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Fooling the eye: photos of ancient planks

Laminate floormakers are going beyond run-of-the-mill "oak" surfaces to create products that have a patina, character, and history.

Take the Camden Yards Distressed Heart Pine pattern. It's based on the timber reclaimed from the Camden Yards Warehouse in Baltimore that was dismantled to build the city's new baseball stadium. This pattern is one of the Mannington Mills line, started last year with the introduction of its Historic Collection. It replicates woods found in old barns, factories, warehouses, etc.

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"Basically laminate is photography," says Melanie Wood, Mannington's vice president of design, explaining how a photo of rare wood is put under a layer of plastic resin to produce a laminate floor.

"It's a wonderful way to have a room with a look of history, yet with a brand new product."

Formica Flooring has countered with its Heirloom Collection. Ancient Oak, with simulated saw marks and nail holes, and Antique American Chestnut are among the choices.

Formica's design manager, George Gehringer, says that virtually any known wood species can be found by searching veneer houses around the world

"We've gone to digital graphics, where the images are done on a flatbed scanner," Mr. Gehringer says.

"After we have a digital file of the wood samples, we can build our total image from that." For wood laminates, the final composite image needs to be at least 5 feet by 8 feet.

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