Form vs. Function

I have been on hiatus for the past few months and during that time I have done considerable thinking on this topic as it relates to design.  The more I looked at beautiful designs, whether commercial, hospitality or residential the more I saw form trumping function unnecessarily.  Naturally, my design orientation centers on flooring because Frank Miller Lumber produces the finest American hardwood for that use.

In some of the hardwood flooring installations I have seen the floors are spectacular, made better by the fact that the hardwood is sustainable.  Even in the most functionally cumbersome spaces, the hardwood makes a great statement.  Many years ago, in a previous business life, I was hired to run a beautiful brand new country club clubhouse in the desert.  Operations were scheduled to open two months after I was hired and I looked at this award winning building in which I would be working.  After the first walkthrough I started to ask questions about how the building actually was to function as a clubhouse for 200 golfing members.  I was shocked by how many questions had never been addressed, like where the trash would be stored until the once a week pickup.  I had to re-work the design of the building in order to make it function.  The building didn’t open for six months.  The building looked great, but it just didn’t function.

When it comes to beautiful hardwood floors, one needs to carefully assess the environment into which the floors will be installed, the moisture content of the wood and subfloor and acclimating the flooring to the space.  I am aware of an office building whose design called for two story windows streaming UV light directly onto the floors, which in this case were made of a type of lumber traditionally used for decking.  Decking lumber is “air dried”, which means that it is anywhere from 15-25% moisture content, as it will be on a deck outside.  Take that same lumber, put it inside, then let it cook with direct sunlight and you will be able to watch it warp and crack before your eyes. This was a matter of the subcontractor never questioning the lumber choice for the flooring, nor did they ever measure the moisture content of the wood prior to installation.  Needless to say the finger of blame inevitably pointed to the flooring manufacturer, who had no idea of its end use.

In New York I saw another building with beautiful quartered white oak floors installed before all of the plumbing in the upper floors was finished.  While I was on site, there was a major leak of the pipes while traveled down at least 4 floors soaking the floors through to the subfloor.  That caused a major delay in construction, of course.  Who knows where the finger of blame wound up being pointed on that one.

The point to this is that a beautiful hardwood floor is both form and function, as long as the correct wood species is chosen for the space the lumber is correctly manufactured into flooring and handled correctly on the job site.  Once all of these areas are carefully monitored, function for decades is assured.  When you are considering various hardwood species for a project, call Frank Miller Lumber to talk to the experts about your thinking.  They will steer you to the best manufacturers as well as the best species for the job.