Herringbone & chevron wood flooring, or wood block and parquet flooring, have become synonymous with uber-trendy interior spaces in recent years – and their popularity only continues to increase. But what is the history behind these versatile patterned floors and why do they continue to be so popular, centuries after they were first used on wood flooring?
So what’s the difference between Herringbone and Chevron wood floors?
Both comprise of pieces of wood of equal size arranged in a zig zag pattern. With herringbone, the pieces are cut in perfect rectangles and then staggered a bit so that the end of one plank meets the side of another – a broken zig zag. The chevron pattern occurs when the wood planks are cut on an angle so that when arranged in a zig zag form a straight line where the ends meet.
It’s perhaps better illustrated in this diagram:
Where it all started
It was a pattern first used by the Romans, who discovered that roads could be made a lot more stable by pointing the bricks in the direction of the traffic.
While the pattern was used in interiors from Roman times though the Middle Ages, it was only in the 16th century that the design began to be used in wooden floors. One of the first examples of wood herringbone can be found in the Francois 1 Gallery at the Chateau de Fontainebleau, which was installed in 1539. It was designed and produced by Italian craftsman whom Francois had hired away from Italy and immediately started a fashion in patterned wood flooring.
From the seventeenth century to the latter half of the eighteenth century, the popularity of parquet floors reached a fevered pitch. Patterned wood floors were laid in castles, palaces and the homes of the nobility and wealthy throughout Western Europe. It was noted that the Palace of Versailles only had one room with a chevron pattern instead of the parquet de Versailles panels that are now so well known.
Parquetry arrived in England in the 17th Century with Queen Henrietta Marie, who married Charles I. She ordered a major reconstruction and redecoration of her official residence, Somerset House, overseen by Inigo Jones, bringing a touch of the French court to England.
Herringbone and chevron wood flooring continued to be a popular choice throughout the 18th and 19th century, most notably in Paris during the Haussmann era when much of the city was rebuilt in a large scale urban planning effort. Many of the new apartments featured herringbone and chevron parquet floors.
After WWII, the popularity of hardwood flooring went into sharp decline. Carpeting became cheap with the advent of synthetic fibres and hardwood was deemed outdated. It wasn’t until the 1990s that hardwood floors rose in prominence again.
A return to a more natural look in recent years has seen herringbone and chevron patterns once again become the wood flooring of choice for many traditional and contemporary schemes.
So which rooms do herringbone and Chevron floors look best in?
These patterned floors were originally used in large spaces and there is no doubt that they add interest and impact as in the image above. However, space is not a prerequisite as the example below illustrates.
The angle of the blocks as well as their width can be changed to give very different effects. For example, a wide herringbone pattern adds impact to contemporary schemes, while skinny herringbone blocks are just at home in urban, industrial schemes as they are in a shabby chic setting.
Mixing colours has also become very popular, with everything from subtle combinations of light shades to eye popping mixes of bright colours.
Whichever combination you choose, you are in good company. Herringbone and chevron wood floors have been cherished for their incomparable versatility for nearly 500 years and will continue to be a staple in interior spaces for the foreseeable future.
Ted Todd offers a wide variety of herringbone and chevron patterned floors, in a wide variety of wood, colours, finishes and widths. Take a look here: https://www.tedtodd.co.uk/design/Chevron/ or https://www.tedtodd.co.uk/design/herringbone/
3. Image via Remodelista
5. The François I Gallery at Fontainebleau, c. 1528-39, via Wikipedia
6. The Queen’s Guard Room at Versailles