Choosing Hardwood Floor Colors: Everything You Need To Know

By Joe McGuinty
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Hardwood flooring is not exactly cheap, nor is it easy to install. Putting in new floors is a big decision for any homeowner, which can make or break the look of your space. And while all wood flooring variations kind of look the same at first glance, they’re vastly different when spread out across the floor. 

This is why you need to make sure to make a decision you’re happy with—it’s not every day that you can take out the flooring and put it in a new color. Removing the furniture and putting it back alone takes up a whole day. 

Here’s our ultimate guide to choosing the hardwood floor color that’ll work best for your space. 

Initial Considerations

1. Furniture 

Think of this as a chicken and egg situation, except with flooring and upholstery. Are you installing the floors into a bare room? Do you intend to decorate around the flooring? Or are you putting the floor into a furnished room? 

The former is easier, you can picture what you want your space to look like once the floors are installed and go from there. The latter, however, is trickier. 

Matching a new hardwood flooring to the furniture and upholstery around the room requires more thought. This is one of the first things to think about when installing a new set of hardwood floors. 

2. Existing Color Palette 

If you’re already looking at a pre-furnished and upholstered space, take a look around and figure out what color palette it’s using. Are the colors warm or cool-toned? Do you want a floor to match the color palette or contrast it? 

Asking yourself these questions will help you go about your decision-making in a methodical way rather than simply going for color because you like it. 

Don’t get me wrong, you can choose a color simply because you like it, but if you want to bring your space together and aesthetics are a priority, you need to give it more thought. 

3. Aesthetic Preferences

This is the most important thing to consider before choosing your hardwood flooring. What kind of aesthetic or general ‘vibe’ are you going for? Do you want your space to look rustic? Or do you prefer a more modern and polished look? 

All of these things come into account when selecting a color for your wood flooring. For example, warm wood tones tend to give off a more rustic, old-school feel. In contrast, lighter and cooler wood tones look more modern and clean-cut. 

4. Lifestyle

Your lifestyle is an essential consideration and here’s why. Your wood flooring will be subject to wear and tear over time. How much it wears and tears depends on your lifestyle. 

For example, if you’re installing wood flooring in your house, it’ll experience more scuffing and wear than an office space. Moreover, if you’ve got kids or pets, you’ve got your work cut out for you trying to maintain your floors. 

Darker wood colors will emphasize any scuff marks or scratches on your floor while lighter colors will camouflage them. 

Another important aspect of your lifestyle you need to consider is how often you can clean your hardwood flooring. 

If you’re a particularly busy person who only gets around to cleaning once or twice a week, you’ll want to select a lighter color that doesn’t make dust particles overtly obvious. If you can stay on top of it, dark hardwood flooring is a worthy consideration. 

5. Lighting

Your space’s lighting will either complement your floors or ruin their look. Lighting goes hand in hand with the color of flooring you’re going for and the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve. Warm-toned lighting will make your room feel cozier and more rustic, while white or off-white lighting will open the space up. 

You can go all out and redo the lighting to match the flooring. But if you’re on a budget or simply don’t want the hassle, think of lighting long and hard before choosing a color for your hardwood flooring. 

6. The Walls

What color are the walls of your space? Do you have paint, wallpaper, concrete, or exposed brick? For more clarity, you can conduct your research; look at interior design style guides, read blogs like this, or take inspiration from magazines to figure out what flooring color will go best with your walls. 

Wood Detailing Considerations

Now that we’ve covered the most important things you need to consider before settling on a wood color, let’s jump into some additional tips and advice. 

1. Wood Finishes

Wood flooring comes in a variety of finishes. These are the most popular ones on the market right now:

  • Water-based polyurethane 
  • Oil-based polyurethane 
  • Moisture-cure urethane
  • Wax
  • Penetrating oil sealer
  • Shellac 
  • Acid-cured finish
  • Aluminum oxide

All of these wood finishes come with their pros and cons. Look into finishes once you’ve settled on a color and go from there. This is the most important thing to consider after the choice of color for your hardwood flooring. 

2. Texture 

These are the textures most commonly seen on hardwood floors:

  • Smooth
  • Wire brushed
  • Hand-scraped
  • Distressed
  • Rustic

As you can see, wood flooring comes in many textures. Some of these are more obvious to the eye than others. It’s important to remember that some textures are harder to clean than others, so it goes hand in hand with your lifestyle as well.

