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Hardwood floor color advice

Laura Firszt Networx.com
Bengal Bay Coffee hardwood.

Over-the-top trends in hardwood floor colors are certainly striking. Deep grays, whitewashes, and brightly painted colors add a touch ... er ... bucketload of drama to your home - but will you still love them tomorrow? Which new hues can stand the test of time? And what are the best hardwood floor colors to install for resale?

I recently interviewed Dan Natkin, Mannington Vice President, Hardwood and Laminate, and self-described "wood nerd." Here’s Dan’s expert advice on hardwood floor colors today.

What are today’s popular hardwood colors?

What we call "naturals" and "modified naturals" are the hottest hardwood floor colors. Tones have gotten a lot lighter. The gray trend began a few years ago, but the initial grays were very steely in color; today it’s more natural, a very light and subtle color. At the same time, red tones have faded out of favor.

There’s another thing - gloss level. The higher the shine, the more it’s going to show wear over time. The trend for the last 10, 15 years has been lower and lower gloss.

What’s a color profile that will always be in style?

Honey and butterscotch are timeless. I’ve been in the industry 20 years and that color family continues to be the No. 1 bestseller. It’s a tone that allows you to redesign around it - not too dark, not too light. You can really accessorize it well.

Should homeowners first choose flooring and design the room around it, or vice versa?

That’s up to the individual. However, floor color affects the feeling of a room; a heavy dark floor tends to bring a room in and make it feel cozier. A lighter floor makes the room seem more open. So it depends what you’re going for. Are you trying to create an intimate space or an open feeling?

Do you recommend particular colors for different needs - say, empty nesters vs. families with young kids?

Generally, it’s a matter of personal taste. If you’ve got a very active family, though, I’d stay away from the darkest tones. With really dark, almost black floors, if you get a little nick here or there, it’s going to jump out like someone’s shining a light on it. For an empty nester, that may be fine, but when you have kids and pets, the lighter to mid-tones are definitely the way to go.

What would you recommend for resale?

Although there are so many options on the market that homeowners can really take some design risks, if you’re looking forward to resale, don’t

go too crazy. Stay in that traditional color palette - naturals and honeys. They tend to resell better than a floor that’s got red, green, and blue all mixed up.

Should kitchen floors be lighter or darker than cabinets?

That’s an individual choice. But if your cabinets are white or off-white, a mid to darker floor serves as a nice complement. If your cabinets are very dark, let the floor be a little lighter to open up the space.

What do you think about trends such as whitewashing or painting wood floors?

I’ve seen whitewashing come and go probably three times in my career already. As far as painting or other "out-there" colorations, I think you may get bored with it. Personal styles tend to change over time and that’s one that kind of locks you in.

Generally, I advise: "Design to the style of your home, your taste and what you’re going to like living with. Just be careful not to go too extreme.

"Wood is not a floor covering, it’s a flooring. There’s a difference. When you have a floor covering - vinyl, for instance - you may change it out every 5-7 years. In wood, you’re making a more permanent decision, so my recommendation is that you pick something that’s going to stay in fashion for quite a while."

Do you have a favorite floor color?

I’m a traditionalist. Muted colors with hints of gray are my favorite, though it depends on the setting. For example, I have two different types of wood in my house. I chose to install hand-scraped hickory flooring throughout the first floor because I had two young kids, a dog and a lot of foot traffic. But in my master bedroom, I have beautiful white oak, finished in light gray, with a super, super matte finish.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

Park City Snowcap hardwood.