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The Story of Our Herringbone Flooring …



When we bought the house I had zero intention of replacing the original flooring. I have, what many might call, the ‘if you can’t see it in a photo, then it doesn’t exist’ syndrome – it mostly affects life-style bloggers. When the previous owner’s furniture was in, I didn’t notice the condition of the floors.

Emily Henderson_Waverly_BEFORE_Wood_Floor _Living Room Fireplace

The 2″ oak flooring was 126 years old and after years of the elements, and many times being refinished it was absolutely done. When our contractor came in to quote for the job, he said, ‘there is no way this floor can be salvaged’. That was not in my plan (nor the budget). My hope had been to simply refinish them. Sand, stain, easy peasy! You may or may not be able to see in the photos but the floors are insanely bleached/dried from the sun (yes, we are doing LLumar window film to prevent this from happening to our beautiful new floors, just like we did in our old place since we loved it so much).

Emily Henderson_Waverly_BEFORE_Wood_Floor _Dining Room Windows

Emily Henderson_Waverly_BEFORE_Wood_Floor _Living Room_Dining Room Wall

I felt really, really bad ripping out the flooring. They were ORIGINAL. But then our contractor (and everyone else) told us that these floors weren’t particularly unique. They were un-refinishable, replaceable 2″ oak. They were also stained with cat/animal pee and bleached a lot by the sun. Fine. You don’t have to twist my arm. 

I started fantasizing…. Is THIS the time that I finally have a herringbone floor? I’ve wanted one forever, but I truly think it only belongs in older style homes (70 + years) – which I finally had!! If you have a brand new home then go for a new pattern or extra wide straight planks. If you have a midcentury then do something appropriate to that time period because the traditional herringbone belongs in a European style or older world style home. Brooklyn Brownstone? YES. After all, look how beautiful these are:

EMILY_Henderson_Herringbone_Wood_Floor_Inspiration_without text
Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I didn’t really know where to start. I had ordered a lot of flooring from BuildDirect before and their service/product had always been great. But herringbone? Surely they wouldn’t have an option. But they had one on their site, white oak, but with only one simple iphone photo that was seriously not doing it justice. I was skeptical but figured ordering a sample wouldn’t hurt.

When I received it, I was shocked at how good it was. Such pretty wood, with tongue and groove connection and a great scale. Here’s how it looked, unfinished in a little moodboard we created when we started the design process:

Emily Henderson_Home_Wood Flooring_Unfinished Flooring_Moodboard

We LOVED it. Soon after, we confirmed the order and it arrived within weeks in 3-4 weeks (the straight plank normally comes quicker, but this is made to order). Now, one thing to note is that it’s not pre-finished, in other words you have the additional cost of staining, sanding, then staining (and sanding) on-site. This really depends on your square footage but could be anywhere between $1.50 and $4.00 per square foot. We decided to go for it as we loved the look of the wood.

Emily Henderson_Waverly_PROGRESS_Wood_Floor _Side by Side_No Text

In it came and down it went. We let it acclimate for a week (they recommended two but we were RUSHING). If you are doing herringbone, hire a VERY good installer. Our flooring contractor was super meticulous and took a lot of pride in making sure that it was perfect. Also start the pattern the in middle of the room and work your way towards the sides.

We needed to figure out the orientation of the whole house, which isn’t as easy as you think. Sure the living room was easy but what happens everywhere else, once the angles of the walls change? We drew a map and a little guide to help us determine how it would all go down:

Emily Henderson_Waverly_Flooring Plan_Sketch_with floor overlay

There were a few awkward areas where we just used a straight plank to separate the herringbone from the straight – like between the kitchen and entry.

Next we chose the stain color. We wanted it to be medium toned – not too dark. Dark could look amazing but our general aesthetic as you know is light and bright (again, it’s a So-Cal thing). In case you missed how we lightened and brought life back to the houses beams head HERE. One of the furniture carpenters we work with gave me the tip to use Bona sealant (with no color or stain) to simply bring out the color, seal it safely, without making it look darker. We sampled a rectangle on the floor – below:

Emily Henderson_Waverly_PROGRESS_Wood_Floor _Side by Side2_No Text

And it was a unanimous and instant decision. I’m typically REALLY slow at permanent decisions like this, needing at least a few days to feel the confidence to pull triggers, but Brian, Ginny, Mel, Scott and myself ALL agreed immediately that it was perfect (I like how I pretended to make that decision by myself…..)

