hardwood color guide

Hardwood Color Guide

The hardwood color you choose has a big impact:

  • changes the size appearance of your room
  • sets the mood of your room: formal or playful?
  • makes a statement about expensive of the floor
  • matches or clashes with walls
  • matches or clashes with cabinets

Hardwood doesn’t give you as many color options as most floors. That said, I bet you can find over 100 hardwood floors without doing too much floor shopping.

Classic “tree colors” range from yellow to brown to red with infinite shades of each. Then, there’s stain which can make about any color hardwood floor you want.

And what color do you want?

The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you what you get but to give you some go-to color combinations that will stand out in your home. Usually, this is based on either your walls or cabinets.

Let’s start with what each hardwood color says about a room and what wall colors match best with it, and then we’ll dive into cabinet colors and the best hardwood pairs:

Hardwood colors and pairing wall colors

Once you narrow down some hardwood colors you like, it helps to learn a little about the color. What does it say about your home?

And maybe more importantly, how will it match with the rest of your home?

Brown floors

Since brown is the most simplistic color of wood, it’s only natural that wood floors can come in countless shades of brown. Its very natural, earthy tone lets a brown wood floor camouflage itself into your home, becoming rustic, traditional, or ordinary as the situation calls for.

While you are decorating your home, brown can go with any number of colors depending on its shade. If you love changing your style to suit your moods, then brown is sure to stand the test of time.


Captain’s tip! If you are thinking about adding wood floors mostly for their resale value, choosing a shade of brown is your best bet. It’s the most popular color and the most pleasing to the greatest number of potential buyers.

Best wall colors

  • White: This is brown’s strongest contrasting color.
  • Autumnal reds and oranges: For a natural feel inside a room.
  • Pastels: Certain shades of pastel pink or blue will contrast cleanly against dark brown shades.
  • Yellow: For medium-browns
  • Beige: When you have dark brown floors, a beige will lighten the room and harmonize with lighter shades within the wood if you find the right one.

Honey floors

Shades of yellow and tan are most often seen with oak, maple, or some walnut floors. The inviting honey and tawny colors welcome you into the home straightaway and give it a cozy, warm feeling that you don’t usually see in bolder or more monochromatic floors. If you want a milk and cookies home, honey-colored wood floors will be your thing.

Tan floors also lend themselves to a classic rustic-style home. When you see tan floors with strong wood grains, such as you have in some oaks and walnuts, you can easily fit them into heavy leather and sturdy wood furniture, and country decor on the walls.

Best wall colors

  • Creamy White: A pure white may not be the best but there are many off-whites that will benefit from the honey floor’s warm tones.
  • Orange: Browns tend to match with other browns, so honey/tan colored floors will go well with both oranges and yellows
  • Yellow

Red floors

Bold red floors, most often seen with mahogany or cherry wood flooring, offer a bolt of energy every time you walk into the room. They make a strong statement and are not for the fainthearted.

Since you will most likely want the red floors to stand out in the room, the walls should be kept to a cool or neutral color. This keeps the entire room from becoming too strong in color and lets the floor remain at the center of attention.

Best wall colors

  • Blue: Usually a lighter blue, to contrast with the dark floors.
  • Gray: Another cool color, you can often find grays with blue undertones that look great alongside the reds and oranges.
  • White: A bright white allows the red to stand out clearly within the room.
  • Green: Green is the color contrast to red, so it stands out when set against cherry floors

White & Gray floors

Whitewashed wood floors may seem like an old-fashioned look but the retro style has come into fashion in recent years and hasn’t gone away yet. You can use a distressed whitewash on the wood floors to create an artificial antique floor or a smooth look for a contemporary feel to the room. Gray’s feeling is very similar, although it has slightly more life to it than white floors.

White floors are used to highlight the things within a room, versus the floor on the bottom of it. Grays work in a similar way, but without so much of a sterile feeling. Both are calming colors and good for enlarging small spaces.

