Stain color trends for hardwood floors – Westchester NY – Updated April 6, 2015

Refinish hardwood floors - Westchester NY - ebony flooringWhen it comes to hardwood flooring in Westchester NY, dark and light are in – both extremes.  Light stains gives the room a nice warm, airy and welcome look; dark stains hardwood gives the room a more formal and sophisticated look.  At the moment, dark seems to be the preference between the two, but this can vary based on the home owner’s tastes and style of the home.


In addition, over the last year and a half, a new trend has emerged and an old one has been reinvented.  Gray is the new hot trend.  And, white wash has been reinvented.  Yes, you read that right!  More below.  Because of these strong trends, I needed to update this article.  (My original article was from 2011 and yes, styles and trends evolve).


When we are refinishing hardwood floors in Westchester NY, we usually test 3 stains for a customer on their own hardwood.  It’s important to do this as all wood varies and accepts the stain differently based on the type of wood, grade of wood and it’s age. Also, wood color varies, so it’s much better to test it on several pieces – some lighter, some darker to get a true picture of how the stain will look (vs. a small chip that is on fake wood)

Stain color testing westchester

Minwax stain colors westchester










Dark hardwood stains


Ebony hardwood flooring - Hartsdale NY 10530Dark colors are probably the most stylish and dramatic. There are several similar tones, so I think it’s usually best to see which is just the right shade for your taste.


– Ebony for an deep espresso stylish and dramatic look.  Jacobean is very similar, so it’s good to test that stain, too.  Jacobean is currently the most popular stain.  Often, we will test a 50/50 blend of Jacobean and Ebony (this is nicknamed espresso) and many of our customers love this combo.


How to get dark hardwood floors– Dark Walnut is similar to Ebony and Jacobean, but it a bit lighter, which some customers prefer.  Jacobean and dark walnut show the dirt a bit less than ebony.


– Royal Mahogany has a bit of red cut in.  It’s almost a combo of Red Mahogany and Ebony.




Light colors for hardwood flooring

Refinish oak hardwood floors - Westchester NY - light naturalLight colors are very cheery as well as neutral.  They also work for modern looking homes (and ironically, ebony on the opposite extreme also works for modern).


– Most often, if someone is going light, we will do natural as this is the lightest you can go, and it usually costs less than adding a stain. Lighter, especially natural tends to hold up better/last longer and show less dirt.


– Golden Oak, fruitwood and ipswich pine are also a nice options – just a tad darker and adds some gold tones for more depth



Mid toned stains

Herringbone - Provincial hardwood floors - westchester NYMid tones tend to work for traditional homes in Westchester – they just seem to work color and style wise.  They also tend to hide some of the imperfections if the wood is older. 


– Provincial is the most popular mid tone color.  It works well because, it is a brown stain (and does not have reds mixed in), so it’s very neutral and goes with almost everything.  The picture on the left is provincial, but it appearing much lighter than usual due to my flash.  The picture below is more indicative of what provincial typically looks like.


mid tone stain colors for hardwood– Special Walnut is very similar to Provincial but a tad browner, so usually I recommend that a customer tests both colors on their floor to see which they prefer.  Provincial often works better in more traditional homes and special walnut often looks a bit more contemporary.


– Chestnut is similar to special walnut.  Please note that all of these stains come out slightly differently in everyone’s homes pending the species (red oak vs. white oak) and age of wood.



Red toned stains

westchester hardwood flooring - red tonesRed tones are more polarizing and less popular than the brown tones, regardless of whether the stain is light or dark.  Red tones are more challenging to decorate with as they are more challenging to match other wood furniture, as well as paint, window treatments and pillows.  Many homeowners and decorators find the reds limiting.

– Popular red tones include red mahogany, sedona red, mesquite red and red oak.  Most of these are pretty red.

– Then, there are red/brown blends such as English Chestnut.  This is a mid toned reddish brownish color.

– On the lighter side, there is Colonial maple (rather orange) and Golden Pecan (which is similar to golden oak, but with a hint of red).



