Breaking the Mold: See the Winning Floors of the 2020 WFB Design Awards

Source: Woodfloor Business

When asked about creating his winning growth-ring-inspired wood floor, pro Jakko Woudenberg remarked that, in a sense, he and his team had to “invent the wheel.” They weren’t the only ones to break from tradition this year: each of the 2020 WFB Design Award winners embarked on something rarely, if ever, done before in a hardwood floor. Whether it was creating a tree’s growth rings, a porcelain-tile-look on a basketball court, oak fireworks bursts, or a “Hiperdrive” pattern with 85,000 wood strips, the pros recognized in this year’s WFB Design Awards combined expertise with intuition to craft the “wheels” for their original and inspiring floor designs.


Dutch Wood Artist | Schagen, Netherlands

It started with a simple question: Is it possible to replicate a tree’s growth rings in a wood floor? When posited by an architect to a pro like Jakko Woudenberg, there could be only one answer. “Almost immediately, a picture appeared in my head,” Woudenberg says, “and I knew how to make it.” Two years later, Woudenberg’s vision now masterfully surrounds a living Ficus Amstel King tree in the headquarters of a landscape architectural firm in Brada, Netherlands. As he worked on the project, it became more than a floor for Woudenberg. “We call it an artwork now,” he says. “It’s no more a floor.”

In line with his initial vision, Woudenberg ordered 9-by-9-mm strips of oak and teak to bend into the growth rings for the 3,000-square-foot project. “Teak and oak are a good, bendable wood,” Woudenberg says. “My manufacturer produced them. He laughed hard at me when I said what I wanted.” After installing an oak parquet subfloor (the typical substrate used for wood floors in the Netherlands), Woudenberg and his crew of three began gluing and nailing the thin strips about 4 feet away from the central planter, bending each one cold as they went. “We press them into the glue, and then the glue must do the rest,” Woudenberg says.

They alternated installing the strips toward the center and away from it to ensure the curves looked natural and did not become too rounded. It was five grueling weeks to install the strips. “Our knees and backs started to suffer,” Woudenberg says. “But we were determined to finish it!” After completing it and sanding with 50-grit, they advised the GC to wrap up any other work, like planting the giant ficus, that could potentially damage the floor. “To plant the tree, they had to take the dome light off the roof and then lower the tree down with a big crane,” Woudenberg says. His heart skipped a beat when the builder called and asked how much water the floor could handle in case it rained when they opened the roof. “Oh, boy,” Woudenberg sighs. “That was stress! But fortunately, they chose a good day to move the tree, and nothing happened.”

With the tree installed, Woudenberg and his crew returned to trowel-fill and complete the sanding with 80-grit and 100-grit. After applying two coats of oil finish, the growth rings “came to life.” “Because of the curves on the floor, there is also an optical illusion that makes you think that the floor is not flat,” Woudenberg says. “People were touching it to make sure.”

The sense of accomplishment was profound, but they didn’t have time to rest on their laurels (or ficuses, as the case may be): A new challenge was posed when the owner of the firm made a special request to add the growth rings to the building’s two staircases, as well. Just as with the floor, a picture of how it could work popped into Woudenberg’s head. “I knew I could,” he says. “I only had to figure out how exactly.”

Making molds of the portions of the flooring directly above and below the staircases for reference, Woudenberg built two workbenches in his shop to build the treads and risers. EEstairs, the company that installed the staircases, sent him the cut multiplex underlayment of the steps (28 per staircase) and risers. Woudenberg and his team placed the strips of teak and oak over the underlayment, then sanded the stair parts in-shop and milled anti-slip strip slots in the treads before sawing the miter on the risers and steps and gluing them together.


They worked with EEstairs to glue the treads and risers to the staircase. Despite the considerable work put into fabricating the pieces, Woudenberg was still anxious that the flow of teak and oak down the treads and risers wouldn’t match with the floors. “The idea of having made a mistake in my calculations stressed me out so much that it even brought me nightmares,” he says. The moment of truth came, and Woudenberg could rest easy—the flow was perfect.

They then coated the stairs with two coats of oil finish and installed the metal anti-slip strips, wrapping up four weeks of work. Woudenberg christened the masterpiece “Innsaei”—an Icelandic word that means “intuition” or “seeing things from the inside out.” “For me it means that everything is possible if you can imagine it,” he says. “A tree stands for growth and it follows nature’s rules. So keep growing as a person, and listen more to your intuition.”—R.K.


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Abrasive, Adhesive, Filler, Finish: Bona | Nailer: Union Microbrad Tacker | Sander (Big machine): Lägler | Sander (Palm), Saws: Festool | Underlayment: Multiplax | Wood flooring: Albers Parket