Best wall colors

  • Turquoise: Turquoise and white are two of the strongest color pairings
  • White: White on white makes a very clean, minimalist vibe throughout your home
  • Dark gray: A charcoal color will contrast for an edgy, modern vibe
  • Bold colors: if you love the white floors but not the washed out look, then choosing almost any color wall in a bold shade, such as plum, navy, or dark green will help the room stand out.

Captain’s optical illusion! There’s a trick about light colors and dark colors. Light colors seem further away, while darker colors seem to be closer to you. Use this to your advantage by using a lighter colored floor if you want your room feel bigger, or if you have a big room that feels hollow, you can use darker colors to make it feel more snug.

What hardwood colors go best with cabinet colors?

Now you know about each hardwood color, and you know what walls match best with it.

But what if you’re installing hardwood in an area with cabinets?

Most likely the cabinets will have more “power” over the walls as far as room color. Plus, the cabinets will be directly on top of the floor.

So what color hardwoods make most design sense to go with popular cabinet colors?

Cherry cabinets

Cherry cabinets will show cherry’s distinctive wood grain, so the best hardwood floors alongside cherry cabinets will contrast with those grains, not match them. Cherry floors with cherry cabinets can overwhelm, and the look is lost.

Your best choice will be a wood with its own unique grain, for example, maple or oak. You can stain them in different colors and either the floor or the cabinets should have a lighter shade than the other. That will continue to build the contrast so both the cabinets and the floor stand out.

Blonde bamboo is another popular color for cherry cabinets. Even though it’s from a plant, bamboo is often used in place of wood floors in a kitchen because it’s very durable and better at withstanding water and moisture. Bamboo has a unique texture and look, which will also help the cherry cabinets stand out.

Oak cabinets

Oak cabinets are often finished with stains that lead to a yellowish hue as the cabinets age.

For a visual snap, you should go with darker colored floors, such as walnut or cherry, and dark stains. The dark colors will continue to look nice against the cabinets even as both cabinets and floors shift color with age.

If you want a more uniform appearance, you can use oak floors and the grain patterns will match. Or, you can select from other light woods such as maple, which has a very golden hue that will match with the cabinets.

Maple cabinets

Maple cabinets have a very distinctive golden color when they are built using natural stain. If you add maple floors against maple cabinets, you will end up with a bright, cheerful kitchen.

As with other light-colored cabinets, adding a darker wood to the floor enriches the color scheme of your kitchen. Reddish floors, such as mahogany or cherry, will complement the golds in the cabinets and pull the entire setup together.

Dark/espresso cabinets

With dark or espresso colored cabinets, you have a few choices depending on if you want to go with a similar dark look on the floor or contrast it completely with either white or gray.

If you choose white or gray wood floors against dark brown or black cabinets, you will create a very modern looking kitchen. Many people who go for this look appreciate the cleanness of having black contrasted with white.

Another option is to use dark brown patterned hardwood floors with a strong grain. The dark patterns of the grain bring out the colors of your cabinets while the lighter shades within the wood floor yield a more subtle contrast.

Thirdly, you can make a bold statement by using a dark colored floor with dark cabinets. This color scheme can be impressive in the right setting, although some designers will say it works best in a large, open-spaced kitchen with plenty of natural light. In a tight space, the kitchen will seem to shrink.

Captain’s parting words!

Surprisingly, you can get an overwhelming amount of floor colors from hardwood. Fortunately, a few principles of design–match colors with walls and cabinets–should help narrow down your options.

Then, you can go from the remaining list of colors, and pick which you like best, or which gives off the best “mood” for your room. Colors should be one of the fun parts of floor shopping, so don’t let it stress you out.

If you plan on buying hardwood, I’d recommend checking out our unbiased hardwood guide to increase your chances of getting the best investment you can on your new floor.

Any questions on hardwood colors? Let me know in the comments below.

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