Up and coming stain color trends – Gray and white wash:

Gray hardwood floors

gray hardwood floor refinishing westchester countyYes, gray is the new hot color.  It’s been very popular in tile and carpet for the last 3-4 years and it’s now been making its way into hardwood.  Gray is a bit challenging to achieve and more expensive than typical colors as you need to blend 2 colors and use a water based poly (otherwise it will yellow).  You can read more about gray hardwood floors here – Refinishing hardwood floors gray.  My higher end customers and those moving from NYC seem to have a lot of interest in this


Whitewashed floors

white washed hardwood birch driftscapeYes, one of the most surprising resurgences is white washed hardwood floors.  Yes, 5 or 6 years ago, this was so 80’s, but now it’s coming back!  The trend seems to be driven in part by the gray trend and in part by high end beach resorts in the Hamptons and now the Jersey Shore.  NYC often starts the trends and this is becoming bigger there, so it’s naturally migrating to Westchester County NY as we have so many who move here from the City and work in the City.  It’s especially popular with wider plank flooring.


White washed floors are more expensive.  Similar to gray floors, you need to use a water based poly, and this costs a bit more and you often need to add an extra coat for more durability.  In addition, using a higher grade water based poly such as Bona Traffic HD will help make your floors last longer (and will be less susceptible to yellowing), but this poly does cost more.


Minwax and Duraseal Stain colors.

Minwax stain colors

Here’s a stain chart for Minwax Stains.  Please note that this is a picture of a picture and hence it may not be color correct.  Regardless, stain colors come out different on different woods (and even different pieces).  It’s always best to test some stains on your own floors.

minwax stain samples


  • Natural
  • Golden Oak
  • Provincial
  • Red Oak (the stain color, not species)
  • Puritan Pine
  • Ipswich Pine
  • Colonial Maple
  • Special Walnut
  • Red Mahogany
  • Early American
  • Gunstock
  • Red Chestnut
  • English Chestnut
  • Cherry
  • Fruitwood
  • Golden Pecan
  • Pickled Oak
  • Weathered Oak
  • Classic Grey
  • Driftwood
  • Ebony
  • Jacobean

Duraseal Stain colors

And here is the Duraseal stain chart.  Again, you should test these stains on your own floors before committing to a color.  They do come out different on different species, grades and age of wood.  Also there is overlap of stain colors between Duraseal and Minwax.  (both are made by the same manufacturer – Minwax).


  • Duraseal stain colorsGolden Oak
  • Provincial
  • Special Walnut
  • Golden Pecan
  • Colonial Maple
  • Fruitwood
  • Red Mahogany
  • English Chestnut
  • Cherry
  • Weathered Oak
  • Dark Walnut
  • Jacobean
  • Classic Grey
  • Driftwood
  • Neutral
  • Sedona Red
  • Coffee Brown
  • Rosewood
  • Nutmeg
  • Spice brown
  • Golden Brown
  • Antique Brown
  • Royal Mahogany
  • Chestnut
  • Ebony
  • Medium Brown
  • Gunstock
  • Mesquite Red
  • Early American
  • Country White



Video – Which stain colors are most popular


What stain colors do you prefer – take our poll and see the results:

For hardwood floors, do you prefer dark, light or mid-toned?


    For hardwood floors, do you prefer brown/golden tones or red tone?



      You may also find these hardwood flooring articles helpful:

      If you live in Westchester County NY, and you would like advice on refinishing your floors, please give The Flooring Girl a call at 914-937-2950.


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      My name is Debbie Gartner, and I'm known as "The Flooring Girl." I own my own flooring store called Floor Coverings International, and we serve Westchester NY and Fairfield CT counties.We install hardwood flooring, carpet, tile flooring, laminate, bamboo and cork flooring. We also refinish hardwood floors. We are a shop at home flooring store. You can call us at 914-937-2950 to schedule a free flooring consultation or email us at Let us "bring the store to your door."If you are calling outside of Westchester/Fairfield Counties, please contact us at 914-407-3899.

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      55 Response Comments

      • tracy  November 17, 2012 at 9:34 pm

        Hi, I am wondering what color stain you would suggest for a walnut floor. A lot of the house will have white paneling and the walls white. We were thinking of dark but don’t want to go so dark we can’t see the beauty of the walnut. Thanks!

        • TheFlooringGirl  November 18, 2012 at 12:42 am

          Hi Tracy. The dark will look great with the wood paneling. I would test a few to see which you like the best. I would stick to brown tone (no red undertones). The darkest would be ebony…you may want to test, but that may be too dark and drown out the graining. My gut tells me that either dark walnut or jacobean would be best, but you guys will need to be the judges of what you like best.

