We cover a lot of big-ticket design dilemmas on this blog—from how to choose a sofa to what rug size is best for a queen bed and clever ways to disguise your TV. But sometimes the hardest design challenges are the most subtle. Exhibit A: picking a paint to go with your wood floors.
It may seem easy enough—but paint colors, and how they interact with the undertones in your wood floors, can actually have a huge impact on your space. And it can be super difficult to visualize how everything will look once it’s done.
That’s why today, we’re breaking down this topic and giving you tips on how to pick a paint based on the color and tone of your wood floors. We’ll show you what not to do and share our favorite combos and design ideas for rooms with wood floors. So, whether you have solid hardwood floors, engineered hardwood, or laminate, this guide will help you land on the right paint color for your space!
How do you match wood floors to walls?
When choosing a paint color to match your wood floors, paint your wall in the opposite undertone. What does this mean? If your wood floors have warm undertones, pick a paint with cool undertones. And if your wood floors have cool undertones? Go for a warmer paint color! This will create contrast and help your room feel more balanced. Avoid picking a paint that has the same undertone as your floors, as it will make your room feel repetitive and flat.
You might also be wondering how to figure out what tones of wood furniture will look good with your wood flooring. Our guide on how to mix wood tones will walk you through the decision-making process!
How can I tell the undertone of my hardwood floors?
For those not in the design industry, it might feel challenging to determine the undertone of your wood floors. But here’s an easy way to figure it out. Warm undertones will look more red, orange, or yellow while cool undertones look more blue or purple. You can figure this out by comparing your wood with differently colored items and see which it most closely resembles. For example, you could hold a blue pillow or a red sweater up to your wood floors and see which color is a closer match.
Should floors be darker or lighter than walls?
The question of whether your floors should be a darker or lighter color than your walls all depends on your style and the mood you want to create in the space! It also depends on the color of your floors. A general rule of thumb to follow is to go for whichever combo has the most contrast. If your floors are dark, try a lighter paint to keep the room from feeling too heavy. Have lighter floors? Go darker to add more contrast and depth to your space.
Ready for some specific tips? Read on for tips on how to match wall color with wood flooring.
Best Paint Colors for Light Wood Floors
Light hardwood floors are very popular—in fact, this is probably the most widely used wood floor color. It offers a very timeless look, and we see it a lot in modern or Scandinavian-style homes. You might not know this, but light wood is a great choice for homes with kids and pets, as it won’t show scuffs or scratches as easily as other colors. It’s also an easier wood tone to pair paint with. It’s difficult to go wrong when matching paint colors to light wood floors—but there are definitely some hues you want to steer clear of. Read on for some do’s and don’ts.
Do: Cool White
Even though a lighter-toned wood gives off “cooler” vibes than a darker finish, they still do have warm undertones. Because of that, a cooler toned wall color is best. If you’re looking to create a bright, crisp, and cheery space, try a cool white, which will play nicely with the warmth of the flooring. If white isn’t your vibe, gray or light blue are also great options. Need help narrowing in on the right tone? Check out our guide on neutral paint colors, which is full of tips and features some of our favorites!
Do: Charcoal Gray
If you want something a bit bolder (ok, a lot bolder!), try a charcoal gray. Despite its saturation, this color is still in the ”cool” camp, but the boldness of the color will really make your space pop! This is a great way to add visual interest to a space if you want a more minimalist look and don’t want to add a lot of extra decor. The dark tone helps add depth while still complimenting the light hardwood floors. This is also a great choice for an accent wall color! Go for cool white on three walls and add just a pop of saturation with a charcoal gray on an accent wall!
Don’t: Warm Neutrals
Since the wood floors are a warm neutral, you want to stay away from warm neutrals on your walls. A tan or creamy paint color that’s too similar to the flooring hue simply doesn’t work well with light hardwood floors; as you can see above, the result is a visually flat space. And the slightly yellow undertones, though subtle, will alter the vibe of the space and could make it feel dated.
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Best Paint Colors for Gray Wood Floors
Gray wood floors pose quite the challenge, as gray has cool undertones, which can make a room feel cold. However, this is currently a popular design choice in a lot of new builds due to the popularity of modern farmhouse style. For what it’s worth, gray floors are definitely more trendy and less timeless—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means you have to be a bit more thoughtful in your paint choices!
If you like the look, go for it; but if you want something that will always be in style, consider skipping gray and going for a more timeless dark or natural oak finish for your hardwood floors.
But back to the paint. With gray wood floors, a good guideline to follow is to stick to warm paint tones to balance out the coolness of the gray. Here are two do’s and one don’t for gray wood floors.
Do: Warm Colors, Like Dusty Rose
Warm tones will offset the cool tones found in gray wood flooring, making your space feel more inviting and cheery. We love a color like dusty rose, pictured above, which bridges the gap between a neutral and a color and really warms up the room.
