Light Hardwood Floors or Dark Hardwood Floors? Which is Best?

Light Hardwood Floors or Dark Hardwood Floors? Which is Best?

Choosing whether to go with a light or dark hardwood flooring color can sometimes be a tough decision. Typically, you love one and hate the other, and really there is no right answer. To make the right choice for you, start by selecting the hardwood color range that speaks to you and fits the space. You can always add other design elements around the floor's color or tone. 

We've laid out some design pros and cons for both light and dark hardwood floors to help you choose.

Let's go to the dark side first.

Pros and Cons of Dark Hardwood Floors

A deep, rich hardwood floor makes a room feel warm, cozy and inviting. There are many options for dark hardwood flooring. You can choose a dark wood species like walnut or stain a lighter wood in a dark shade. 

dark hardwood floors

If you're thinking of choosing a dark hardwood floor, you should know the advantages and disadvantages before making your final decision.

Should I Get Dark Hardwood Floors? 

Dark hardwood flooring always provides a more sophisticated and elegant look than lighter hardwood flooring. They add an ambiance of an old English castle. If you want to install a darker floor, choose a smaller plank width and a satin finish. This will highlight the beautiful hardwood grain and give you a natural look. 

dark hardwood floors in kitchen

Here are five sound reasons to opt for darker hardwood flooring:

  1. You won't have to refinish a dark hardwood floor as frequently as a lighter hardwood floor. 
  2. They reveal the wood grain texture better than a lighter color and make a dramatic statement in any home. 
  3. These types of hardwood floors contrast with a wider variety of shades, enhancing the colors in your rugs, furniture, and accessories. 
  4. Dark stained hardwood flooring adds a vintage look, perfect for Victorian decorating styles. Accent walls or furniture shades such as pink, rose, and light blue fit well together.
  5. They make a room look cozier and more inviting.

If you have a pet with dark fur, having a dark hardwood floor is a bonus. However, the dark side is not for everyone.

Cons of Dark Hardwood Flooring

There are some valid reasons to steer clear of darker floors that you must consider. The big question people ask is...

Do Dark Hardwood Floors Show More Dirt?

The answer is yes. Dark hardwood flooring will show scratches more. You'll need to have furniture pads under every chair leg or other piece of furniture. It's necessary to add a scratch-resistant finish to the hardwood flooring for added protection.

scratch on dark hardwood floor

Dirt and dust show up more readily on dark hardwood floors. It takes more vacuuming to keep the dust at bay, and it's best not to wear shoes inside. 

Additionally, dark hardwood flooring can make a room feel much smaller. You will need light-colored walls to offset the hardwood floor's darkness.

Do Dark Hardwood Floors Make a Room Darker?

Dark-colored hardwood floors absorb light. If there is not an abundance of natural light or plenty of lamps, the hardwood floor will make the room look dark and dreary. 

It's best to avoid using darker shades in small rooms with little light, or else the space will seem smaller than it is.

Are Dark Hardwood Floors Timeless?

Whether dark hardwood floors are in or out of style depends on a designer's preference.

According to Forbes, dark cabinets, all-white kitchens, and neutral colors are going away. They didn't mention floors, but since dark floors are neither white nor neutral, they will still be popular in the next decade. 

Jess Blumberg, an interior designer for, said, "I love a wide plank wood floor, stained dark charcoal, to ground a space and keep it looking rich."

dark wide plank wood flooring

Interior designer for Hyphen and Co, Eliza McNabb, stated, "A dark stain makes wood floors feel elevated. The contrast between a light wall and a dark floor makes the room feel brighter and taller. A rich brown or graphite floor grounds a room and, from a practical standpoint, hides any imperfections on an existing floor."

But not every designer jumps on the dark hardwood floor bandwagon.

Bryan Sebring of Sebring Design notes a different trend for darker floors. "Oak is still the king of kitchen floors. Currently, we see a throwback to lighter colored hardwoods. Dark wood floors are less in demand. Our clients want lighter brown tones close to fruitwood or gray instead of the reddish hues of the 1990s."

easiklip light brown oak flooring

Regardless of current fashion trends, it's your home, taste, and budget that should drive your decision. Dark hardwood floors will always have a unique character and timeless appeal. It still provides a vibrant and elegant look.

Color Compatibility and Dark Hardwood Flooring

A dark hardwood floor takes a bit more design consideration when adding furniture, rugs, and wall colors. Paring the wrong colors can make the room feel dark and uninviting. Fortunately, finding the right colors to compliment the floor is not that difficult.

Some preferred design elements that work well with dark stains and wood include:

  • Marble
  • White paint and thick rugs
  • Bronze
  • Chrome
  • Wood that's a touch lighter than the floor color

dark wood flooring with accents

With the right accent colors, dark hardwood floors in the kitchen and living room make the home look very chic.

What Color Furniture Looks Best on Dark Hardwood Floors?

If you have brown, red-toned, or mahogany furniture, they may be too dark against a dark-colored floor. Choose light or colorful fabrics. Bright and colorful area rugs break the monotony of large dark areas.

However, you don't have to contrast the furniture every time. Matching the chairs and tables' legs to the hardwood floor makes the room feel elegant and professionally designed.

What Color Goes Best with Gray Hardwood Floors?

Choose paint or fabric colors in the blue spectrum. Look for light blue or blue mixed with gray. Another color is green, which is on the gray side. Not bright greens, but understated and pastel, like sage.

Of course, white, either bright or cool white, is always in style.

light wood floors

What Colors Go with Light Oak Hardwood Floors?

Natural oak hardwood floors have a bit of yellow in them. Complementary paint colors include white and neutral tones like beige or gray. If the hardwood floors have been bleached white, you can use almost any color that suits your taste, and it will look good. 

