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White living room with painted wood floor, exposed beams, white built in bookshelves, Moroccan lanterns, and a round dark wood table and chair
Bright white wood floors in a island home. (above)

So, my dear friend JLF has a dilemma. She is redoing the wood floors in her darling West Hollywood home and she cannot decide on floor color. Right now her wood floors are that medium honey color…after a few years of living in her house, she is now ready to make the floors her own.

JLF called me the other day asking whether she should paint her wood floors white or go with a dark dark dark wood floor.

What do you think…white wood vs. dark wood that is the question? Take a look at these examples and you decide!

Living room in a home in NYC with wide plank white wood floors, built in bookshelves, a reclaimed wood table surrounded by white S Chairs and exposed beams
Wide plank white wood floors brighten up a NYC home. (above)

Living room with lavender walls, dark wood floor, mercury side tables, a white sofa, breeze white curtains and a round mirrors hanging above a dark wood chest of drawers
The dark wood floors add a richness to this living space (above)

Kitchen with dark wood floor, stainless appliances, white cabinets and drawers, two pendant lights and three bar stools with leather seats
The wood floors in this kitchen make for a sleek and contemporary look (above)

So what do you think dear readers? What should JLF do? White wood vs. dark wood that is the question.

Happy Monday!


Photos: Hibiscus Hill, Melanie Acevedo, The Brooklyn Home Company

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  1. Both are hard to keep clean. I have both in my house, and if I had to choose I would pick white because the dark shows everything. If I did all over again I would try to keep my sanity and do caramel.

  2. Both styles are gorgeous! I say go for the wide plank white floors, amazing!!
    I have the super dark wood floors in my home, and while they are pretty. I tend to think of it as a little more on the traditional, conservative side. Plus they show every single speck, smudge, hair.

  3. Is the white wood easily scuffed? With kids I have tile and its white. I dream of wood floors, not so sure about dark, but would like a walnut color….or so I think.

  4. That is really tough!! I’ve had painted white floors and I honestly miss them. I felt like they made the place look bigger and it felt clean and simple. However, my roommate, who was a painter, thought it was the most awful thing you could do to hardwood floors. Also, moving furniture around could cause more visible scratches so you have to be careful with that. I think that the super dark floors are beautiful too, but only if you have enough sunlight in your house to balance them.

  5. I think this depends greatly on what color the majority of her cabinetry is already. What color are her kitchen cabinets? If they’re white… I would go with dark floors. If they’re dark, I would go with white floors. I think it’s important to have some point of contrast and the two wood tones would be perfect for that. Best of luck! 🙂

  6. I think it has to do with personal style. If your friend wants her home to have the carefree, Bahamas-chic beach style, then go for the white floors. If she is more of a traditionalist and prefers feeling grounded and having her home feel warm and luxurious, then dark floors. Lastly – both will get dirty and show scratches, big deal – it’s patina.

    Either way, I would love to see what she decides.

  7. My vote is for light, not white, so maybe a very pale, natural stain or a whitewash. I can’t stand to see the hardwood painted, the wood grain is so pretty!

  8. white looks gorgeous and visually expands the room…but i’m sure its a chore to maintain white painted wood..I wouldn’t want the kitchen floor to be too dark..better to go with a light colored wood instead…I have white marble floors…they really are the best! xx meenal

  9. please tell her i want to see the ‘before’! (in person, since i’m dying to invite myself over.) and my vote is dark, almost black i would say. i feel like there is more of a grounding feel to those vs. the white ones. i would be so annoyed with bright floors that matched the walls and ceilings for some reason. 😉

  10. I say go with the dark dark dark wood – she can always get a white flat woven rug that can be laundered and switched up if necessary!
    (although I would honestly have the very same dilemma!)

  11. I think it depends on the space. White floors are great for places like beach houses or vacation homes- places that are not used 100% of the time (less dirt). But overall I think dark floors are better. They are just warm and make spaces more inviting.

  12. I went dark in a regular house and love it…. but the smallest bit of dust can scratch them. But still love it.

    I think white goes with a limited style. Dark can go with a few more… so depends on her style.

  13. If she were in Texas, I’d say dark wood. We do not have a lot of beaches here. California makes me think of warm, sunny skies and beaches. White floors would be beautiful.

