Herringbone & chevron flooring (also known as wood block and parquet flooring) continues to increase. But what's the history behind these patterned floors and why do they continue to be so popular?
Herringbone vs Chevron floors
Both are made up with pieces of wood that are equal in size and are arranged in a zig-zag pattern. With herringbone, the pieces are cut into perfect rectangles and staggered so the end of one plank meets the side of another. The chevron pattern occurs when the wood planks are cut on an angle so when arranged in a zig zag, they form a straight line where the ends meet. Better illustrated in this diagram:
Where it started
The Herringbone pattern was first used by the Romans, who discovered that roads could be made a lot more stable by pointing bricks in the direction of traffic.
The pattern was used in interiors from Roman times into the Middle Ages, and it was in the 16th century that the design began to be used in wood 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 (pictured below)
From the seventeenth century to the latter half of the eighteenth century, the popularity of the designs reached a height. The patterns were used in castles, palaces and the homes of nobles and the wealthy of Western Europe. The designs arrived in England in the 17th Century with Queen Henrietta Marie. She ordered a major renovation of her official residence, Somerset House. Bringing a touch of the French courts style to England.
Herringbone and chevron flooring continued to be popular throughout the 18th and 19th century, notably in Paris during the Haussmann era when much of the city was rebuilt in a large scale urban planning revival effort. Many of the new apartments featured herringbone and chevron floors.
After WWII, the popularity of hardwood went into a decline. It wasn’t until the 1990's that hardwood floors started to rise in popularity again.
Which rooms do Herringbone and Chevron floors look best in?
These patterned floors were originally used in large spaces. However, space is not a requirement. 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 as great in urban, industrial schemes as they are in a shabby chic setting.
Whichever combination you choose, you are in good company. Herringbone and chevron floors have been cherished for their incomparable versatility for nearly 500 years and will continue to be seen in interior spaces for the foreseeable future.