(BPT) - Who doesn’t want to upgrade the looks, value, functionality or comfort of their own home? From minor tweaks to major makeovers, renovating with hardwood is a sure way to achieve one or more of those home-improvement goals. “Beautifully milled and finished hardwood surfaces offer a variety of colors and textures that no other material truly matches,” says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center. “But most American hardwoods — whether classics like oak and walnut, or less familiar species like sycamore or basswood — are also remarkably durable, easy to work with and sustainably grown.” Here are five hardwood upgrades well worth considering for your home.

Refresh staircase banisters and balustrades

Photo courtesy: Laura Moss Photography

An outdated staircase balustrade — the collective name for the handrail, balusters and newel post — can be replaced entirely or in part with stylish new hardwood elements. DeGraw & DeHaan Architects show one crisp and elegant possibility: A red-oak newel post and handrail, stained to match existing treads and flooring, with balusters painted white to match risers and wainscoting.

Lay solid hardwood flooring

Photo courtesy: Peter J. Sieger Architectural Photography

Solid-hardwood planks have always been the gold standard for residential flooring. But you can create an even bigger aesthetic statement by laying the boards in a sophisticated herringbone pattern — as AWH Architects does with natural-oil-finished oak in this Minneapolis master suite — a traditional style that’s looking very au courant once again.

Install a beverage center

Photo courtesy: AsterHouse Design

If you entertain at home, a built-in wet bar or beverage center — dedicated hardwood cabinetry incorporating a countertop, sink and faucet, and maybe a small fridge — is an amenity worth its weight in gold. AsterHouse Design does it right with clean-lined wall and base cabinets, painted different colors and separated by a solid alder shelf.

Turn a closet into a home office

Photo courtesy: Alan Tansey

With more people working from home, dedicated office space is increasingly a residential necessity. One way to achieve such a must-have amenity even in a small apartment is to transform a closet with hardwood built-ins. Michael K Chen Architecture shows how it’s done with this admirably compact yet surprisingly roomy example in a New York loft.

Create a hardwood feature wall

Photo courtesy: Allyson Lubow

A feature wall clad in hardwood planks or panels is a wonderful way to create visual interest or bring warmth and texture to almost any interior. Neuhaus Design Architecture achieves a cocoon-like glow by using burnished walnut for the custom headboard and bed in this Brooklyn brownstone. Visit www.hardwoodinfo.com for more about upgrading your home with American hardwoods.

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