  14. Best of both worlds…. First wire brush oak planks to open the grains, & then dye the planks black using India ink mixed with a little water then seal & rub a white oil based paint into the cracks and crevices! Ebonized oak flooring. Looks great and no dirt shows, and ages nicely.

  15. We had the same dilemma when we moved. There were horrid reddish bamboo floors. The problem with black is that it shows every tiny piece of dust. White gets filthy in a nano second. We decided on an in between — grey! It is very chic. We had the floor guy mix the stain for us to the right shade. The wood grain still shows through, but the floors are neutral grey. Our walls are an ‘almost’ grey with white trim. It sets a beautiful background to rugs, art and color.

  16. You are asking me to choose between my two favorites!! I have lived with dark hardwood, they are hard to keep clean but I think they are more than worht the effort, and I am putting them in my next home. I don’t know what the maintenance is like with white hardwoods, but they look so beach-y to me so I think they work great in SoCal.

  17. I just painted my bedroom wood floors high gloss white and I’m in love!!!
    Everyone said “you can’t paint the wood” but I am so happy i followed my gut and went for it. It is a restful oasis and I don’t miss the wood at all. There is wood on other floors of the house which will stay but no looking back on the master bedroom!

  18. The dark dark floors show EVERY little speck of dust, dirt, etc. I like the look, but that’s a very huge FYI to consider! The white is super cute! We’re building a house right now and are putting in beachy gray reclaimed floors.

  19. I’ve put very dark hardwood floors into two homes and just love them, but that was in Connecticut where making spaces feel warm is important for the long winters. Light-colored furniture just pops off of dark floors, and if the furniture has dark legs it looks like it’s floating. I just love the look of the white painted floors–so pristine–but might be hard to maintain if there are dogs or children in the house (the kids can remove their shoes whenever they’re inside, but the dogs??). So I would like this look in a warm, dry climate (no winter snow or spring mud to contend with). A compromise would be to do what I did in a kitchen with dark wood floors–paint creamy diamonds, extra large, on the floors. I was inspired by a room done by Celerie Kemble. Gorgeous!

  20. It depends on how much natural light she gets in her home. If there’s lots of light flooding in, white floors would look great. If there’s not alot of natural light, white can look a little dingy. In that case, it’s better to go with richer, darker coloured floors. The same is true for white v’s coloured walls.

  21. the shot of the ‘wide plank white’ floored dinning room/loft was featured on the nate berkus show and i’m OBSESSED. posted the whole house a few days ago. that said. WHITE ALL THE WAY.

  22. I actually agree with Tamara (Bella Boho) and would do a driftwood grey. I think the white, as beautiful as it is, would be hard to keep clean and from showing scratches. The driftwood look is a nice compromise.

  23. Love my dark wood floors but hate the daily cleanup of cat hair that shows up immediately. If I could do it over, I would go dark again, but not with any shine; hopefully a matte finish would cut down on the maintenance.

  24. I love white floors so much. It makes the room look bigger, brighter and warmer. And it works so well in contrast with the warm woods from the furniture.

  25. I have seen JLF’s house and think she should leave the original hardwood floor alone and only deal with the damaged room. But, she won’t go for that so having read all the comments I stand by my second bit of advice: the light floor she considered which is distressed and greyish, not pure white. Your writers who have dark floors all say there is a problem with hair and JLF has a dog. The house needs the light, the furniture is dark so it’s a nice contrast and the distressed finish would be less formal and more in keeping with the general decor. I love your Coco site.

  26. I have had Pine and now have Dark Ebony! I love the Dark,it does show dust, but it’s very Beautiful and worth it’s up keep!
    You just need a WHITE “Miele” vacuum…
    You can see mine on older

  27. I love them both, for different reasons. But I must say dark, because at this very moment, a lovely man named Dan is making a lot of noise installing dark wood floors at my place. So exciting!!

  28. Ruth! That is great news about your wood floors. Send photos.

    Lewis, thanks for the how to tip!

    Kofas and Ashley good tips on color!

    Louise and despar2…grey could be interesting indeed.

    Loving all of these comments and just heard from JLF…she’s reading them too!

    Keep them coming!


  29. Dark wood adds such a rich feeling to homes. It really depends on what look she is going for – like everyone is saying, white floors make everything brighter, lighter, and casual. Dark can go either way, but is generally more formal. Plus the dark provides such an elegant, dramatic backdrop for the entire room. I would definitely go with the dark!