Can You Lighten Dark Hardwood Floors?

Perhaps your dream home didn't come with the hardwood floor color that matched your dream. What you wanted was a natural color, but the previous owner stained the hardwood floor coffee brown. Ripping them up and replacing them is not in the budget. 

How can you make the best of them, visually? Use light and bright colors from the baseboard to the ceiling to offset the darkness. If possible, go with a satin or matte finish. A high-gloss finish means high maintenance. It will show every scratch and speck. 

If you don't like a dark hardwood floor, you can lighten it without having to replace it. However, a perfect outcome will depend on the condition and the wood's natural color. Changing the color requires sanding. It's a messy job best left to experienced pros with the right equipment.

How Much Does It Cost to Darken Wood Floors?

HGTV's Tarek El Moussa recently purchased a new home but didn't like the wood floor color. Rather than installing a new floor for $30,000 or more, he hired a company to sand the existing floor down to the natural wood. After finishing in a neutral color, it cost only $5,000 to transform the old floor into a light hardwood floor.

You cannot sand thin or worn out hardwood floors. For more ideas, read our blog, "How to Restore Hardwood Timber Floors."

After sanding, you can elect to leave the wood natural, bleach it, or add color with a gray or whitewash. Finish with a water-based polyurethane to protect the wood. 

It's best to contact a wood flooring expert to help you test your wood stain or color idea. Try it on a small section after sanding. It will help you envision the final look before getting stuck with a color you don't want.

Another option is to bleach the wood. To see the variety of shades achieved from bleaching wood, watch this video, Bleaching the Red out of Brazilian Cherry Wood Floors. Brazilian Cherry is dark red, but the principles apply to any dark wood floor. 



If lightening dark floors is too daunting a project, maybe you're better off opting for light hardwood floors right from the start. Easiklip has an affordable line of easy to install, solid hardwood floors for DIYers and professionals.

light hardwood floors from Easiklip

Pros and Cons of Light Hardwood Floors

The most popular and common light hardwood floor is oak, usually red or white oak. Other common light-colored hardwoods are maple, ash, and pine. Pine is a softwood, yet it's a hardwood flooring favorite for its characteristic knots. 

Light hardwood floors make a room look chic, more comfortable, and relaxed. As with any color or design choice, there are advantages and disadvantages. Let's start by looking at the positives. 

Advantages of Light Hardwood Floors

Here are some of the advantages:

  1. With light-colored hardwood floors, it's easy to decorate and get it right the first time. A light hardwood floor is like a blank canvas to a decorator. If you're not an interior designer, it's your best choice because it works in any decor, style, or room. 
  2. They brighten dark rooms and make them feel larger. They're a perfect option for smaller apartments and townhomes.
  3. Dirt and dust are less conspicuous, so you don't need to vacuum as often.
  4. Light hardwood floors hide scratches better than dark hardwood floors. They are better for busy families with pets.

Some real estate professionals say that homes with dark hardwood floors sell for more money, but the jury is still out. If you plan to sell, a light-colored hardwood floor is the safest option.

light wood floors

Disadvantages of Light Hardwood Flooring

A light hardwood floor is not always the best choice. 

  1. Sometimes the room is already light and bright. A light hardwood floor can overdo it and wash out the look of the room.
  2. Light-colored hardwoods like Douglas fir, birch, and pine look great when they are new, but they scratch and dent easily. Softer woods wear out faster and show scuff marks.
  3. They may require more frequent refinishing.

The best way to know which hardwood floor is best for your situation is to take home some samples. To get started, order a 4-piece sample pack from Easiklip. Choose four colors from their selection of:

  1. Natural Oak
  2. Gunstock
  3. Greywash
  4. RUSTIC Smoke Stain
  5. RUSTIC White Bleach

Designers suggest laying them down and checking back during different times of the day to visualize how they might look under various lighting conditions. It's the best way to choose which color hardwood floor is the right one for you.

Are Light Wood Floors in Style?

The truth is that light hardwood floors will never go out of style. However, some shades are more popular than others.  One reason is that they are neutral, offering decorators more options when finishing a room.

Blonde, honey-colored, and natural wood are light but tend to have a more yellow color, limiting some design choices. 

blond flooring light floors

Another trending color or style is high variation hardwood floors. This type of hardwood floor uses the same tree species, but the wood comes from different parts, so there is a mix of light and dark boards. High variation wood floors offer more design options and create a unique, casual look.

Light Oak Flooring Is Stainable and Sustainable. 

Since the beginning of hardwood floors, light oak hardwood flooring has been the choice of kings and peasants alike. It has long-lasting durability combined with beautiful colors and grains. 

White oak is a golden color with a natural finish. Red Oak has both golden and deep red hues depending on the board. European white oak with a natural finish adds texture and warmth to any space.

Oak hardwood flooring is a sustainable hardwood flooring material. It lends itself to every type of finish, from bleaching to charcoal stain. The grain still shows through the darkest colors, giving any room a look of quality and elegance. 

Are Gray Hardwood Floors Trendy?

Gray hardwood flooring is a trending flooring color. It provides a feeling of freshness, and it's easy to maintain. It's a practical compromise when you can't decide whether to go dark or light. 

gray wood flooring

They are trendy, stylish, and enhance any home furnishings.

Dark or Light? It's Up to You!

Depending on which interior designer you ask, both light and dark hardwood floors will always be in vogue. If you like white kitchen cabinets and countertops, a dark hardwood floor creates an elegant counterpoint. If you have space with little or no natural light, a light hardwood floor brightens the room. 

With a hardwood floor, you can always change the color rather than change the floor. Should you opt to replace your floor with solid hardwood, the easiest solution is Easiklip. We have five prefinished colors of solid oak floors from which to choose. You can install them yourself without nails or glue. Go here to see more.



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