Imagine a store the size of a Home Depot -- 90,000 square feet -- that is dedicated almost exclusively to hard-surface flooring like ceramic tile, hardwood, stone and laminate. That is what opened in Lombard this week.
Floor and Decor Outlets of America, which is based in Atlanta, opened its first Chicago-area store at 1000 N. Rohlwing Road in Lombard on Thursday, Nov. 3.
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"Our bamboo flooring department is bigger than most people's entire flooring stores," said Bryant Scott, president of Floor and Decor.
Founded in 2000, the company is rapidly growing in retail sales of solid-surface flooring, Scott said.
"We are unique. There is a not another concept like this out there. We provide consumers and contractors with the lowest prices for high-quality flooring materials and accessories, the broadest selection of hard-surface flooring with approximately five times the selection of a typical home improvement retailer, and the largest in-stock quantities of project-ready products anywhere," he said.
Floor and Decor also sells a full array of tools and related accessories necessary to complete any hard-flooring project. The company now has 27 stores in 15 U.S. markets and sells through its online store at www.flooranddecoroutlets.com.
Prior to its expansion to Lombard, Floor and Decor's closest store was in Columbus, Ohio. Scott said company managers believe it is time to expand further into the Midwest from the coasts, viewing Chicago as an ideal market for Floor and Decor.
"Our sales have been very strong. We have been growing steadily for the last three years, most recently opening additional stores in Florida, Texas and California, as well as in Lombard," Scott said.
Floor and Decor offers competitive prices on everything needed to complete a flooring project -- all under one roof. because of the current economic climate, Scott said his team is convinced "consumers are particularly attracted to both competitive pricing and to the shopping efficiency of having everything needed for a flooring project in one place."
Its presence across the country also puts Scott in a unique position to know the mind of today's customer. For instance, he said, among homeowners who want hardwood or laminate floors, darker wood stains are much more popular than the lighter stains. In addition, the wider planks with a hand-scraped, distressed look are in high demand.
"We still carry the lighter woods and the more traditional planks for those who want them, but this is what is most popular right now," Scott said.
Stranded bamboo is also hot among those wanting wood floors. It has a hand-scraped look and is also environmentally friendly since bamboo replenishes itself quickly.
The larger, the better is today's rule of thumb when it comes to ceramic tile, he continued.
"People used to ask for 12-by-12 (inch) or 16-by-16 (inch) tiles, but now it is more common for them to ask for 20-by-20 or 24-by-24 (inch) tiles," he said. "South Florida is generally where trends in ceramic tile start and we are seeing this look spread across the country."
Traditionally, large tiles like these were frowned upon in small rooms but even that rule is going out the window, he added. You now see very large tiles in rooms of all sizes.
Rectified porcelain tile is also enjoying a surge in popularity. Since it is cut after firing, it offers more consistent sizing than traditional porcelain tile and it has very square edges, which allows for the use of very narrow grout -- another popular trend, Scott said.
Colored grouts are also an exciting option. They are particularly attractive when used as an accent with glass tiles on walls and backsplashes, he said.
Floor and Decor sells more than 100 different types of glass wall tiles, which are very appealing when mixed with stone tiles on walls in kitchens and baths, Scott said.
Specialty porcelain tiles are also being produced to look like hardwood or linen for a very unusual look.
"The wood-look tiles are particularly good for people with dogs that might damage real wood or for rooms that can get quite wet," Scott said. "This product has been smoking hot for us because the tiles are rectangular and they come in a 12-by-24-inch size. You use minimal grout with them and the grout generally matches the tile so that unless you look closely, you can't tell that it is tile, not wood."
Rectangular tile of all looks is also gaining in popularity because it offers a fresh, contemporary look.
"When you travel to California and Arizona, you will see it in lots of upscale hotels," Scott said.
In addition to all of the hard surface flooring and wall tile, Floor and Decor offers a selection of kitchen cabinets and even prefabricated granite countertops that come cut to standard sizes, with their edge treatment already in place. They must still be mitered into place, but Scott said a handyman or a talented do-it-yourselfer can install them.
"We also offer a full design studio with free design services in all of our stores, so there are people at Floor and Decor to help homeowners design their projects," Scott said.