Emily_Henderson_Living_Room_Progress_Wood_Floors_No Text

We were right! It could have gone darker and would still be STUNNING but what can I say? I like a bright house. You’ll also notice that we put a border around the living room to add a traditional detail. It’s subtle, but a pretty way to finish it off.

Emily_Henderson_Progress_Wood_Floors_Living_Room_No Text

I’m just obsessed. The only time we could take ‘before’ photos where the protective paper was off the floor but the furniture wasn’t in yet was the morning that we moved in, at the time of day when the sun was BLASTING. So I’m sorry it’s not more clear but over the next few months and years you’ll see ample usage of this beautiful floor.

Emily Henderson_Entry_Flooring_Door_Red_Process_Entry 1

Above and below you can see the transition where the hardwoods went from herringbone to straight plank.

Emily Henderson_Entry_Flooring_Door_Red_Process_Entry 3

We also replaced the stairs after realizing that the subfloor was practically falling apart. It now no longer squeaks or creeks and man, now that we are living there with two kids and realize how much sound carries, I am SO grateful that we fixed them. Charlie all of a sudden insists on keeping his door open when he sleeps, and those creeks would’ve ruined my nights/life.

Emily Henderson_Entry_Flooring_Door_Red_Process_Entry 2

Now in the entry/den and upstairs we opted for straight plank over the herringbone. We were tempted to do the herringbone but honestly we felt that it should be a feature in a couple special rooms, not in the whole house. It’s not that we would get sick of it, but more like it’s so special that we didn’t want to get too used to it and have it everywhere so that we stopped noticing it.

Emily Henderson_Home_Wood Flooring_Before Move in_Upstairs_EDITED

But as you can see the straight plank is just as pretty and simple. It’s white oak, practically unstained (sealed with Bona).

Emily Henderson_Flooring_Elliots Room_Upstairs 2

I love both the straight and the herringbone so much and so does every single person who comes over. This is how the master was looking after everything was finished and before we moved in.

Emily Henderson_Flooring_Master Bedroom_Upstairs 1

I have zero regrets with the flooring. NOT ONE. We nailed it (pun, intended) and I’m so glad that we took the risk and replaced that lovely old, falling apart wood with an even lovelier, stronger wood that will keep the house alive and sound for so much longer.

Emily_Henderson_Progress_Wood_Floors_No Text

Ok, here’s the pertinent information: We used: 707 square feet of Herringbone (103 in kitchen, 178 in dining room and 426 in living). We ordered 12% overage for a total of $791.84 of Herringbone for a total of $3, 674.88 (materials, not labor)

For the Straight Plank, we needed 1075 sq ft including 10% overage for the rest of the house, + 160 linear feet for the border, totaling: $3, 472.90.

So how much was the labor? I wish I had an easy answer for you. It was $18k for the entire house – to demo, remove, repair all the sub-floor – which was extremely damaged and rotting, – plus install, prep, sand, stain, sand, stain, seal, etc. This included both floors and the stairs – roughly 1800 square feet(ish). God, that’s a $10 a square foot for installation! Nuts, but definitely worth it.

I loved this house before we did anything to it, but now it feels more solid and secure, not to mention bright and airy. When every step you take is creaky, squeaky and loose with nails, that charm quickly turns into worry. Now we worry no longer.

Emily Henderson_Home_Wood Flooring_BEFORE_AFTER_Livingroom_Side by Side

These before and afters are making me so happy. That living room is looking gorgeous (see how we refinished the faux painted beams here). You can really see some of the damage in the below pic. I would say it is a vast improvement.

Emily Henderson_Home_Wood Flooring_BEFORE_AFTER_Dining Room_Side by Side

The entry area into the kitchen looks brand new as well. In case you missed the post where we talked about how we rearranged the layout click through HERE for the upstairs, and HERE for the main floor.

The upstairs honestly looked great before. Had we been able to refinish it we would have:

Emily Henderson_Home_Wood Flooring_Before_After_Elliots Room

But the after is nice, too  (plus we repaired all the windows so that we could actually open them!)

The painted brown doors bummed me out (please note, these were PAINTED not stained) so we painted them white and the upstairs hallway looks 10 times the size.

Emily Henderson_Home_Wood Flooring_Upstairs_Before_After_2

I asked my contractor how much more installing herringbone is than straight plank and he said about 30% more labor, and if you purchase unfinished like we did then the average cost of staining hardwood is between $1.50 – $4.00 per square foot. Ultimately you’ll want to get a couple quotes to compare, but hopefully that gives you a good idea of how much replacing or installing herringbone or straight plank costs.

