Today, wooden floors are available in all possible colors, and this guarantees that even the craziest designer’s idea can be realized.

One of the things that make interior design so interesting is creativity and pushing traditional boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that there are no rules that ought to be respected.

Yes, you are free to use any color you like, but you should be ready to face costly and bad-looking (often irreparable) fashion mistakes.

Using light or dark wooden flooring is easy nowadays, as floors move from a large variety of whites and bamboo yellows to the darkest mahogany and ebony colors.

Image source: Celebrity Communities

There are pros and cons for dark and light floors which need to be taken into account before making a final decision. We’ve summarized them in a detailed guide to choosing the hardwood floor’s color, and we kindly invite you to check it out:

Which ones are easier to clean?

Image source: Ample DESIGN

In this case, we have to give a distinct advantage to light floors, just because dirt is actually less visible on them. In case you’re really a fan of darker floors, choose a slightly lighter material (dark walnut over Jacobean, or Jacobean instead of ebony).

A good tactic to employ regardless of the color is to cover floors with tiny satin finishes that hide dirt, imperfections, and scratches perfectly.

Think of a complementary or a contrasting color

Image source: 450 Architects, Inc.

With a bunch of dark furniture pieces inside, one thing that you should definitely avoid are dark floors. What you’d achieve in the case is total closure effect, meaning that elements will blend into each other, and there will be no focal point to attract attention.

Dark floors will look good with light furniture, or the other way around. Medium tones are also a good, balanced solution, and they sell best for future home owners who want a house that can accommodate their furniture. When choosing floors for multiple rooms, try to keep visual consistency, and don’t jump from one solution to another.

This way, you’d only obtain a ‘patchwork’ look insinuating you were out of color, and compensated with another one instead. To make things even more complicated, designers say that floors are supposed to match the overall appearance of your home, whatever that means.

Resale value: Lighter vs. darker colors

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Or, being more precise, which one is likely to give higher ROI (return on investment). Still, have in mind that this equation has two parts: the preference of the numerator, and the cost decided by the denominator.

If we take a look at recent years, preferences generally shifted towards darker floors, and natural combinations of dark stains and light colors.

A trend that seems to disappear from the scene is using reds, as they are considered to be too polarizing and will definitely not you’re your home the way you’d like to sell it.


Image source: MAK Studio

Wooden flooring is not all about color, there are many other things that need to be considered! When discussing style, we refer to different textures and materials that are available on the market: smooth, marble-like floors with high-gloss finishes, log cabin floors with rustic appearance, or extremely natural choices with knots. You decide!

Ultramodern homes prefer lighter floors with sleek lines and architectural definitions, while traditional ones opt for darker variants reminiscent for the period when they were built.

While this is a good path to follow, we recommend you to think about what you really want, and to choose a floor that satisfies your tastes and needs before anything else.

Scratch proneness comparison

Image source: Highgate Builders

Scratches are common for all hardwood floors-the question is which type of floor will make them less obvious. Simplest said, dark floors shoe scratches more, because the scratch itself is lighter than the stain and it creates a visible contrast.

Therefore, if you have high-traffic households with playing kids and running pets, your solution should be scraped flooring to hide inevitable scratches the best way it can.

Another good idea is to go for a lighter floor, or a high-gloss cover that is not that easy to scratch at the first place.

Go into details

Image source: John Lum Architecture, Inc. AIA

The decision is not as simple as ‘dark’ or ‘light’. Both dark and light categories have millions of shades and undertones you could use to your advantage to obtain the looks you want.

Hardwood can be reddish, decidedly yellowish, or even neutral. Compare, and choose the one that matches your furniture the best.

Architectural features

Image source: Osborne Cabinets and Millwork, Inc.

Not all of your furniture has to be in harmony with the floor, but one essential piece certainly does. We call these pieces ‘architectural features’ and those could be large dining tables, couches, kitchen islands, fireplaces, etc.

For instance, we would recommend to enrich your brick fireplace with neutral gray floors, or to use significantly darker cabinets that will break the monotony.

Another great suggestion is to avoid dark floors under dark cabinets, mostly because it is highly unlikely that their colors will match.

Most people would tell you they get more annoyed by small mismatches, than two completely different colors that have nothing in common (and that’s actually true!). Contrasts are better than unsuccessful matches, because the later indicate that you didn’t really care about your place, but put the first thing that came to your mind instead.

Start with samples

Image source: Studio M Interior Design

Go to the local vendor, choose the samples you like, and take them home. You need to check whether they match your furniture, or at least how they look when exposed to different lights.

The basic comparison you have to do in every occasion is to see how a color works on daylight and artificial light. This is the ultimate test prior to your final purchase.

We advise you to choose only three samples, in order to avoid confusion. Taking all of the samples you find will not make things easier, but it will give you more things to think about instead.

Once you’re doing the shopping, take care of price too. Some floors are ridiculously expensive (hickory, Brazilian cherry), while others seem too cheap for the quality they are offering (walnut, oak, ivory).

Oak is considered to be a very good solution, due to its availability in all sorts of colors (chocolate brown, reddish, etc).

The size of the room

Image source: Levy Art & Architecture

The lighter the bigger, there is no reason why this visual trick wouldn’t apply for hardwood floors. When the floor is lighter, the room looks airy and spacious, while a dark one contributes to its powerful and dramatic appearance.

Still, it will all depend on how you combine colors with furniture, and how exposed your new floor will be to natural and artificial light.

Large homes and open-floor plans look generally better with dark hardwood floors.

Smaller spaces could use those too, assuming that the furniture/walls are lighter, and there is enough sunlight (fixtures) to make the room look more spacious.

One thing is for sure, though-dark floors are never good in rooms with small windows, or no windows at all.

Finally, how dark is dark?

Image source: Kariouk Associates

The darkest choice you have is ebony. Some people think this is not enough for them, and they apply a technique called “water pop” to make it look darker.

Still, as we mentioned before, dark floors are not that favorite because of maintenance issues, and many people try to compensate this by combining ebony and Jacobean in a 50/50 combination.

The darkness of Jacobean, and the warmth of ebony always look awesome together.

Dark walnut is a bit lighter compared to Jacobean, but it makes for the perfect solution in case Jacobean is too dark for you. You can even ‘go lighter’ with antique and coffee brown.

Finally, there is no rule! Everybody perceives colors in a different way, and it will all depend on what you like, or what you dare to use.

Final observations

Image source: Kurt Johnson Photography

Using light or dark wood flooring is a smart and important solution for every home, and with a little bit of creativity, it can turn into the most entertaining design experience you ever had at home.

You need to get inspired about it, to choose floors that match your style and your furniture and to take care of some basic rules and principles that can make or break the magic of wooden flooring.

If you enjoyed reading this article on hardwood floor’s color, we also wrote on how much hardwood flooring costshow to install hardwood flooring on stairs with nosinghow to repair scratches in hardwood flooringhow to remove glue from hardwood flooringhow to install engineered hardwood flooringhow to lay hardwood flooringhow to restore hardwood flooring, and how to choose hardwood flooring.

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