Which wall colors go best with dark hardwood flooring?

Dark floors are the most popular when it comes to hardwood flooring, so the next logical question my customers ask is, “What are the best paint colors to go with dark woods?”  So, I thought I would share some of my favorite shades of paint.

best shades of paint for dark hardwood floors

best shades of paint for dark hardwood floorsFirst, the good news is that it’s hard to go wrong with dark hardwood floors.  Why?  Because they’re so neutral (assuming you have dark brown floors…reds and red undertones are a bit dated and more challenging to decorate with…see:  Hardwood stain trends).  But, as you’ll see below, some colors and shades work better than others.

 

It always helps when you know the design objective or tone you want to set for the area (e.g. relaxing, dramatic, warm and inviting, etc.).  And, I’m pretty sure if you asked 10 different designers, that you would get 10 different recommendations.  It is subjective.  Remember that it’s your home, and you’re the one living in it, so choose what you like and what you feel comfortable with.

 

And, my general principle is “less is more.”  The more you can use the same colors throughout the house, the more upscale and cohesive your home will look.  Your home will also look larger if you carry the color scheme throughout the area.

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

 

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Light walls vs dark walls with dark floors

best shades of paint for dark hardwood floorsThe best piece of advice I can give you is to avoid going too dark on the walls.  You really want a contrast with floors and walls.  From a design perspective, this just looks better.  And, importantly, it creates balance for the room.  If you go too dark, the room will look too dark…and may in fact look depressing.  You want balance.

 

Importantly, this doesn’t mean you need to choose white paint for the walls.  In fact, often light grays and other light colors look much better than stark white walls as they add some style and flair to the room.  It helps turn a house into a home.

 

I’ll go in more depth on the exact shades and other options.  But, whatever you do, don’t go too dark.  Go at least 3 shades lighter on the walls than the floors.  If you love, love love dark walls, then my advice to you is to selective choose an accent wall or two and go darker on that wall and light on the other 3 walls.

 

Oh, and it’s important to remember that the room is a cube…so there are 6 sides.  The floor is the base (and it’s just 1 side)…the walls are the 4 main source of color for the room, and of course you have the ceiling as the 6th surface.  Some people worry about going too dark on the floors, but, as I mentioned, it’s just one surface, and an area where you often add an area rug and furniture.  I’d highly recommend that the ceiling be white, especially if you have dark floors.

 

But, it’s the 4 walls that exhibit the main color for the room, and going lighter will generally give look better.  As a general rule of thumb, when I’m looking at the paint fan decks, I generally recommend the lightest color on the page if you have dark floors.  You can then move to the darker shades on the page for accent walls.

 

Always use paint testers on the walls to validate your choices.  They are inexpensive and worth the tiny investment to make sure you love your selection.  Check out this article on how to test paint samples the right way.

Do you need any paint shade fan decks?

Amazon can help with that. It’s so much easier when you have the full color wheels and can see all of these in your own home (vs. going back and forth to the store MULTIPLE times).

Sherwin Williams           Benjamin Moore

 

Cool colors vs warm colors

best shades of paint for dark hardwoodsThese days cool colors are more stylish than warm colors, and around 80% of our customers choose cool color tones.  Cool shades include grays, blues, greens, taupes, purples or colors with those undertones.  Of course, when it comes to paint colors for your walls, grays, blues are by far the most popular colors.

 

Warm colors include beiges, yellows, oranges, reds…or colors with these undertones.  These are less popular now, but the good news is that if you love these colors or shades with these undertones, they generally do work with dark hardwood floors.

 

Of course, the possibility for paint colors is endless, and we’ve also been seeing blends of cool and warm tones.  We see this particularly with the greiges.  Greige is a mixture of gray (a cool color) and beige (a warm color) to create a pallet of greiges.

 

What’s interesting about these is that they often envelop and unify the colors in your room, especially if you have a combo of warms and cools in your decor elements (e.g. area rugs, pillows, paintings, window treatments, etc.).  Probably the most popular and well known greige is Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter.

 

What is the Sherwin William’s equivalent of Revere Pewter?

