What is the “best” stain color for my hardwood floor?

Lately that is the question that I hear a lot from customers is regarding what color stain that they should use on their floor when refinishing.

My answer in the way past (we are talking 1980 something) would have been to match the color to the color of the trim in the house.  Back then everything matched.  Coming out of the 70’s where everything was a different color it was very relaxing and easy to keep everything the same.  (Can you say boring?)  I even spent hours matching stain on a previous job where people wanted pine windows to be the same color when stained as the oak stained trim.

Over the last few years it would have been to use something slightly darker or lighter than your cabinet and trim color so that it doesn’t all blend in and look the same.  I still believe that this is a wise choice for some customers that want a complement in their home that is timeless.

Here is a picture of a typical refinishing color selection.  The customer knows the color family that they want to use.  They are just unsure of how dark that they want that color to be.  These samples all are bringing out the same color tones, just in different intensities.

Testing stain colors on oak


This next color selection palette is more diverse.  The customer here isn’t sure what color family that they want to use.  They have every color family here…warm golden brown, more natural, gray brown and red brown.  This truly opens up to many possibilities.  You may select something that you were not intending.  These sampling pictures I found courtesy of Pinterest to show the different scenarios.  In this particular choice the customer ending up choosing the one on the left as it was a warmer color that gave more life and coziness to the space.  I also would have chosen this color in my own home personally because I like the variation in color and the warmth of it as well.

testing 4 different stain colors on oak

Early American stain on red oak kitchen

Notice on the previous pictures how light oak wood is when it is sanded?  That is the natural color of the wood.  When finishes like stain or enhancing sealers are applied it brings out the grain and appears to add depth and brings out the natural characteristics of the wood.  That is what Brent loves about refinishing wood.  He is able to reveal the beauty of the wood in many different forms.  It is like a painter with a blank canvas.  He just needs the customer to tell him the color that he should be painting that canvas with.

testing grey stain on wood

How fun would this color be?  With the re-emergence of gray as a neutral color in your home palette…this color would be so interesting and fun!  This is a gray stain on wood that is more rustic.  This look in flooring is all over.  I predict that this will only grow in popularity as more people see the possibilities of what you can do with this fun color.

These days there is a movement where different is back and it is truly interesting to see.  The rules from my interior design schooling have been thrown out and it is to do what makes you happy.  If that is a grey tinge to the floor color with chocolate brown cabinetry and white trim…go for it!  It is all about finding the combination that makes your house feel like your home.  If you like the color combination together then that is what is important.

Don’t be afraid to do something different than your neighbors or friends.  Do what makes YOU happy!  If you have been dreaming about a new look…go for it.  We would be more than happy to help you achieve those dreams of what “could be”.  Call us today for a quote on making your dreams a reality.

Kathy Munson, Interior Designer and Office Manager, Custom Installations LLC