Don’t be Floored! Where to Start when Selecting Interior Finishes

There is a lot involved in creating a successful building interior. Whether a renovation or new building, both project types have their own challenges and possibilities. I am often asked: “Where do you start with selecting finishes?” There are many choices to be made (wall finishes, flooring, cabinets, casework, wall base, hardware, accent finishes) and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

For commercial projects I typically begin the finish selection process with the flooring. In general, floors receive the most abuse and need to be selected based on how the space will be used. But how do we decide what kind of flooring? Durability and function come before aesthetics. The first step is to identify how the different spaces are used:

  • What activities occur in these spaces?
  • Is there high traffic or low traffic?
  • Do people occupy the space two hours a day or twenty-four hours a day?
  • If it is an existing space are there conditions that need to be taken into consideration?
  • Is there a set maintenance routine or cleaning requirements?
  • How much does the acoustics in the space need to be taken into consideration?
  • What is the budget?

All of these contribute to the decision of exploring the options of hard, soft or specialty flooring. For hard flooring, some of the options are:

  • Luxury Vinyl Tile
  • Porcelain Tile
  • Rubber Flooring

For soft flooring, some options include:

  • Walk-Off Carpet
  • Carpet Tile
  • Broadloom Carpet

Once the product type has been decided on, then aesthetics can be the focus. Budget and the overall look desired for the space help narrow down the options. SOA often creates a “Vision Tour” where we select a variety of images and present them to a client for feedback. From here we can focus on patterns and colorways. This is also when we can dive deep into the specifications for each product, such as overall thickness, wear layer thickness, nylon type or backing.

Creating the desired look and feel of a space is an exciting and fun process. For the rest of the finishes it’s important to go through this same process in selecting products that appropriately balance functional needs with the desired aesthetics. Don’t be floored by all the interior finish choices – just start with the flooring as the foundation and work your way up!

Featured Resource


Assembling a Building Committee

Assembling a Building Committee

"Getting your Ducks in a Row" E-booklet 2
Download E-Booklet


Email Sign-Up for SOA's
e-newsletter and event information

Newsletter Updates