  30. Was she planning on stripping the wood floors and then staining them, or was she going to put new floors down? If it’s the latter, maybe she could paint the floors first and see if she likes it. If not, she can then replace which she was going to do anyway. Also, that might work with the former as well, because if she has to get them sanded down, maybe it’s not that big a deal to sand the paint? I live in Woodland Hills and probably have the same floors. I’m dying to paint them but my husband says no go. It could be because of the 3 kids, 1 dog and 2 cats. Go know.

  31. lifestyle must be considered.Kids? animals? are you are clean nick? Dark scratches, shows everything..white will wear..if you like the worn look go for it with no regrets.

  32. Hi, first time posting but I love your blog. While the white is very fresh and seems so light, the dark floors and white walls combo is hard to beat. It says classic, it can be fresh, and there’s nothing like it! I have a look in my house similar to the last photo and I LOVE it. :0)

  33. I had dark wood floors and just changed them to white STAINED floors, if you are going to go white do not paint the wood you lose the natural beauty of the wood grain. There is a new process where first the wood is sanded, then bleached and then stained so that the natural grain of the wood shows through. The stain we chose is pure white; there are variations of antique white, off white etc. Preparation of the wood floor before they are stained is the most essential part of the process, you have to make sure after sanding all the cracks are sealed sanded and as flawless as possible, after the stain 1 0r 2 coats a clear sealer is applied at least 3 coats. I love my floors. Dark or light if it is not clean neither will look its best.

  34. Definitely dark wood floors. They ground the space and don’t show every little fleck of dust or dirt that white floors do. I have light olive green concrete floors in our second home in the wine country. They are beautiful but make me crazy! Everything shows and they never look really clean when they are clean! ~Delores

  35. If the dark or white floors are going to make her happy, then there’s no discussion. She deserves whatever she wants.

    BUT… (Sorry, here’s the but)

    1. The dirt factor is not inconsequential. It’s difficult to be happy when a house looks and feels dirty.

    2. Both light and dark floors seem to be a trend. They will look dated in a relatively short time. Also, medium wood tones are coming back — already.

    For those reasons, in your client’s place, I would rethink this.

  36. I recently painted my wood kitchen floor black. Looks great when they have just been swept, swiffered and mopped. I have to do this EVERY DAY because you see every spec of dust and crumb. It is driving me mad, I tell you! I am going to re-paint them, quite possibly white. I painted my covered porch floor white last year and it always looks clean and beautiful.

  37. I would love to paint my floors white, I have always hesitate…. I worry that it may not go well for resale!

  38. That is a tough decision… White is very popular and fresh right now… very dark is also beautiful and timeless and looks amazing with a huge neutral seagrass rug and all other components in room white.
    Both floors are not easy maintenance so that’s a non issue…
    If a nice change is needed go for white…
    It’s very fresh and happy and bright..
    Go for it, i think it’s very exciting.

  39. I just painted the floors in my new apartment BEIGE and that is definitely what I recommend for anyone as an alternative to white white. It balances out the proportions of the room better, it’s classic, not trendy, fits in a variety of modern/Scandinavian/rustic/eclectic looks, doesn’t show dirt as much but feels clean, etc. etc. Note that for me personally, I would never have painted over finished wood, but they had been painted back in the 30s/40s/50s and then covered with linoleum that was then removed.

    So tell us, what did she decide?

  40. Less than a year ago I bought a new house and put super dark, very expensive wood flooring in and I have regretted it every day since. As soon as I clean the floor, just seconds later it’s peppered with dust particles and every single hair and tiny scratch shows up like there’s a spotlight on it. I’m not even a neat freak and the fact that it always look dirty makes me crazy. Definitely the worst house decision I’ve made and I’m just waiting until I can afford to rip them out and put in light wood.

  41. Here’s a little different situation. A kitchen raised (a couple of steps up from the family room). The kitchen is large (30×25′) with white glass cabinets.
    We are thinking of putting in a dark floor, but are unsure of the effect of looking at a raised dark floor from the entrance.
    Any thoughts?

  42. They both look great, the only difference to me is that dark wood floors doesn’t require much cleaning but white ones need more attention as stains or dust will be visible.

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