A huge thanks to BuildDirect for gifting their beautiful wood. They were so easy to work with from start to finish and their selection, customer service and availability to answer any of my questions along the way made the process so easy. I’m happy to say that so many people have already purchased it from my instagrams and insta-stories and people love it. They also have just launched their new Design Center – Kitchen Edition, which is a such a great tool to help you design and build out your kitchen or bathroom in a 3D model to help you visualize how it is all going to come together. Speaking of kitchens, in case you missed the full reveal of ours, click through HERE.

Hopefully I covered everything. In a perfect world I would have stained the wood 10 different shades for you to look at, but you can’t just use any stain on flooring and my flooring guy, however great as he was, he wasn’t interested in that homework since we had already so quickly decided on the stain. But, feel free to order extra samples and do that yourself if you are going for a different look or vibe.

I’m sure there are still some questions so let er rip! But in case you are new, head on over to: “How we refinished our wood beams”, “Our Master Bathroom Plan and Sneak Peek“, “Our New Jack and Jill Plan“, “Fresh House, Fresh Life“, “Our Modern English Country Kitchen“, “Vintage Purchases for the New House“, “Ideas for the Most Family Friendly Backyard“, “Our New Kitchen Design Plan“, “Kitchen Cabinet and Appliance Layout“, “Our Main Floor Demo Plan“, “What We Painted Our Trim“, “Painting Our Woodwork“, “Layout for the New Living Room“, “Ask The Audience“, “Our New Home!

Fin Mark


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Emily – your floors look gorgeous! I just built a new house and used herringbone on the first floor but not throughout as – like you – I wanted it to look special! I love it and was so impressed with my flooring guys as well. Enjoy your new home and thank you for sharing it with us!


It is so beautiful Emily! I have always been obsessed with herringbone floors but I have never seen anyone break down how you actually go out and make them happen, they always felt like unicorn floors that normal people could never possibly have 🙂 thanks for always sharing the dirty details, and congrats on your beautiful new home, it’s so fun to follow along!



Your house looks beautiful! Absolutely love the work you have done!


I love your blog. You make everything post easy to understand and beautiful to look at (except that style quiz 🙂

Thank you for being a great resource and source of inspiration and knowledge.


I love it! Also, I need to say how much I love that you give costs for us. It helps me figure out what is feasible and what to prioritize for my own remodel. Thank you!


Cara – I agree, it’s good to see some hard figures. I’m at the tail-end of planning a big renovation (first time for me) at our home, and have learned so much through the process. Most importantly, always get more than one bid, and try to find a contractor through a referral (we own two blueprint shops and our GC is a referral from a well-established architect client of ours….so he comes to us well-referred and knows where we’re coming from (i.e., don’t mess up b/c we are connected to the architect who leads him to many projects!). Another contractor’s… Read more »


KM, girl, I am right there with you on the so-obsessed-my-husband-refuses-to-discuss-desgin-choices-with-me front. And he’s not an unreasonable or disinterested person, but I go over everything to the minutiae when making big design decisions. Several times. But I’m saving him the “I regret my choices and want to redo this” conversation later down the road, so I’m totally ok with it.

YOU GUYS, i’m so with you. I just booked a design meeting with Brian henderson next tuesday. That’s how we have to do it. All i want to do is design our new house but he HAS to be involved because if he finds something wrong about my choices, then i’ll feel bad, resentful, etc (and he’s also a super reasonable and obviously wonderful man). ANYWAY, my badgering him for his opinions, and his ‘can we talk about it later’ responses has gotten to the point of me setting up a design meeting – with my team and him to… Read more »


Haha! My husband just looks at me and says quickly “house house house house house house house house house house”……met with the contractor today as our start date is real close, and I realized how ready I am to just DO THIS! While it was amazing to have free reign on all design decisions (my husband left it all up to me), it can almost be overwhelming b/c there’s so much out there.

Oh my gosh, my husband and I are the same way!


I am in the process of selecting new hardwood floors (1600 SF for our four main living areas) and I have brought home at least 15 samples from local vendors – the samples always look and feel different once in the space. I can’t imagine buying the material from an online resource; their samples cannot be as large as the samples from stores (maybe 12″ x 24″ and heavy!). My last trip around town with the winning hardwood sample had me at the slab yard, bringing together the cabinet sample, flooring sample, drawer pull, and marble slab……seeing it all together… Read more »

OOh good luck!!