          Also, you could just test natural to see if you like that (since walnut is naturally dark…and it darkens over time).

      • tracy  November 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

        Thanks for the reply. We tried dark walnut but it was really dark on the walnut floor and made the grain almost disappear. The natural is beautiful but too light and it’s character grade walnut so I am afraid of a streaky floor with just tung oil. We are considering provincial. Have you ever seen that on a walnut floor?

      • Denise Randall  June 30, 2015 at 2:54 pm

        I have red oak floors on the upper level (Bedroom area) of my home, we stained them Provincial. We are putting new red oak floors in the downstairs section of our home and I would like to go with a darker look. I like dark walnut. Would it look strange to have those two stains in my home?

        • TheFlooringGirl  June 30, 2015 at 9:03 pm

          Denise – I think it’s fine to have 2 different stains on the different levels. Generally when people have different colors, they go darker on 1st floor and lighter on 2nd. I would do the steps the same color as the 1st level. I think those 2 colors can look nice together. I might also test jacobean.

      • Corinne  July 15, 2015 at 4:22 pm

        Have you seen the result when staining the basic 3 inch maple flooring using minwax “classic gray”. Does the yellow tone bleed through? Thank you

        • TheFlooringGirl  July 17, 2015 at 6:30 am

          Corinne – I’m not crazy about that color as it seems to have green undertones. We prefer to mix white and ebony to get to desired color. Going a bit darker hides he yellow more.

          • Jae  October 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

            Your website has been a great resource. While preparing to install pre-finished engineered grey floors we discovered the original maple flooring in my 100 year old Chicago bungalow. I’m firm on grey floors in my kitchen and getting ready to buy stain to experiment to find the right combination for my desired grey floor look. This will be my flooring finishers first time mixing stains. Fingers crossed.

            • TheFlooringGirl  October 5, 2015 at 6:12 pm

              Jae – I hope it works. You may want to check out the article I have on refinishing gray hardwood floors. Also, maple floors are rather tricky to refinish. Make sure your installer is comfortable with both of these. I’ve gotten many calls with botched up gray floors from people that haven’t had much experience with them.

      • Tieara Jones  August 23, 2015 at 7:08 am

        Hello I just recently stained my flooring with the Golden Oak. It came out really dark & I don’t understand why! It’s been drying for 2 days & some parts are a little lighter than others! Do I have to redo the entire process to get the shade I want? Also if I like the bare wood is it ok to just apply polyurethane to it?

        • TheFlooringGirl  August 23, 2015 at 11:14 am

          The most likely reason is that you didn’t properly sand the floors. They need to be sanded 3 times, each time with finer and finer grits. The 2nd most likely reason is that you didn’t wipe off the stain or you let it sit too long. In any even, if it’s too dark or blotchy, or you don’t like the color, yes, unfortunately, you will need to start again.

          And, yes, you can go natural and just do 3 coats of poly. This is prob your best solution if you think golden oak is too dark (golden oak is one of the lightest stains).

      • Roberta  August 25, 2015 at 7:09 pm

        What color durostain should I use for s small house. I sort of like golden brown.
        Does this go with a brown couch?

        • TheFlooringGirl  August 26, 2015 at 5:57 am

          Roberta – Honestly, I think you should just choose whichever stain you prefer. I would not let just one piece of furniture dictate the colors for the whole home. But, I would recommend shades of brown vs. shades of red or red-brown. On how light/how dark, that depends on what you prefer…as it is your home.

      • Carlotta  September 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm

        Hi I am interested to stain my floor pickled oak 260 but my contractor is telling me that’s basically the same as no stain at all. Is it true? I am looking to do the floors really light. He’s asking me to pick 3 colors to stain for samples, are golden peacan, pickled oak and weathered oak good choices?

        • TheFlooringGirl  September 12, 2015 at 11:28 am

          Hi Carlotta – No pickled oak is not the same as no stain at all (which would be natural). Pickled oak is a stain and natural has no stain. Pickled oak is lighter/whiter than natural.

