Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wallpaper and Bamboo

You all thought this blog was finished? Not at all! I still have 4-5 posts to make, each of which should help those building their own modern houses. I'm just a bit behind schedule, because I seem to spend most of my evenings assembling furniture — one of the downsides of moving into a bigger house!

On to the topic of this post. What do bamboo floors and wallpaper have to do with each other? Nothing, but they are both beautifully illustrated in this picture, so I decided to combine the posts.


Wallpaper has become popular again in modern interiors; brands like Graham & Browne and FlavorPaper put out patterns that manage to retain a strongly modernist feel. We loved the idea of adding a few pops of strong color and texture to our otherwise very minimalist interior, so we did three accent walls in wallpaper. Above you see a wall in Graham & Browne Majestic, Hot Pink. We also did a wall in our daughter's room (sorry, no link; Elke found the rolls on a sale table in a random kids store in Antwerp, Belgium), and a wall in our family room in Thistle by Timorous Beasties out of Scotland (sold locally by Ornamo). Here are pics.

Bamboo Flooring

For the bedroom level of our house we wanted a warmer feeling floor than the concrete floors we have elsewhere; our goal was the look of hardwood floors, but sustainable, inexpensive, tough to ding or scratch, and minimal off-gassing. We quickly turned to engineered strand woven bamboo; bamboo is sustainable, and strand woven bamboo has more of a natural wood grain than the vertical grain of traditional bamboo flooring (which looks a bit 90's). Strand woven bamboo is also rock-solid, with Janka ratings of around 3000.

So, we ordered a bunch of samples of products under $4 per square foot. The samples from Cali Bamboo stood out; they were much heavier, thicker, and more solid-feeling than the other products. Cali sells straight to the customer from their web site, which is why they are able to inexpensively sell a similar product to more expensive brands like EcoTimber. Their flooring is also formaldehyde-free. So, we choose to order their product (both flooring and stair treads/risers) in the Java color.

Before ordering, I became a "fan" of Cali Bamboo on Facebook. A hint to those building: become fans of every company or product you're thinking of buying, because they often post discounts! Fortunately for me, a 10% discount code for the Monterey Home Show appeared on their Facebook page just before I ordered, and I managed to save around $500. You may loose street cred when your profile page shows that you've become a fan of, say, the Container Store, but it's worth it.

After a week or so, a shipment of 3.5 tons (!) of bamboo arrived. Just getting that material into the house was quite a challenge (and, unfortunately, resulted in quite a few billable labor hours). The flooring was installed and beautiful in just one day, though, which was quite different than the efforts required for concrete floors. Here are some closeups:

So I definitely recommend strand woven bamboo flooring from Cali, though there are some things you should be aware of:
  1. The stairnose we received from Cali was part of a different production batch, and was dramatically darker than the flooring. Cali made a lot of effort to make it right: they had me send a sample of my flooring to them (at their cost), and they spent weeks going through multiple shipments to color match it. They failed, though, and ended up refunding me the stairnose money. Fortunately, we found a piece of matching stairnose at Bamboo Hardwoods. In general, color variance in strand woven bamboo is high, so that's something you might have to deal with.
  2. Though everyone brags about Janka hardness, note that the easiest way to damage prefinished flooring is to scratch the finish; these scratches don't reach the bamboo that the hardness scale is measuring. Scratches can be removed by re-finishing the floors, but of course this takes time and effort. We've certainly never seen any dings or dents, which is great, but scratches happen.
  3. We saved money by ordering the flooring ourselves rather than through our flooring sub; however, the story is not that simple. We had to pay Logan's for the hours required to bring the flooring (3.5 tons!) into the second floor of the house, while the sub would have included this in his overall materials + install bid. So, it's easy to overestimate the savings of ordering materials yourself.

Finally, the fan you see in the all the bedrooms is the Ball Fan by the Modern Fan Company.


  1. Great pictures. Your floor looks very nice. - Red_Jar

  2. Wallpaper and Bamboo flooring, What a combination! Great resemblance. Thanks for sharing these photos.

  3. I like the Ball Fan! It is so unique and simple. Great designs! Keep it up!

  4. Bamboo is also a good choice if you're thinking of the global environment! And it looks great aswell!

  5. Haha nice bed. This side up, fragile.


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