Looks excellent Emily! Lays a beautiful, sturdy foundation to the rest of your styling. Love the kitchen, the direction laid there against the island strikes a sense of space. I feel you completely with the process – I laid herringbone (or parquet as we call it in England!) throughout our London Victorian 1-bed garden flat (built 1890) when after removing the existing laminate, the original floorboards were shot and no good to refinish. After getting over that, I like you thought hang on, how about parquet?! Always loved it, and we had the big moulding shutters and cornice and ceiling… Read more »


Ah, herringbone. Our centuries old apartment in Geneva, Switzerland had gorgeous – but old, and in some places worn down from the footsteps of hundreds of people over their life, herringbone floors and I never got tired of looking at them. Even now, 30 years later, their image pops into my head every now and then (I know, it’s weird, but I loved them that much). I would love to have them again, but as you stated, it has to be an older style home. Now I will spend the rest of the day thinking about those old floors! (That’s… Read more »

i am in LOVE with those floors. i noticed in yesterday’s post, but couldn’t believe you didn’t mention them, even in a “we’ll talk about them tomorrow” sort of way. i kept scrolling up and down to be sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. gorgeous!


When can I move in?! It looks so cozy!


You’re right, you guys totally nailed it. Thanks for the inspiration and for the cost breakdown, we are considering replacing our floors and it so incredibly helpful to see the cost!


“Nailed it” is right, they look fantastic. Quick question – which finish did you use in the Bona product? I use their cleaning products and love them. Filing this product away for future reference…

It was the most flat finish they had, but i forget which!


Stunning floors and worth every penny!
I’m not clear on the Bona vs. stain situation . Are the floors simply sealed with Bona (how many coats?) or did you use some sort of stain before sealing them?

OH sorry, no stain. JUST sealant. They did 3 rounds of sanding/sealing to make sure that it is absolutely impervious to water/liquids. xx


Hi Em! Tanti auguri on the new house. I heart those floors!!! Long time reader first time commenter/questioner: I’m getting white oak floors as well (plank) and want to use Bona sealant only. My floor guy is telling me that there will be a slight white sheen over time that will dull the color of the wood because as a water based product Bona isn’t not fully clear. Did that come question/issue come up at all w/your floor guy? Or is mine messing with me?


I love that! Our floors here in our 1905 apartment in Germany are herringbone and I love them.

Jill T.M.

Why did you decided to do the straight plank at an angle? I like it, but I’m just wondering.

Are you talking about Birdie’s room? You’ll see in an overall of her room. Her room has no right angles so it is straight with the main wall that you don’t see 🙂

Jill T.M.

Gotcha! Thanks.


Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!


I knew your new home would be beautiful, but this is stunning! I love it, so gorgeous!


LOVED this floors. I’m from Buenos Aires and in here is pretty common to have herringbone floors in older buildings. One “fun fact” that still makes me cry a little: The couple that bought my old apartment 6 months ago REMOVED THEM (They were in pretty good condition too!) because they prefer white porcelain floors (which I like for a lobby or maybe a kitchen, but not for a living room and bedrooms… so “cold”). I need to “let it go”, it’s their house now… but COME ON!!! Now, looking at your floors, I wish I would have refinished them… Read more »


Love your floors and your house! I can only imagine how hard it is to pick all the different things in a turn around time as quick as you had on your whole house. I had a hard enough time with just a kitchen and bathroom planned out in months.

One quick question, which I totally asked on another post, but am still dying to know… who is the placeholder light by in the bathroom? I’m looking to replace my bathroom light (of which I’ve already grown tired).


Looks awesome. Is the finish of the sealant satin? Do you have an opinion between satin, semi-gloss and gloss?


two things
1. the best thing decision you ever made was to replaces the floors. I live in a ’30s colonials oozing charm, but the squeaking floors drive me BAT. SHIT. CRAZY.
2. I LOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE the non-white bar stools in the kitchen.
oh, and one more.
3. talk to me about your sliding barn door. that hardware is delicious.


follow-up question, is your living room dark in the evening with no overhead lighting? or do the sconces add enough light to the room?


Question: What sheen of Bona did you go with?? Satin, semi-gloss or gloss? It looks lovely! Thanks!


Appreciate it all – appreciate the pricing and thoughts on labor, as well!


I love love LOVE that herringbone floor. Despite my house being a mid-70s blah, I would love to have it. However, I’m glad I didn’t know about herringbone floors when I put mine in. I would have wanted them and probably would have had to hire someone instead of having my father put in the floor (straight planks) for free. 🙂

GAH!!! It looks SO GOOD, and thank you for the cost breakdown as always!! #lovetransparency



Stunning! Would you mind sharing the master bedroom paint color you used? It is just what I’m looking for


Ditto–please share!


