7 Hints to Pick the Right Flooring: Engineered wood vs. Solid Wood? Stark Carpet? or Tiles?

Roomhints interviewed designer Gabriela Gargano founder of Grisoro Designs to learn about choosing the right flooring for a project. We put together this guide to help you understand the difference between engineered wood or solid wood, tiles or to choose carpet such as Stark Carpet.

Hint #1 What are the existing floors like?

Gabriela: “The condition of the existing floors plays a big role.”

For example, Gabriela was one of the designers for this years Holiday House. For this project, the beautiful wood and stone floors (see below) were pre existing and led to be a big source of inspiration for the design of the space.

Painted flooring

Photography by Marco Ricca

Photography by Marco Ricca

Hint #2: Can the floors be refinished vs. adding new flooring?

Gabriela: “I always like to test finish options on existing floors to see what is possible. From thee we can decide if refinishing will achieve our goals or if we need to replace them. I worked on a 1950s home that had old red oak floors and we wanted a light white washed look. If you white wash red oak, you get a pinkish tone. In this situation, I tested a double bleaching process to get the red color out of the oak and followed it with a white wash. It worked like a charm. ***In order to double bleach successfully you NEED good quality wood floors so testing is key.”

Hint #3: What is your budget for flooring?

Gabriela: “In terms of doing new floors, a lot of the decision has to do with the budget. 10-inch solid oak floors are beautiful, but not available to everyone’s budget. Instead of using a low quality 10-inch plank, I would recommend a 3-5 inch plank of higher quality – it will ultimately look more expensive. Another option is to consider engineered floors which can be a budget saver, plus they are prefinished and can also save you a lot of time on install”

Solid Hardwood Flooring

Solid Hardwood Flooring

By: Grato


* Solid wood flooring. It can be refinished many times and is a classic, beautiful option.

* Since they are not prefinished, you can stain and finish them in any way you desire.


* Installation is messy and time-consuming. Since solid hardwood flooring is installed, sanded and finished onsite, the job can take days.

* Solid flooring is not recommended for areas that get a lot of moisture. Such as, installation on concrete slabs or for below grade flooring.

ENGINEERED Wood Flooring

ENGINEERED Wood Flooring

By: Terra Legno


* Engineered wood flooring means it’s made of layers, the top and bottom are solid wood layers but the middle is made of crisscrossed plywood.

* The advantage is that it’s more stable due to this solid core and less likely to expand and contract.


* It comes pre-finished so you need to find a finish you like.

* They typically can only be refinished 1-3 times depending on how thick the top layer of wood is.

To learn more about engineered vs. solid hardwood flooring check out this article.

What is the most popular floor choice you see for your clients?

Gabriela: “Majority of clients favor oak floors – they have a rich grain and take very well to staining. White oak has been the most popular in either a natural or white washed finish, both in herringbone or straight set. With that said, this style of floor has been on trend for a while and I sense that we will start seeing richer, warmer woods popularize again.”

white washed oak flooring

Hint #4: How long are you going to be in the home for?

Gabriela: “If you are going to be in your home for a long time, I recommend solid hardwood floors or a high quality engineered wood that has a thick top layer of wood. The advantage is that you can refinish it over time so if your style changes over the years you can change your flooring accordingly. On the other hand, if you will be there for less than 5 years then this element may be less of a priority.”

Hint #5: What about carpet?

Gabriela: “I think carpet is less common because of the fear factor of stains. However, I do love a beautiful wall to wall carpet particularly in a basement to add warmth. Stark Carpets New York make a beautiful assortment of options at a range of price points; they even offer a protective treatment to help prevent stains. We recently installed a beautiful tweed wool Stark Carpet in a basement and it totally transformed the space with the texture and softness.”

The hint here is to make sure to get good quality installation. Professionals can prevent ripples and even hide seams, which ultimately makes the finished product look luxurious. You can buy the nicest products but if they are not installed correctly it won’t look good. 

 The hint here is to make sure to get good quality installation. 

Hint #6: Any Tips for Homes with kids?

Gabriela: “Another practical tip is to use vinyl wallpaper to add texture and style in a kid friendly way. It’s even washable making it perfect for young families – Thibaut makes some amazing options.

Mosaic Tiles

Mosaic Tiles



* Ability to customize the color to the exact match with your counters/cabinets.

* Custom made creates a wonderful non homogenous look among the tiles.

White Large Fish Scale Tile

White Large Fish Scale Tile

Carrara Tile


* Beautiful marble from Italy.

* Much more affordable than custom tiles and great quality.


Hint #7: Tile flooring?

Gabriela: Tile flooring is another great and often durable option, especially ceramic and porcelain tile” 

Hint: spend more on the labor and choose a less expensive product if you are looking to stay in budget. Hint: its not just about the tile and grout color, but also how your edges are finished, how the tile is laid out and where each row starts and stops. Make sure your installer is qualified and you review your options ahead of time. For example, if you are doing miter edge in your niches make sure the installer is familiar with this process and even ask for a sample. 

Hint: spend more on the labor and choose a less expensive product if you are looking to stay in budget.” 

miter edge


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