How to Choose Wood Floor Color

modern home with light wood floors

Design: Tracy Morris / Photo: Greg Powers

If you're preparing to revamp the floors in your home or are in the process of constructing a new home and are wondering what type of wood floor color to choose, the pros are here to help. Below, experts weigh in with key principles to keep in mind when selecting a wood floor color for any room of the house.

Consider the Age and Style of Your Home

When determining what color wood floor to opt for in your space, you'll want to look at your home's age and style. "In terms of style—modern or traditional or anywhere in between—any of these can look amazing with a dark or light floor," Jen Dallas, of Jen Dallas Interior Architecture & Design Studio, says. "I like to look for inherited wood details in an older home," she adds. Jessica Wachtel of GTM Architects likes using darker stains or a gray tone in modern homes, a lighter stain or natural finish in farmhouse spaces, and warm medium wood tones in traditional homes. Lighter stains will also allow more wood grain will be visible, she adds.

Living in a new build apartment? "The choice is usually prefinished wood floors these days," Designer Rozit Arditi, of Arditi Design, says. "We gravitate toward medium oak to light walnut finishes to create some contrast with the grain against the boxier layout of the space.”

If you're adding new flooring to a room that's already painted, keep that hue top of mind.  "Figure out the undertones and make sure they compliment the undertones in the wood as well, says Amy Youngblood of Amy Youngblood Interiors.

traditional home with wood floors

Design: Tracy Morris / Photo: Greg Powers

Determine What Species of Wood Is on Your Floors

If you're staining existing floors, you'll want to determine their species first. "Stains will look different when applied to red oak, white oak, cherry, maple, or other wood species," Wachtel says. "Some woods, such as cherry, will also darken more over time—so you may want to go with a lighter stain."

Make Note of Ceiling Height

What does your ceiling height have to do with the floor stain you select? A lot, according to Tracy Morris of Tracy Morris Design. "If you have a low ceiling, use a light stain for your floor," she suggests. "It will appear to raise your ceilings six inches." You can achieve the reverse, too. "If you have high ceilings and want your space to feel cozier, select a darker color," Morris instructs. "It will appear to lower your ceilings by six inches."

Abstain from Following Trends

It's best to steer away from trends when choosing a floor stain. "You'll be living with your floors for a long time since it can be time-consuming and costly to replace," Youngblood comments. Additionally, she says, if there's a certain color you just love, it's a better idea to introduce it into a room simply by painting the walls. "Paint is a lot easier to change," the designer explains.

dark wood floors and blue walls

Design by Case Architects & Remodelers / Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Keep Furnishings in Mind

The layout and style of your furniture may also shape your flooring decision. "Consider the other furnishings in the room," Allie Mann, of Case Architects & Remodelers, says. "Do you have other items in an area so only a portion of the flooring is revealed or is your hardwood in a high-traffic walkway of the kitchen?" If you have furnishings cooler in color, darker floors may best suit your space, while lighter, colorful furnishings pair well with warmer, lighter flooring, Mann adds.

Prioritize Wearability

If you're choosing a wood floor for an active household, the decisions you make will likely be different from someone living alone. "If a client has dogs and kids, I won’t do a super dark floor," Dallas says. "Dark floors show hair and dirt easily."

wood floors in entryway

Design: GTM Architects / Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Note That Going Two-Tone in Your Home Is Ok

Perhaps your home feature a wide variety of wood tones already—there's no need to fret when making your floor selection. "I had a 1960s remodel where there were dark wood cabinets in the kitchen and lighter wood details at the living and family room built-ins and fireplace," Dallas shares. "We ended up keeping the floors light in combination with the wood details in the living room and painted the entire house a fresh white. The new white paint color freshened the whole house and made the two tones of wood not even an issue."