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Hardwood FloorsUnderstanding Undertones

How Important is the Colour of Wood vs. Wall Colour?

By 07/27/2009August 12th, 201817 Comments

When people ask me for colour advice (at a dinner party or somewhere other than their home), they are always quick to describe the colour of their wood furniture or flooring.

Usually this is because they don’t have anything else they can use for colour inspiration, and they are probably quite sure that the colour of their wood should be considered.

The other day I even received an email asking about the undertones of hardwood flooring and if they are important in picking wall colours.

So here’s the skinny on wood colours:

The undertones of wood are generally, 1) orange [above], so the only time you need to be concerned is if you are also going to paint the walls orange [below]. In my opinion, this space works well but make sure you do consider which orange is the right one!
2) Red (below)
3) yellow [below]
or 4) Brown [below]

So unless you are planning to install walnut flooring with your brown walls, or red if your floors are cherry, orange if you have fir or oak flooring; consider your wood stained furniture or flooring to be like denim. Generally, they go with everything!

Don’t do what I did in the beginning; I would be standing there (in an empty space) with the client, looking at me expectantly, (waiting for me to pull magic out of my fan deck) and what I did in those days? I matched the wall colours to the flooring.

Before the brown and grey trend came along, everything was maple, fir, or oak; yellow or orange. So I specified a lot of orange beige in those days because it worked well with orange undertoned floors.

A few months ago, one of my clients (from the very beginning of my colour consulting days) hired me to pick new colours and drapery, for her living room.

I cringed when I walked in and saw this colour (BM Boardwalk) because I remembered picking it because the only inspiration in the living room at the time was black, leather furniture!

The exception to this is when you have wood stained trim or walls. That’s when wall colours should coordinate. After all the colour is now vertical and you will constantly be comparing it visually. So don’t choose a pink beige (for example) to go with your honey maple kitchen cabinets!

Related posts:

Which Hardwood Floor is the Most Timeless?

Happiness is. . . A Happy Wife (every man should read this one)

10 Ways to Save money Now by Creating a Focal Point

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  • thedraperyshop says:

    Thanks for all the tips. You make my job easier. LOL

  • Cristin says:

    I've enjoyed reading your blog – just gave you a Blog Lovin' Award.


  • Tracy @ comfortandluxury says:

    Good advice, Maria. Thanks!

  • Ideezine says:

    Aw yes those were the brown days, we know them well. I'm glad we're more relaxed about the woods and grains now. When you know better, you do better.


  • Imogen Lamport says:

    Great advice – we have very yellow pine floorboards, but I ignore them when decorating – as I certainly don't want to match them!

    I have to admit to having espresso brown leather sofas – I also have young children who drop lots of food and drinks on them, as well as dogs who like to sit on them. If I didn't have those considerations I'd not be going for the 'wipe clean' leather as it can feel cold.

    Sometimes we have to be practical!

  • Tiina of LiviaConcept says:

    You are so good! i always enjoy reading your color tips and do's and dont's. thank you for this informative post!

  • Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design says:

    Isn't it funny how people stress over the colour of their timber floor. They do that here in Australia too. My advice is always that wood is a natural product and like you said – goes with everything. Great post.

  • Carey says:

    We have just purchased wood flooring for a large portion of our home, so I'm pleased to see your tip for choosing wall color is quite uncomplicated! But here's what has given us fits concerning paint color and wood: A DARK WOOD CEILING soaring above the entry, living, and dining rooms, circa 1977. I liked the vaulted ceilings, but the wood sucks up all the light and strongly affects the paint color. I would paint it in a heartbeat, but the hubs will not hear of it. I can understand his reasoning as the ceiling is beautiful in it's own way, but it's definitely "Ruling the Roost" as far as further decor decisions go, and I hate that. I've had to change the wall color 3 times in the last 7 years.

  • Design Esquire says:

    You also find the perfect images to make your point. Great post!

  • Linda/"Mom" says:

    * Dear Maria~

    Today's posting was great~ "short, sweet n' to the point"! (SOOO informative, which is DEFINITELY what I'm needing these days!)…

    I also did ALOT of "back-reading", and I think your other blogs, along with this one, saved me the $$$ from yet ANOTHER bottle of aspirin!

    MANNNNY thanks,
    Linda in AZ *

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    Wood goes with everything. check. I always thought you had match it. It's fun reading your blog I get to repeat what you post and sound like an expert. (I give the credit to you always)

  • Marsha says:

    I'm using my work computer and not all the images or text appear on the screen so I'm confused about the bellybutton piercing image with the wood species images? What am I missing?
    Is this some subliminal motivational photo that only appears on my screen because that is one of my many "problem areas."

    Great post as usual.

  • Slices of Beauty... says:

    Thank you!
    Love wood but not the whole house.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Marsha,
    Sorry about the images not showing up. I just showed that photo to point out that most colours go with wood floors (just like denim).

    I would also love to have that flat stomach 🙂

  • Brillante Home Decor says:

    Great advice from THE expert! Maria stop giving free tips, actually no…keep giving free tips…they help tremendously.

  • Lauren says:

    love your cmoparison of wood to denim!!! you always make it all so simple!!

  • Roch says:

    having this same problem. fortunately for me the furniture is not yet bought therefore I am working with a blank room that I can customize to our liking. we are debating going with brown or dark brown/black floors.

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