Revolutionising Australian Engineered Oak Flooring

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    We uncover the pioneering history and distinctly Australian offering behind Royal Oak Floors’ engineered oak flooring.

    First impressions last. This rings true for Royal Oak Floors founder Kim Harper, who discovered engineered oak flooring for European and Scandinavian markets 20 years ago. Recognising its relevance to Australian architecture and design, Royal Oak Floors became pioneers of the robust and environmentally-conscious flooring on our fair shores. 

    Royal Oak Floors have dedicated themselves to developing colours and finishes that resonate with local architects and interior designers in the years since. It’s a testament that White Smoked – a product developed 15 years ago – continues to be a favourite among leading architects such as Madeleine Blanchfield.

    Royal Oak Floors have also encouraged architects and designers to explore the possibilities of wide-board engineered oak flooring – from the walls to ceiling, to joinery. The creative application of engineered oak flooring was recently showcased in Royal Oak Floors’ new showroom in Surry Hills, Sydney designed by We are Triibe. Together with Royal Oak Floors’ flagship in South Yarra, Melbourne, the Sydney showroom is underpinned by sustainability, craftsmanship and an appreciation of natural materials. 

    In this interview, we catch up with Royal Oak Floors’ managing director Byron Smith to trace Royal Oak Floors’ evolution and why they continue to resonate with the Australian design community.

    Produced in partnership with Royal Oak Floors

    Please take us back to where the Royal Oak Floors story began. What was the importance of founder Kim Harper’s discovery of engineered oak flooring made for European and Scandinavian markets?

    Byron Smith: Royal Oak Floors founder Kim Harper has been prominent in the Australian design community for more than 40 years. With a rich history of delivering high-end timber products to the Australian design market, Kim describes his first impression of engineered flooring as a “beacon of light” moment. He quickly recognised that the product would revolutionise architecture and design in Australia.

    Drawn to the product for its structural stability and environmental benefits, the original offering of colours and finishes was not favourable to the Australian design market. So, taking inspiration from Europe and Scandinavia, Kim developed a range of colours that would resonate with our local architects and interior designers.

    How has this shaped your offering today?

    Byron Smith: Our current offering includes many of the original colours that Kim developed 15 years ago. For example, our much-loved White Smoked was one of the first six colours Kim brought to the Australian market. It has been our best seller ever since. We have kept our finger on the pulse of evolving design themes and introduced new colours over the years. However, our business’ cornerstone is providing a timeless quality product that will serve homes and families for years to come. The people who purchased products from us 15 years ago are now sending their children to us.

    For the past 15 years, you’ve perfected your colours and finishes for the Australian market. Why was this so important to Royal Oak Floors?

    Byron Smith: The Australian design community is among the best in the world. We work closely with the community to ensure our range meets their requirements while also pushing the envelope of design in Australia with colours and finishes never seen before. It has been essential for us to understand how Australians live in their homes and ensure our product meets the requirements of everyday living while elevating the design and appearance of the space. We’ve done this by investing in innovative technologies and robust finishes to develop an offering fit for Australia.

    Could you please highlight Royal Oak Floors’ commitment to sustainability and, equally, health and safety?

    Byron Smith: Sustainability is an inherent benefit of our product. By using only 4-6mm of oak, we get more out of every tree harvested than traditional solid timber flooring. We guarantee that all our raw materials are harvested from PEFC or FSC-certified sources and that our supply chain is monitored at every step to reduce waste and emissions. We know our products are going into people’s homes, so we use only the best adhesives and finishes with extremely low VOC and Formaldehyde emissions to ensure the safety of our customers. All of our products are rigorously tested to ensure our very high standards are met, safeguarding the health and safety of our customers.

    “Kim describes his first impression of engineered flooring as a ‘beacon of light’ moment. He quickly recognised that the product would revolutionise architecture and design in Australia.”

     

    – Royal Oak Floors Managing Director Byron Smith

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    Why do you believe your floorboards resonate with leading Australian architects and designers?

    Byron Smith: With a 40-year history of engaging with architects and designers, we know they look beyond the aesthetic; they are looking to specify products they have complete confidence in. As pioneers in this space, our products stand the test of time.

    Kim’s philosophy is to take the lead, and our commitment to product development is evident in our innovative colours and finishes. We were the first to introduce grey floors to the market. Once upon a time, timber flooring was simply used as flooring. We’ve worked with architects and designers to extend the limits of how the product can be used, including wall and ceiling cladding, detailed joinery, furniture, and lighting.

    What collection is most popular among Australian architects and designers at present? 

    Byron Smith: The Architect Collection has always been the go-to for architects and designers with White Smoked being the undisputed favourite since we started all those years ago. The Architect Collection comprises 11 colours, available in seven different board sizes, making the specifying process easy for architects and designers. While light, natural colours have dominated the market for the past 15 years, we are now seeing a shift to deeper, warmer, and moodier colours like Dark Oak and Mink Grey. European design trends have a significant influence on Australia. As a result, we are seeing increased popularity of chevron and herringbone boards in recent years.

    You recently opened your beautiful showroom designed by We Are Triibe in Surry Hills, Sydney. How does the showroom capture Royal Oak Floors’ ethos and vision for the future? 

    Byron Smith: Sydney was the next logical step in our growth strategy. We have serviced Sydneysiders for more than 15 years from our Melbourne head office. We wanted to create a space where design was the real hero, and our product was used to complement the design. We Are Triibe captured our vision perfectly by pushing the capabilities of our product beyond just flooring, demonstrated across the showroom through every design element. We’ve created an environment to inspire our clients; a space our retail customers can engage with our consultants, or architects and designers can meet with their clients. The showroom is a design inspiration destination.

    How does your Sydney outpost differ from and, at the same time, build on your Melbourne showroom?

    Byron Smith: We deliberately set out to make the Sydney showroom different from Melbourne while maintaining the fundamentals of the Royal Oak Floors brand. Our flagship showroom in Melbourne is also our head office, so it’s a hive of activity and the beating heart of the organisation, whereas the Sydney showroom is a more tranquil space. Working with local designers from within the markets we are operating is vital to us as we want to support local design. The Australian design industry is constantly evolving, so it makes sense that our showrooms evolve alongside the changing design landscape.

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    Royal Oak Floors managing director Byron Smith and specifications manager Melissa McKinnon.

    What’s next for Royal Oak Floors?

     Byron Smith: Watch this space. We have a passion for progress. Over the next 12 months, we’ve got some exciting plans in the pipeline that will reshape our offering while staying true to the Royal Oak Floors brand.

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