3. Pattern and Layout

Popular hardwood patterns and layouts:

  • Chevron
  • Herringbone
  • Parquet
  • Random
  • Diagonal

The pattern and layout of your hardwood flooring are integral to the look you’re going for. Essentially, you can have them lay the wood in whatever pattern you like, but when you look at it from a stylistic point of view, it’s tricky. 

Some patterns tend to make the space look bigger while others have the opposite effect. The point is, take your time, and choose wisely! Go through as many options as you can before coming to a decision. 

4. Matching Doesn’t Always Work

You might think “hmmm…I’ll just match my floors to the cabinets”. Wrong! In most cases, matching cabinets and floors can make your space look one-dimensional and flat. Some contrast and tone-variation can bring life into the room, making things look more multi-dimensional and vibrant. 

5. Dark vs Light 

What kind of room are you installing the floors in? Is it a bedroom? A living room? A sunroom perhaps? Think about the implications tones have on the feel of the room. Darker wood tones look cozier while lighter ones open up the room. 

Darks absorb light while lights reflect it. Darker black or grey-toned wood colors give your space a more modern look but might make the room look smaller. Keep these things in mind when choosing your hardwood flooring colors. 

6. Greys Are In 

Speaking of greys, they’re in these days! We’re seeing a lot of darker, richer greys as well as lighter taupe with grey undertones in recent hardwood floors. 

If you want to revamp your floors to something current, consider cool tones like this. The classic warm tones are always a safer option but can make your interior look dated. For a more modern feel, take a gander out of your comfort zone! 

7. Resale Value?

So there’s good news and bad news. Here’s the thing, you might want to consider the resale value of your place when installing new floors. Unless you plan to restore or renovate, you’ll have to keep resale value in mind. 

Trendier colors and textures might look great now, but interior design is fast-moving and trends continue to change. If resale value is a concern, consider going for something classic such as honey or caramel tones as opposed to taupe, dark grey, or beige wood colors.

Now that we’ve covered the technical basics, here’s some essential stylistic and aesthetic advice! 

Popular Hardwood Flooring Colors 

These are some of the most popular colors we’re seeing in hardwood flooring these days. Let’s discuss and hopefully, get you inspired. 

1. Whitewashed/Bleached 

Whitewashed or bleached floors are very popular these days, especially in beachier areas that have longer summers than winters. Beachfront properties most popularly use these tones for their flooring. The reason for this is simple, lighter floors make spaces look bigger and more open, and they let more light in. 

2. Honey/Blonde

Honey and blonde tones have been in for a long time, and for good reason. They’re the perfect middle ground for those that don’t want to go too light or too dark. Their tones are usually neutral, neither too cool nor too warm. So they mostly go with a variety of aesthetics and color palettes. 

3. Color Variation

Many folks are using a mixing technique for their hardwood floors, and it seems to be working! Mixing light and dark boards in your flooring can add more dimension to the room and give your space more character. It’s a bit unconventional, but definitely, something to think about! 

4. Dark Hardwood

Dark hardwood floors are getting all the attention these days, and we get it. Darker floor colors like espresso, dark grey, black, or ebony are being used more and more to achieve the ‘modern’ look. With white or lighter colored walls to contrast, dark floors add a minimalistic elegance to your space. It’s definitely a trend we can get behind! 

FAQs

What is the Most Popular Color of a Hardwood Floor?

The most popular color we’re seeing is dark grey and similar grey blend colors on hardwood floors. Dark to medium grey tones are very popular these days. 

Is It Better to Have Light or Dark Wood Floors?

It all depends on your preference. In our opinion, light floors are easier to maintain and won’t emphasize scratches and scuffs as much. Lighter floors also reflect light better so they’re more suitable if you don’t get a lot of sunlight but still want an ‘airy’ feel to your space. 

What Color Hardwood Floor is Timeless?

Maple, oak, honey, and cherry tones are timeless hardwood floor colors. They’re the safest options when it comes to retaining your place’s resale value. This is because these tones are complementary to most color palettes and give off an unmatched ‘classic’ vibe to your space. 

Choosing the Right Hardwood Color for Your Floor

Hardwood floors are a big investment and should not be taken lightly. We hope this guide gave you all the information you need to make an informed decision about the color of your floors. Let us know what you think in the comments! 

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AUTHOR

Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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