Before you decide to replace your flooring, here are a few things you need to know. And there are some floors that are worth keeping so you can invest in your decorating instead. Here’s which floors are timeless and which ones should be replaced (or not installed at all).
What is the most timeless wood floor (or wood-look option)?
If you’ve been following my work, you’ll know that I often say that pale natural (oak or maple) or medium neutral brown (like oak or hickory) are the most timeless colour options for wood or wood-look floors. They are natural, versatile, and generally won’t scream which decade they were installed in or limit your decorating options.
And while classic and timeless is a worthy goal for any renovation, it doesn’t mean that it’s gospel. Not absolutely every house has to have these floors.
In a case where new wood floors are necessary, I prefer installing a natural or medium neutral wood tone over any kind of weathered grey wood look flooring hands down. If you have older hardwood floors that lean gold or ginger orange in colour, or even a fairly dark hardwood, most of the time it’s best to avoid waste and just work with them. Often it’s preferable.
Older hardwood floors throughout are often worth keeping
But if you have a perfectly good hardwood floor running on your stairs and that covers the majority of your square footage? Consider just updating the tile in the kitchen and move on to decorating and making your house a home.
In fact, I recommend keeping your skinny-plank warm wood floors and invest in decorating details instead.
Why? Because in many cases you’re going to get a much bigger bang for your buck by investing in decorating. Rather than undergoing the expensive and disruptive work of refinishing or replacing your floors to look like the current ideal, opt for making other updates to your decor and styling.
Particularly in an older home, these skinny plank warm wood floors befit the home’s era. And 80s homes with skinny-plank, heavily grained oak floors? Often worth keeping too.
Here’s when it’s a good idea to replace your floors
That said, if you have a small area of hardwood and miles of different tile and carpeting, your hardwood should probably go. That’s when you may want to consider maybe replacing ALL the flooring with the same LVP or engineered wood floor to create a more continuous look without those awkward transitions. It’s the mix of many different patterns and colours of floors that look dated and fragmented in your home.
An island of hardwood that is less than two-thirds of your square footage AND a dated colour is probably worth replacing with a more current flooring choice.
Hardwood floors that are a bossy, exotic deep red or busy tiger-striped type of wood floor would be another instance where I recommend replacing them.
Hardwood with a stripey pattern is the LEAST neutral wood floor colour possible. And more often than not, you will be happier if you choose to re-stain it to tone it down or replace it entirely. You could also consider painting your wood floors to cool the look down.
Don’t put farmhouse rustic wood floors in modernist interiors
If you have a house with modernist architecture, for example, wide-plank natural or rustic farmhouse wood floors are going to look forced and out of place.
Unfortunately, there are few wood-look flooring options on the market that look like vintage, narrow plank mid-century floors. This is another instance where it’s best to consider working with what flooring you have if possible.
Of course, if you have no option but to update the wood floors, take care to choose something that is warm enough in tone to fit the style. And, again, choose the smoothest, least busy, and least rustic option you can find, as they’ve done in this Mid Century kitchen below.
The point is, just because rustic wide plank wood flooring in cooler neutral browns is the thing now, that doesn’t mean every house should have it to look current and beautiful.
In fact for flooring longevity, except in the most rustic of homes, overly countrified or farmhouse-looking wood floors should generally be avoided. Simple, smooth (not busy), and natural-toned wood or wood-look floors will stand the test of time.
How to work with vintage, warm wood floors
Don’t forget that a floor is just a foundation. You can make liberal use of pretty area rugs, furnishings and decor to satisfy the eye (and distract from less-than-perfect floors). So, don’t panic if it’s not in the budget to replace your wood floors yet.
Remember, decorating is not about everything being as “new” as possible. It’s about interest, mood, colour, texture and pattern – creating a look and a feel.
Keep in mind that the way to balance overly warm (yellow, orange or red) wood floors is to introduce lots of cool, fresh, and airy colours in your decorating.
To really tone down your wood floors, choose large pale natural fibre area rugs that run nearly the width of the room. Rugs should come within the outermost couple of feet around the border of your room and then feel free to layer it with a patterned rug or two. Deliberately introduce white, cream, pale greige, blues, greens, and greys in your decorating.
How to work with trendy grey wood floors
But, what if you have the weathered-grey wood-look floors that are in many homes (and quickly becoming dated)?
Again, if it’s not in the budget to replace your grey wood floors, start layering in the more current warm tones into your decorating. Add colours like cognac, gold, chocolate, plum, green, or rust. These colours look fresh with lots of cream or white and grey.
The best way to approach decisions for any renovation is to consider which upgrades will give you the most impact. And if your home has too many transitions between flooring materials like hardwood, tile and carpet, that’s when replacing your floors should be a top priority!
Don’t forget to budget for decorating
But remember, you will be happiest if you set aside a large chunk of your budget for decorating. Simply renovating without decorating will not make you happy. And this is so often overlooked in favour of perceived “investment” upgrades like adding new finishes.
Resale value isn’t everything. A home is a place for living and it should give you joy, so consider decorating your living room instead of tearing out perfectly good hardwood floors. So, before you even tackle that next renovation project, ask yourself, “Is my living room decorated?”
There’s still time to attend my Expert Colour & Design Training this year!
Is this workshop for someone like me?
Here’s what some of the participants in my last two classes had to say:
Thank you, Maria for two fabulous, uplifting days! It was great to be immersed in your colour world! As a homeowner, I wondered if the course would be worthwhile. It totally was! I am so much more confident in my own opinion about colour. The huge unexpected bonus for me was that I also learned something about design. I now know how to tell good advice from bad advice. That alone would have saved me 5 years of living in an ugly house that I spent many thousands to have professionally decorated and furnished. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
– Lorna Heacock
I have no formal training in design but it is my passion. After taking this course, I am 100% confident that I can successfully start my color consulting & design business. I am so thrilled I decided to invest in myself and my business- this course was practical, hands-on (even over zoom) and interactive. I appreciated the real life examples and Q&A sessions with Maria. What an invaluable experience.
– Ashley Poe
Awesome course. I appreciate the updated information. I’ve taken all of Maria’s e-courses, read her books and took the TCE class before. She is always organized. She gives you all the helpful tricks she has learned throughout the years. It is worth the money.
– Barbara Schultz