The earliest true parquet hardwood floors date to the 16th century when wealthy aristocrats began having it installed over marble flooring by craftsmen who created the effect by painstakingly arranging tiny pieces of hardwood in geometric patterns. Hardwood floors of various types, including parquet in upper-end houses, were the staple for centuries, but American homes began to cover them over with carpeting in the post-war era. During this time, carpet reigned in all but the finest homes, where hardwood flooring of various types was still featured.
All this changed when flooring manufacturers began to mass-produce thin parquet tiles 8 to 12 inches square in the 1960s and 1970s. By creating engineered wood tiles with pieces of hardwood veneer arranged in geometric patterns, manufacturers made it possible for just about anyone to create the appearance of a very expensive parquet floor. And because the tiles used only thin hardwood veneers, the costs of this flooring were very reasonable. The result? Hundreds of thousands of homes suddenly were using parquet tiles, often removing their carpeting to do so.
Change is never-ending, though, and gradually the look of parquet tiles became common and was recognized for what it was—an inexpensive copy of what was once a very expensive floor installed by artistic craftsman. And as new flooring materials, such as plastic laminates, vinyl planks, and porcelain tiles came into vogue, hardwood parquet tiles began their move out of the front of the store and into the back room.
Some style experts have suggested that parquet flooring is poised to make a comeback, thanks to the renewed popularity of mid-century modern styles—the homes where parquet was once so popular. Today, parquet flooring isn't viewed as a cheap copy of old-time crafted parquet floors, but as a retro/vintage tribute to the 1960s and 1970s. And improved products are helping to renew interest in parquet. Rather than veneer construction, most of today's parquet tiles use solid wood, which means these floors can be sanded and refinished at least once. But sources for hardwood parquet tiles are limited, and you may need to search for the style you want.