Nestled beneath Silberman's wicker furniture and accenting her rich russet and ginger decor is a floor of golden-beige bamboo. The material, which is harder than cherry, walnut or oak, yet softer than hickory and pecan, is actually considered a grass plant because of its intricate, turflike root system and regeneration capabilities. When made into a floor, the nodes are ironed out, giving the bamboo a smooth finish and random design pattern.
"It's certainly a conversation piece," Silberman says. "It's different enough to make people wonder what it is."
Silberman is not alone in turning to bamboo. Many Cleveland-area businesses and homeowners are looking for alternatives to plank wood floors, notes Thomas Lee Randleman, owner of an eponymous design firm in Shaker Heights.
"Instead of following the trends, homeowners are veering toward designing with more personal charm," Randleman says. "Today, people travel abroad more and find exotic styles they like. There are many exotic woods available and elaborate parquets being done, but who would have thought of bamboo? It's classic and doesn't say, 'Look at me!' yet it's refreshing and adds a jolt to the typical design."
The appeal of bamboo, besides the fact that it costs only a little more than oak and slightly less than sugar maple, is that it's considered environmentally friendly, explains Carl Hammer, director of Midwestern sales development for BamStar, a division of the Beachwood-based lumber importer Ellis International.
"Because it's one of the tallest and fastest-growing grasses, it can be reharvested every three to five years, and has a variety of uses from musical instruments and screens to kayaks and bridges," he says. "The Chinese, in particular, have put it to a wide number of uses and consider it a sacred plant."
Locally, bamboo flooring also can be spotted painted red in the children's section of Saks Fifth Avenue in Beachwood, and in Chico's stores in Shaker Square and Chagrin Falls.