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?”
If you’d like help choosing your flooring before you renovate your kitchen you’ll need this package. Or our Classic and Timeless Complete Renovation package here.
There’s still time to attend my FINAL Virtual Specify Colour with Confidence event this year!
Register here for October 28-29, 2021
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
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The Timeless Flooring Everywhere in Italy
I said this the other day….rugs are the solution to a floor you can’t afford to replace immediately. And decorate! You can do so much with excellent light fixtures for a much smaller cost and disruption than replacing the floor. I have rustic LVP, but what bothers me more is the fact that I don’t have pendant lights in the kitchen, so the only source of light is the can lights! Dreary! Am I replacing the floor? Not any time soon, but I am installing pendant lights ASAP! Plus, in this area, people still love the rustic look flooring, therefore I will leave that trendy component as it is. If you can’t find the area rug you’re looking for, you can go to a carpet store and they can make a bound rug from any carpet, which is an affordable, durable option many times, and you get the exact size you need. Plus, it can add some color to the floor! Who said floors have to be neutral all the time? Find a fun area rug in a pop of color.
I’d like to see a article on LVP
Most are too busy. It looks fine on one sample plank put but into a room, all those knots and busyness make the floor look terrible, and almost dirty …… and the colours yeeesh!
I don’t know about LVP, but have seen some beautiful water-resistant laminant floors lately that truly look and feel like wood.
I think you need to see a photo of an entire floor to find out if it’s going to be too busy looking. I agree that some of them look terrible!
Or buy a box or two of the flooring and lay it out in your space to get a better idea of what it will look like installed.
You are absolutely correct on LVP. One plank – nice; whole floor – yuk. Hope Maria takes you up on this suggestion.
I agree, don’t like the look or feel of engineered and laminate products. I went to a local flooring store, and was able to get old school, regular solid wood maple to have installed in half of my 1909 home to match the existing stuff. When I asked, it was pretty much the same price as engineered. I guess the difference is once it was installed, it had to be sanded and sealed… but that extra couple days was well worth it. I believe these floors will remain in this house for another 100 years without going out of style or needling to be replaced.
I love this post. My question is what if the livingroom and bedrooms have orangy hardwood but the long hallway have tile and the kitchen/dining room has cork. It will look great if we can do the hallway and kitchen/dining also in the same hardwood, but the existing hardwood is too orangy for what we like. (We’re the home in Campbell River). The orangy hardwood is too orange for our taste. I absolutely love the Simons Design studio kitchen that is the first photo of your post. So beautiful!
Just refinish the orangey wood in a light to medium brown stain and finish with water based poly. You can probably get matching wood for the rest of the house
Yes this is exactly what there is to do! Maria
Love it and thanks for the lovely examples. A picture is worth a thousand words for sure! We are installing plank LVP. You’re right, it’s basically the only thing that’s being sold right now and I’ve been all over here in my town and even went to flooring stores in Vermont and they all offered the same thing, LVP. Thank goodness I love it!
Maria, didn’t you mention a few posts back that you were going to be revealing your living room/dining room refresh or am I mistaken? I’ve been patiently waiting!
Yes my furniture has been delayed for months due to COVID. Hopefully soon! Maria
You’re killing us, Maria. 😉
Maria, you are definitely rubbing off on me. If I see a place that has colours that just don’t go, I know where that thinking comes from. Something is off, way off. I recently looked at a motor home where the colours were so discordant. I knew what was wrong, thanks to you. I really appreciate your blog and all the clever articles you post. Thanks. (and Happy Thanksgiving too)
I’ve seen people with yellow wood floor decorate in airy blues and it is such a great combination.
This is so relevant for me right now. We are planning a move to a newly built retirement community. Of course, the homes are white with black trim! They are showing the homes with wide rustic LVP which is an upgrade. The standard floor included is a narrower engineered hardwood by Mannington in our choice of stains. I was hesitant to upgrade to the LVP as this isn’t a “farmhouse” and I feared it would look dated soon. Now I am confident that I can stick with the standard floor and save some money for decorating too!
I like this post because it was not just all about how to look as if a designer put it together but rather accepting what you have sometimes and working with it, maybe even orange toned oak floors, to make your house a home! And you commented on avoiding the waste of replacing something just to be more pleasing to the eye, not because it’s worn out. Bravo, Maria!!
