Flooring 101: Color Choice

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Flooring 101: Color Choice

Choosing the right color for your wood floor is a big decision.  After all, once your floor is complete you don't want to have to go through the process of refinishing for a VERY long time.

When thinking about this decision you might only be focused on design and color.  But in this Flooring 101 post, we are going to compare light floors to dark floors not only in terms of how they work with the overall design, but also how they compare with respect to maintenance and cleaning.

Light or Dark Wood Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors


Dark wood floors are on trend, and have been for quite some time now.  Whether it is an old plantation style home in Virginia with the original heart pine floors, aged to a rich brown patina…or a newly constructed New York Penthouse, dark wood floors are a favorite!

Design Solutions

Dark wood flooring works great with a variety of colors and fabrics.  Whether you want a varied color pallet, with modern furniture and fabrics…

Dark wood Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors


…or a mix of soft beige, and earth tones with rustic wood furniture, linen, and leather….

Dark Wood Flooring From Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

You can combine your dark wood floor with a variety of colors.  This makes it very versatile!  

As you can also see from the photos above you can also use this style floor to create either a more formal look or a more rustic and casual look.  Many people think dark wood flooring is going to look formal, but that is not the case.   In fact, many floor designs include a dark stain to make the floor look more aged and antique.  For example, this Heart Pine floor is finished with a dark stain and has an antique look to it, like it was recovered from an old home.

Heart PIne Flooring and Dark Wood Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

There are many ways to create a dark wood floor.  You can use a naturally dark wood like Cherry or walnut flooring; or you can use a naturally light floors like pine or oak, and use a dark stain !  This allows you more flexibility in choosing the wood species – Hickory, for example, is less expensive than Walnut hardwood floors, so if you can create the right look and save money, why not! 

Dark Wood FLooring and Prefinished Wood Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors.

Potential Drawbacks

Everyone has different personal preferences for how clean, and how often they need to clean their floors.  Some people are also more sensitive to the appearance of “wear” over the life of their floor.  If you have dogs, children, or a generally busy house you want to expect to see more dirt, dust and debris on a more regular basis.  Depending on your personal preference you might be inclined to clean more frequently. 

Over time all wood floors also accumulate scratches or scuff marks from traffic, shoes, pets, etc.  This is very normal and can't be prevented no matter finish you put on the floor, but depending on your preference you may want to touch up the finish on your floor more regularly.  The good news is this wear is normally only located in the surface of the finish, not necessarily in the wood.  So if you are considering a dark wood floor, a prefinished wood floor is a great way to go, and make sure it has an easy touch up process…like the Carlisle Custom coat prefinished flooring, which you can touch up without even having to sand the floor!

Where not to Use

If you are considering a dark wood floor there are two areas where you may not want to use them.  One, in very small rooms (that aren't connected to the rest of a space).  Dark wood floors can make a room look small.  If you do use a dark wood floor don't use anything narrower than an 8″ wide board.  The wider board will create fewer seams, which will balance out the dark color of the floor.   Learn more about the Wide Plank Difference.

Another area you may want to reconsider using dark wood floors is if you are running them adjacent to very dark wood working like cabinets.  Some people are very sensitive to color matching, and if you have Walnut cabinets and Walnut floors the colors may not match up – or you will create quite a design challenge to make them match up.  Sometimes, with a dark wood floor, it is better to create a contrast, rather than try to match.

Light Wood Floors

Light wood floors, like maple hardwood flooring, are very common.  You might think “gym floor” or the strip oak floors that graced so many homes over the last 30 years.  

Design Solutions

Light wood floors present many design solutions for your interior.  They offer the space a light palette that you can build off from, to create a variety of looks. 

Floors with a white finish go with almost everything.   Or a light burlap like color is also a great choice because you still get a light floor, without installing a truly “white” floor.

Oak Wood Floors and Prefinished Wood Floors from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors.


You can use a variety of wood species to create a light floor.  Oak and Maple are probably the most popular, but there are other styles you can consider too, such as….

Ash ….

Hickory Hardwood Flooring from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors


Or Hickory also makes a great choice…

Hickory Hardwood Floors from Carlisle Wide Plank Floors


Potential Drawbacks

Depending on how “light” you actually want to go, it can be a challenge to create a light finish.  For example, in this home in Southampton, New York, this floor required a coat of stain, paint and a custom sealer to create such a rich white color.

The finish you choose for your floor will be important to maintaining the right look.  For example, “clear” finishes are going to give a floor like Eastern White Pine or Maple a more “white” look, but if you finish these floors with an oiled based finish they will turn yellow. 

Where Not to Use

There are not many situations where a light wood floor would be unsuitable.  Some people may be concerned with cleaning and maintenance.  You may actually find that with light wood floors it is harder to see the dust and debris – that can be good and bad.   

But when it comes to maintenance, with the right sealer on your floor, the flooring should be easy to clean and maintain from all the spills that might occur, or dirt that might get tracked in. 

In Closing…

Of course there are dozens of finish choices for your floor so find an experienced manufacturer who understands wood, stains, finishes and color so you can be ensured the best results.  And if you are looking for ideas, get inspired here.

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