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How to Choose the Right Wood Floor

Boring Now, Timeless Later

Because the trend is black, many well meaning floor refinishers or sales people may try to convince you that you should choose a grey stain for your wood floors.

The trouble is, besides the fact that grey floors are super trendy, they strip all the natural warmth and beauty out of wood floors!

Instead, choose a warm stain, in a light to medium tone. I would say avoid the bleached white oak look as that feels overdone at this point. If you love a white oak, go a bit warmer. A mid tone wood floor is also timeless, and both options will work with any style, and stand the test of time.

What to look for in a Wood Stain

Most off the shelf stains will have a prominent green, orange or yellow undertone. Keep it as close to brown as possible for a neutral, timeless wood floor you'll love forever! By the way, the same rule applies for shopping for new hardwood or LVP or laminate floors.

Note: The warmth in a wood stain will come from a touch of red (in medium tones) or pink (in lighter tones). The trick is that it's just a bit, not a noticeably "red" or "pink" stain.

The right amount of red

Too much red

The right amount of pink

Too much pink (and grey)

In a current project, we had the floor refinisher apply a variety of stains to the striped floor in order to confirm the correct stain with the oak.

If it wasn't for being armed with good knowledge on this, I could see the average client being lured by the grey sales pitch. As a matter of fact, he didn't even bring any of the warm brown stains (on the right) on the first day, because he has only been doing custom grey stains for clients for the last several years! Because the average renovator (not you guys of course!) is easily swayed by what's popular, it would have been game, set, match right then and there. But after assuring him he wouldn't be able to sell me on grey if it was the last colour in the world ;) he offered to come back tomorrow with more options. Guys, stick to your guns on timeless finishes, even if the contractor doesn't agree.

Once he did it was an easy choice. Before reading on, test your eyes to see which is the most neutral, warm undertone out of these options above.

We selected Medium Brown, which has minimal undertones. (What did you guess? Let me know in comments!)

Stains we tested with undertones

It's absolutely gorgeous in any light, will work with any design style, and will stand the test of time.

Medium Brown for the win!

Below are the original oak floors before being refinished with the yellow/orange stain common in the 90s, early 2000s.


The Million Dollar Tip

Pocket this lesson for your next reno: Keep your hard finishes timeless. Save the trendy touches for your furniture or accents, a much less expensive item to change out when you get sick of it.

What to do if I have existing Grey Wood Floors?

If you're working with grey wood floors, either because you inherited them or got caught up in the trend (we've all been there, no shame!) you'll want to warm things up in other ways.

  1. Paint the walls a cream or light beige.

  2. Use large area rugs that have pattern or texture to cozy things up. Jute rugs are inexpensive and a warm brown tone, an affordable way to get a large enough rug for your room. For more on buying the correct rug size, check out our blog post All About Rugs.

  3. Similarly, getting good proportions on furniture and art will also help focus the eye on the other aspects of the room. Good tips on art proportions for each scenario here. A well styled room can right a multitude of wrongs.

  4. Avoid grey in other applications, such as furniture and accents. Instead choose warmer neutrals or colour.

If you need help choosing finishes in your renovation, don't hesitate to reach out. One wrong decision more than pays for a designer on the job.

Until next time, design lovers!


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