Maria, you totally saved my bacon when we replaced our laminate faux wood and tile floors in 2018. In one of your blogs or eBooks, you said that you can never go wrong with timeless medium brown hardwood floors and to stay away from the trendy off-white or gray floors that were all the rage then. We installed medium brown engineered hardwood floors, and not only do they go with everything, they are so beautiful and yes…timeless 🙂
Thanks Maria! You mention 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. What about the wall color with these floors in an open concept home – should they also be cool, fresh & airy?
Thanks Maria. I do a lot of decorating in NYC where the old slim planked orange toned wood floors are very common in pre-war buildings, and we do often go with cool tones on walls to balance them out. So true! On another note, I am one of those people who places a high value on real wood floors, even ugly ones, over LVP which I actually hate. I’ve just never seen LVP that I like. Could you talk about painting wood floors? If someone had real wood floors in good shape but the wood was stripey or really harsh and they wanted to change them, I might advise they paint them. I love white, warm gray, deep blue. I’ve seen incredibly beautiful red floors and green floors too. Of course, quite a commitment and perhaps not exactly classic, but real wood! Is this not practical due to scuffing? Thanks!
I put in a narrow board hardwood floor in Cumaru( marketed as Brazilian teak). 14 years ago.
We live in the country and I looked on the Janka Hardness scale and it was second on the list next to IPE.
It was beautiful and still is.
Maybe not the best for the grey trend but with the warmer cognac tones it works perfectly.
( the narrower boards were because we live in heavy clay soil and less of a problem with shifting).
I enjoy your posts Maria.
We have dark hardwood floors throughout, with tile in baths and laundry room. I think the floor color has red undertones, so I’ve been wondering if I should stick to cooler toned hardware and lighting in the kitchen? Everywhere I look I see gold, but it seems to look best with the gold or grey toned floors. Is gold hardware like “jeans” in the way hardwood floors can be? Or should I stick with cool-toned hardware and lighting with white cabinets and dark (almost cherry) floors? Does hardware need to relate some way to cabinet or floor wood tones?
Oh, thank you Maria. This (plus your previous post on cognac + cherry) made me realize my floors are cognac. Unfortunately they’re also a very busy knotty pine. But they’re one of the few original elements in my 1860’s home, so there’s no way I’m replacing them.
Ultimately I plan to paint them, as a stop-gap I’ve been buying room-size rugs. Thanks for pushing me towards cooler-toned paint colors as well.
I have the orange tone oak hardwood floors from the 90s with real cherry cabinets. I hate the way the two wood tones look together. When I go to refinish the floors do I go with a midtone brown or the paler bleached look?? Thanks for any ideas!
I have my mother’s Cherry dining room set, and when we refinished our red oak floors, we choose a stain called neutral, which barely made the wood darker but seemed to neutralize the pink a bit. In my view, a natural stain or no stain looks better with Cherry than a mid-brown would look.
Perfectly timed post for me. We moved into an older (early nineties) home with beautiful warm cognac, narrow plank hardwood in the living room but worn, dark smudgy blue-grey vinyl tiling in the front entry and front-located kitchen. I’ve been searching for a replacement. The LVP options are so depressing – lots of wood plank choices which are nice enough, but the options that try mimic marble or ceramic tile are not the least appealing. I sure hope you do a post on flooring options that compliment traditional hardwood flooring. As always, today’s post is beautifully done and enlightening.
This is one of your best posts! Great, concise, practical advice! I love that you included ideas to work with all kinds of flooring and which types of floors truly should be replaced. My gut knew what I needed to do next, but I kept getting hung up on the part of the house I don’t like. I now have a direction to take my decor decisions. This article was exactly what I needed! Thank you!
Thank you Maria for your blog & always great information.
My son has moved into his first townhome. His floors are parquet reddy, orange colour.
Are these floors you would remove? Would they be worth sanding & re-staining?
I forwarded your flooring article to him & nit too sure whether to replace the flooring.
Ps I think he should, we both value your recommendation.
Dear Maria, I’m new around here and am thoroughly enjoying your blog and advice. Thank you and well done! A proper challenge for you: I’m on a tight budget. We’ve moved to a house where the floors are concrete, and painted a deep red. I’ve got to roll with it, but can swing some cans of paint for the walls and a few new items to decorate. Could you (or one of your readers) point me in the right direction please? Any advice is welcome!
So maybe I’m slightly off topic but I’m wondering about rugs. I’m trying to distract from my ugly laminate and wondering if there are size guidelines on layering rugs? I have a 9×12 seagrass and am not sure how much smaller to go with a softer one on top.