Do: Dark Contrast, Like Plum
If you want more contrast and a more saturated color, opt for a deep, bold color with a warm tone—like plum! This shade of purple balances out the steeliness of the floors. And since purple has red undertones in it, it inherently adds a bit of warmth to the space.
Don’t: Matching Tones, Like Gray
When it comes to gray flooring, steer clear of a monochrome look. (We don’t want to see any interior design equivalents of the #groufit, people!) Matching the cool gray of the floors in your wall color will result in a space that feels cold and sterile. Not only that, but the overall design falls flat and feels rather one-note.
Best Paint Colors for Medium Wood Floors
Medium wood floors are a very common color for homes with hardwood floors. This was the color of choice in many mid-century ramblers across the country. With medium-toned wood floors, you can take a very similar approach as you would with light wood floors. However, medium wood is slightly trickier with color-matching, as it is darker so there is more room for error. Since medium wood floors have a warm undertone, the best approach is to opt for paint colors with cool undertones. Here are two paint colors to try—and one to avoid.
Do: Dark Contrast, Like an Emerald Green
Green sits opposite red on the color wheel, so it’s a great paint color for rooms with warm wood floors. A deep, saturated emerald green looks especially nice against medium-toned hardwood floors. It offers the perfect balance of warmth and coolness in the space—plus a pop of boldness. We love this color choice in a room like the one pictured above, where you have neutral colors (in the chairs and wainscotting) which add lightness and balance out the bold walls.
Do: Cool Blues
If dark, bold colors aren’t your thing, try a lighter shade of blue instead! Light, cool blues offer the same effect as an emerald green, balancing out the warmth in your floors, without feeling as bold. And if you simply prefer neutral tones over colors, go for a cool gray or white (like the color pictured above, on the wainscotting.
Don’t: Warm Tones
Colors with warm undertones, like tan or clay, will feel too similar to the color of medium hardwood floors and make for a space that visually feels too warm.
Best Paint Colors for Dark Wood Floors
Dark wood floors are another popular flooring for new builds—and in very old homes, as well. They tend to be cooler in color, so it’s important to bring in warmth with your paint colors. A word to the wise: real hardwood can scratch, and scratches are especially noticeable on dark floors—so this isn’t a great option for homes with kids and pets. However, if you like the look you can definitely find laminate options that look like real wood but without the sensitivity and maintenance! Below are a couple color options to try, and one to skip.
Do: Warm Whites or Neutrals
Light, warm neutrals are a great way to bring contrast to your dark hardwood floors. Since the flooring is so dark, you wouldn’t want to add any more darkness to the space by choosing a dark, bold wall color. Warm whites and creams look especially great against dark wood floors, as their warm undertones balance out the coolness of the flooring.
Do: Olive Green
If you prefer a more saturated color in your home, consider going for a sage or olive green. These are calming hues that definitely add color but won’t suck out more light from the space. Earthy greens like this are great because they plays nicely with the coolness of dark hardwood floors while adding warmth, especially since olive greens have more yellow undertones than other shades of green.
Don’t: Cool, Dark Gray
Shades of dark gray will bring out the gray tones in your flooring, and your room will appear drab. Not only that, but the dark-on-dark tones will make your room feel heavy, dark, and cold.
Best Paint Colors for Cherry Wood Floors
Cherry hardwood floors are perhaps the most difficult hardwood floor tone to decorate around. Cherry wood is distinctly red, and some cherry flooring even has an almost purple hue to it, making it even more difficult to decorate around. Some people dislike cherry finishes so much that they rip them out. But there are ways that you can happily live with them! It’s all about your paint and decor choices. The key is to lean into the use of cool colors, since adding coolness to your space will balance out the warm red tones in your floors. Check out a few do’s and don’ts, below.
Do: Cool Light Blue
Crisp, light blue paint is a soothing balm to balance out the sometimes-aggressive nature of cherry hardwood floors. Light blues help visually diffuse the red tones in your flooring and lighten up the room.
Do: Cool Gray
If you prefer neutrals to colors, go for a gray or white paint that has a cool undertone. This is a more subtle choice than the blue paint, but it will still help to balance out the red floors. A tip? With cherry floors, stick primarily with neutral and cool in your decor as well!
Don’t: Warm Tones That Accentuate the Cherry Tones
Steer clear of any and all warm-tone paints in rooms with cherry hardwood floors. Colors with warm undertones will play up the warmth of the floors and make your room feel very intense.
Looking for more painting tips and recommendations? Check out our round-up of the most popular Benjamin Moore paint colors, the Best living room paint colors, the Best bedroom paint colors, as well as our designers’ tips for painting a room!
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