          In terms of what’s good/bad, that depends on what you like and what style you’re going for. There is no harm in testing them. But, with pickled oak and weathered oak, you need to use a water based poly (which is more expensive). Otherwise, it will turn yellow and look really bad. You can do either water or oil based on golden pecan.

          • Carlotta  September 14, 2015 at 7:06 pm

            Thanks! I’ve looked at the stain sample that my contractor did but none of them work. I want a “farmhouse white birch” color, would this be the whitewashing? and how do I achieve this color?

      • Alice  September 17, 2015 at 6:20 pm

        Hi I am also interested in white washed floor (white oak in my case). You mentioned that for white-washed look, water-based poly is the only way to go. My contractor suggested to improve durability of the floor, to apply an oil-based poly( absco) as the top coating, above 3 layers of water-based poly (bona traffic). I am worried about the oil coating turning yellow over time, but I also do not want to have to refinish my floor within a few years. Your advice on this will be highly appreciated!!!

        • TheFlooringGirl  September 19, 2015 at 11:44 am

          Yes, you should be worried. It will turn yellow. Also absco is a very low grade and cheap poly. I know many that have had major issues with it. Also, the water should not be applied over the water based unless you wait at least 6 months. I think this would be a major mistake and you will want to redo you floors…in fact within a year and probably sooner.

      • Steven Thomas  September 17, 2015 at 10:48 pm

        What color stain would you recommend for white oak hardwood floors to go with my Kraftmaid English Toffee color cabinets and Kona Beige silestone countertops. My floors are natural now but I’d like to try something different.

        • TheFlooringGirl  September 19, 2015 at 11:40 am

          Hi Steven. I’m not familiar with those exact colors but from the sound of the names, I would probably go dark as you need a contrast. I’d test jacobean, dark walnut and even a 50/50 blend of ebony/jacobean. In the end, it depends on what you like as it is your home. Good luck with your project.

      • James  September 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        Hi there. Great website and very helpful. I have an early 1930’s home with white trim/burberry beige walls. The hardwood is original golden oak with mahogany inlay around the border. I am having the floors resanded/stained by a professional and I love the contrast of darker stains like espresso with the lighter walls/trim but would also like to maintain the inlay showing through. Ceilings are 8.5 feet and most of the furniture fabric/stair runners are in the white/beige color group. Can we get away with going into the Dark Walnut, Espresso palette or is better to stay in the Provincial/Special Walnut group. I will test everything but ideally would like to maintain the mahogany inlay border as a design feature. Our goal is to add some contemporary features that will still work with the overall age of the home. Thank you!

        • TheFlooringGirl  September 28, 2015 at 5:02 am

          James – That sounds like a lovely home. Lucky you with the mahogany inlay and high ceilings. I think the dark can look nice, and I would definitely test dark walnut – test some over the mahogany to see the contrast. As you go darker, the contrast w/ the mahogany won’t be as great. In my experience, mahogany seems to absorb dark walnut stain more than jacobean and dark walnut, so that that may work better (vs. the darker stains will prob show less contrast based on how the oak vs mahogany absorb the stains).

          I hope that made sense. But, yes, test for sure.

          • Michael Hall  October 4, 2015 at 1:30 pm

            Hello flooring expert! I’m the other half of the household that has the 1930s oak floors with the mahogany inlay. We tried some of the stains on the floor (walnut, jacobean, ebony) pre-sanding so we have an idea of what direction we want our professional to take. All of the spots we stained look more like dark brown or black paint than stain! Is this because we are pre-sanding and have a coating on the current floors? We thought we could get a sense of which color we like beforehand but maybe that’s not possible. Appreciate your insights. Also, I took pictures of a neighbor’s floors we love. Is there a way I can send you the pics so you can tell us which stain they are? Thanks! Michael & James

            • TheFlooringGirl  October 5, 2015 at 6:03 pm

              Hi Michael. Generally, when we test the stains, it gives an excellent sense as to how the color will come out. Are you doing this yourself? If so, that may be the reason. You may not be sanding properly. If this isn’t something you do on a regular basis, I would suggest that you hire a professional instead, esp as it sounds like you have beautiful floors with an inlay and you may ruin them.

              If you are hiring a professional and just testing this by hand and using sand paper, it probably won’t come out properly. Our guys use machines to to this work…both for testing and in real life.


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