What's replacing wooden flooring? These are the 5 chic alternatives designers are switching to

Wooden flooring has been the go-to for years, but designers are seeing a shift back to softer flooring choices

What' replacing wooden flooring
(Image credit: Brooke Copp Barton/TR Studios/Future)

Wooden flooring has been the flooring choice for what feels like forever. It took over carpet long ago, but trends seem to be shifting again and we are noticing other flooring choices are starting to replace the ever-popular wooden flooring. 

Of course, wood flooring is a classic. It will always be on trend in some form or another, but recently it's like we have all realized there are other options out there. Designers are turning to other types of hard flooring – concrete, tile, stone – and there's even a bit of a revival going on with carpet. The once-shunned flooring choice is now being embraced once more, albeit in cooler, sleeker forms but it is being used as an alternative to wood.

We asked designers for their take on what's replacing wooden flooring and what flooring they are choosing to use instead.

What's replacing wooden flooring?

Wood flooring, just like carpet is never going to truly go out of style, but tastes and trends are forever shifting, so while the love for wood is still going strong (as designer Kati Curtis says, 'I would never replace wooden flooring with anything!') there are other equally chic, equally practical options out there.

'I think real wood flooring will never go out of style and is classic and there is no replacement for quality in that sense; however, we do like to mix it up in some spaces and find that it fun to add a tile in bathrooms, a powder room, a mudroom or a kitchen,' says Brittany Wurzak Hakimfar, lead designer at Far Studios. 'Recently we did a herringbone brick-style tile in a mudroom that looked so fun and is also super durable, we have also used concrete tiles in a laundry room and this is a great look that adds some patterns and style to an otherwise maybe boring space.'

1. Concrete

Dining nook with banquette and concrete flooring

(Image credit: TR Studios)

Concrete was once synonymous with industrial decor but it's really branched out into other styles, especially modern rustic spaces that are all about the texture. It's a great flooring option too – hardwearing, easy to clean, and works a dream with underfloor heating. 

'A great alternative to wooden flooring is poured concrete,' suggests Tom Rutt, founder of TR Studios and designer of think dining room. 'The main reason that people choose a timber floor is often for the natural beauty and character it brings to a space. Poured concrete has similar qualities albeit with a slightly more industrial and modernist feel.'

'It’s a great option in both period and contemporary interiors and the natural nuances in tone and texture really add personality to a space. We used poured concrete in this project. It was the first time we had utilized it and it created a cohesiveness across the entire open-plan ground floor. We installed underfloor heating, so it wasn’t cold to the touch, and added rugs to act as room dividers and layer in texture and color.'

2. Patterned tiles

Dining look with red seating and blue and white wallpaper

(Image credit: Brooke Copp Barton)

Floor tile ideas can give just as much interest, if not more, than wooden flooring. And in rooms that are prone to spills and splashes, like kitchens and bathrooms, it can be a far more practical choice too. However, we are actually seeing a design trend for tiles being used in softer spaces like bedrooms and living rooms to bring in a rustic, Mediterranean vibe. This look works really well with a worn terracotta tile, with rugs layered over. 

But for more traditionally tiled spaces, you can't go wrong with a patterned tile. They add character to a room that can otherwise be quite practical, as designer Brooke Copp-Barton explains, 'I love to use a patterned tile on a floor and as in this case layering pattern upon pattern with wallpaper and fabrics too. Think it makes for an eclectic look and perhaps brings an element of the unexpected and I like the energy it brings.' 

You can still add some softness underfoot too by throwing down a kitchen rug.

3. Natural stone

slate floor in rustic vintage kitchen with red rug

(Image credit: Future/Darren Chung)

'Flooring material choices are so dependent on an individual space, but I have noticed recently a trend toward natural stone floors,' says Kathy Kuo. 'Stone flooring adds a coolness to any space and, like wood floors, brings a beautiful element of the outdoors inside, but it does so in a way that feels modern rather than rustic.'

Stone is as classic as wood too, and as versatile. You can find a stone to suit any style, from super dark slate (works perfectly in a country kitchen) to a light and luxurious marble. Do just be aware that stone floors can be high maintenance, cleaning stone floors regularly is important to make them last and looking their best. Of course, wooden floors come with their flaws too, so still a great option if you are looking for an alternative. 

4. Cork

Sideboard with neutral minimalist decor

(Image credit: Future)

We are seeing cork being used more and more in the world of interior design. It's modern, it's cool and it has the added benefit of being eco-friendly building material. It can be a far more affordable often to wooden flooring too. 

'Wood flooring will always be a stalwart of design, but lately, I'm using more cork flooring - particularly in basement remodels.' explains Bethany Adams

Cork has some very similar properties as wood too, you still get that irregular, organic, natural feel and just like wood cork flooring will add warmth, both in the color but it's also a great natural insulator. And much like wood, cork doesn't love moisture. So avoid using for your bathroom flooring.

5. Carpet

Minimalist white bedroom with jute carpet

(Image credit: Future)

Who would have thought it? Wooden floor being replaced by carpet. But while carpet may have been shunned for the last few years, it is making a slow and steady comeback. A lot of interior design trends have been all about creating soft, cozy, more homey spaces, and what's more homey than a carpet?

Of course, we aren't talking super high-pile, hard-to-clean, high-maintenance carpet, the most on-trend way to do carpet now is with flat weave, natural fiber carpets. Materials such as jute, sisal, and seagrass. They are so low pile they are almost like having hard flooring, but you still get all that lovely texture and comfort.

These kinds of natural carpets are perfect for more minimalist bedrooms and living rooms where you want the softness of a carpet but the sleekness of wood flooring. 

'Jute carpets are the only way to do carpets right now,' says Homes & Gardens' Editor in Chief, Lucy Searle. 'They are chic, contemporary, and unlike traditional carpet really hardwearing and easy to keep clean.'


Are wooden floors going out of style?

Wooden flooring with always be in style. It's still probably the most on-trend flooring choice. But the on-trend styles do change, right now patterned wooden flooring is very on trend, parquet flooring in herringbone patterns gives the natural textures and colors of wood but the interest and the pattern of tile. It can work with so many styles too depending on the layout and the shade you choose. Lighter wooden flooring is also very on-trend since paler woods are very in line with the ever-popular Scandi minimalist aesthetic.

3 stylish rugs to cover a wooden floor

Looking for a quick way to soften and update your current wooden flooring? We've picked out three stylish rug options that will instantly up the coziness. 

So while wooden flooring is always going to reign supreme, we can see a slow rise in other, more creative choices. Cork and concrete are definitely going to increase in popularity as they add so much interest to a room and do have very similar qualities to wood. As for carpet making a comeback? We are here for it, it's about time bedroom floors were soft underfoot again. 

Head of Interiors

I am the Head of Interiors at Homes & Gardens. I started off in the world of journalism in fashion and luxury travel and then landed my first interiors role at Real Homes and have been in the world of interior design ever since. Prior to my role at H&G I was the digital editor at Livingetc, from which I took a sabbatical to travel in my self-converted van (not as glamorous as decorating a home, but very satisfying). A year later, and with lots of technical DIY lessons learned I am back to writing and editing, sometimes even from the comfort of my home on wheels.