty of these woods in our model units. Brazilian cherry and Santos mahogany in particular are very popular right now. “And from a practical standpoint, these hardwoods stand up much better to the foot traffic in model condos, particularly with narrow-heeled women’s shoes.”

“These people are very design-oriented and want up-to-date finishes,” says Becky Tauschek, designer for Floor360, a Madison flooring dealer that supplies McGrath’s and other downtown projects. “This usually isn’t their first home, and they know they want something different. Living downtown is a different way of life, and they’re going for higher quality finishes and more natural products, getting away from stained woods even on cabinets. It’s a different person, a different way of life, and they want ‘nice.’

“The desire for richer interiors and colors is a big trend, but they want more natural dark woods, not wood that’s stained to look dark. The grain of these exotic woods is so different than oak, which was the prevalent flooring choice in this region. These days, people really seem to gravitate toward the woods that have natural beauty. “People are more educated about the properties of these woods, their hardness, and the ease of care,” says Tauschek. “They’ve also usually checked out the sustainability of these species. Madison is a very, very ‘green’ town, and knowing that these floors can be harvested responsibly is a big plus to consumers. All of our floors are certified, and we let our customers know that when they buy them. It’s an economic positive for the place of origin, not an environmental negative.” The same sensitivities are reflected in the way Riley’s models are furnished.

One unit mixes a domestic maple floor with exotic Southeast Asian furniture made from teak, Sheesham rosewood from India, and bamboo. Natasha Vora, owner of Indo Cara Global Home Furnishings, carefully sources her furniture from companies she knows use only responsibly harvested timber. She knows because she makes a point of personally visiting and sizing up all of her potential suppliers before she’ll do business with them. “I had experience with importing materials for a large company for which I worked which gave me a head start. I did a lot of research and spent a lot of time with vendors before I picked the ones with whom I was comfortable dealing. I learned about the certificates they are required to have, and I make sure I see them before I’ll do business with them. “I’m proud to be able to tell my customers that I’ve seen the furniture being made, and I can see that my confidence in my suppliers makes a difference to them.”

Copyright© 2006 by the International Wood Products Association. Published by Bedford Falls Communications, Inc. and circulated to an audience of 20,000 architects, designers, distributors, manufacturers, and users of imported wood products in North America.

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