I adore this, these are my dream floors!! One question, as installed will the bona have to be re-sealed over time??

Hey Em! I love the floors. I was wondering, do you think it would be too much trouble to create a tab or category on your website for your new house? I reference posts often, and would love to see it all in one place!

Nicole M.

All the heart eyes …. seriously, you totally nailed the bright and airy feeling you were aiming for … the house looks so much bigger and really brings the outdoors in! Overall the house is a beautiful cohesive design, but the barn door seems totally out of place. I am sure you did it as a space saver, but it just feels really odd to me. I can’t wait to see how this house evolves … thanks for taking us along with you 🙂 And best of luck on the sale of your first house!


Just had to comment that the floors are absolutely stunning!! Love, love, love the herringbone so much. I had wondered why you chose not to do the whole first floor with them, but I agree – it makes them even more special!


do you have a source for the bottom right inspiration pic? THANKS!


Emily! These floors are beautiful! When you mentioned not staining them and just doing sealer I was worried – would it look too Scandi for a tudor-style home? But they don’t! They look amazing!! That white oak is really really beautiful and dimensional!!! I saw you have a barn door leading to your laundry room – I don’t know if this is “post” worthy but what are the rules on barn doors??? What types of houses are you allowed to put them in?? With Fixer Upper making them a huge fad all the ladies I lunch with have installed them… Read more »

Karen T.

I think the new floors are beautiful and TOTALLY justified. The dining room before picture–blech! (Cat pee=odor for life.) And thanks (as always) for the cost breakdown. Love reading along with all your new house design escapades!

The floors look beautiful! I love the herringbone, but you’re so right – it doesn’t work everywhere. It fits so well in your home. Also, I love the doors & hardware – sounds like they were already in the house, but I they look so good and fit the home so well.


Beautiful floors! Really brightens everything up and love the color but I especially love that sneak peek into the kitchen and I can see those stools are not white! Now those look perfect in the kitchen! Sorry couldn’t help myself, I’ve been waiting to see non-white stools in there.

I love reading through these posts!! They’re so interesting and I love hearing the whole process. The new floors look beyond gorgeous, and it’s great that your intention was to keep with the original, but shit happens and you do what you gotta do (and get your dream floors!)

Love following along!
xo christa |


Can you share the source for the master bedroom light fixture? I love it!!

Thanh Dillon

EH cab you tell me what paint colors you used in your living room & dining room? Thank you!

Caitlin D.

These floors are so stunning! It’s amazing how much the lighter stain/no stain brightens the house so much. I’m sure they will be included in a later post, but I’m dying to know where the bedroom light fixtures are from!



LOVE the foyer flooring matches the angle of the herringbone. It so pretty and attention to that detail is just so special! Incredibly beautiful, high impact yet simply, traditional but timeless. Love!!


Emily, that flooring is STUNNING!! You are giving me ideas for my own floors, which are also over 100 years old and need to be redone.

SO gorgeous! Light, bright & fun. Love.


It looks terrific. I would love to know how much you spent in renovations, in total, just roughly.


The floors look gorgeous. I think the choice of Bona sealer was a good one. Love seeing the process.


crushed. worth every penny.

Amy E Jones

Your house is perfection. I love every. single. thing. about. it.

(I saw Joslyn Taylor of Simple Lovely type a sentence that way once and it stuck with me!)



One of the photos didn’t load for me and the thumbnail had the photo file name, which I believe contained the name of your street. Just thought I would let you know since I don’t think you want your address getting out there!


SO PRETTY! They really are gorgeous! If this were my house, the orderly side of my brain would have thought they needed to be one way or the other, but I love those pics where they transition from the herringbone to the straight. It just looks “right”.


Just curious: what IS an appropriate floor choice for a midcentury home?


Just straight planks probably? That’s what’s original to our MC house at least 🙂


I was surprised to read that herringbone is appropriate for old houses only. But I am in Europe. There are a lot of herringbone floors here in appartments built in the 60s and 70s.

I am obsessed with white oak flooring + herringbone lately! Emily, your home is looking like my dream home– it is so gorgeous, with the beams, unique latches on the doors, openness, and don’t get me started on your kitchen. So happy for you that you’re creating this wonderful place for your family!!


Love the floors, and love that you didn’t paint the fireplace or the beams (painting brick and stone is my biggest pet-peeve)! Good work Emily! Great choices and beautiful finish! I recently had installed non-stained, red oak floors and can say that with sun and time the tone will deepen a bit, but it just gets richer and more beautiful in my opinion (UV film on the window will help keep it lighter).

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