Truthfully, there is no exact match…and, each manufacturer has their own unique blend.  The closest match is Worldly Gray (SW7043), but it is not exact at all.  If you absolutely love Revere Pewter, then my suggestion is to have Sherwin William match this color (yes, they have the blend in their computer for the top Benjamin Moore colors, and this is probably the most requested color match), or if you an absolute purist, buy Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter.

 

I’m sure there are minor differences between the paint match across the brands (as the pigments are a tad different), but most people won’t be able to detect the super fine difference.  And, remember, it’s easy to see the subtle differences in paint shades when the chips are next to each other, but in real life you just choose one color for the wall, and if the chips aren’t side by side, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

 

Grays and Greiges for dark hardwood floors

Grays and greiges are by far the most popular paint colors, especially for dark hardwood floors.  Here are some of my favorites:

Benjamin Moore Grays and Greiges for dark hardwood

  • best gray shades of paint for dark hardwood flooringBenjamin Moore Revere Pewter
  • Benjamin Moore Abalone
  • Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
  • Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray
  • Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
  • Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist

 

Sherwin Williams Grays for dark hardwood

  • Sherwin Williams Silverpointe
  • Sherwin Williams Gray Screen
  • Sherwin Williams Repose Gray
  • Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

 

On the one hand, you really can’t go wrong with gray when you have dark hardwood floors.  On the other hand, some people find it tricky to find the right or ideal gray as there are so many options.  Really, these grays have subtle undertones – some have blue undertones, or green or taupe or beige.

 

Hint: If you’re unsure about the undertone, it sometimes helps to look at the color swatch next to white (and remember your base molding will be white, so this is a good base).  And, don’t stress too hard over this…you only need to choose one color, and once it’s up on the walls, it will be challenging to discern the subtle differences.  Test with samples and then go with your gut.  Don’t over think it.

 

Lighter blues for dark hardwood floors

best paints for dark hardwood flooring - light bluesBlues are cool and soothing. They provide a nice contrast with dark hardwood floors.  For common areas (such as living rooms, family rooms, etc.) generally lighter is better when it comes to blue.

Blues also go well with grays, so if you choose gray for your main living areas, you may want blues for the bedrooms.  In the bedrooms, you can go a bit darker, if that’s what you (or your kids) prefer.  This also tends to lead towards better sleeping habits.

 

Sherwin Williams light blues for dark flooring

  • best shades of blue paint for dark hardwood flooringSherwin Williams Mild Blue
  • Sherwin Williams Icelandic
  • Sherwin Williams Windy Blue
  • Sherwin Williams Celestial (often better for bedrooms as it’s a mid blue)
  • Sherwin Williams Wondrous Blue

 

Benjamin Moore light blues for dark hardwood

  • Benjamin Moore Misty Blue
  • Benjamin Moore Solitude
  • Benjamin Moore Irises
  • Benjamin Moore Oriental Iris

 

Cool whites for dark hardwood floors

Whites can also work well with dark floors, especially very dark floors.  They can give a room a modern look, when they are done right.  But, it’s critical that you get the right white…you want as white as possible.  I know that sounds obvious, but if you look at the white paints, you’ll see there are 80 bazillion shades of white.

 

neutral whites for dark hardwoodsAvoid whites with yellow or pink undertones (e.g. linen white) as they are dated.  And, they are more challenging to decorate with.  White white is much better…or if you need a light undertone, go for gray.

 

My suggestions for true neutral whites would be:

  • Benjamin Moore: White Dove or Simply White
  • Sherwin Williams:  Alabaster (SW7008) or Pure White (SW7005).

 

Subtle greens for dark hardwood floors

Subtle greens, especially ones that have gray and/or blue undertones also work well with dark hardwood.  Stay away from saturated greens as those can be too dark and many look very dated.  While blues are more widely preferred over greens, when you pick the right subtle green, it can be quite magical.

 

Finding the right green seems to be a bit trickier than blues or grays…as it’s challenging to find the RIGHT green.  Many just don’t look right – too minty, too childish, too much like celery, etc.  If you’re looking at Sherwin Williams color fan deck, avoid the green section, and instead head over to the gray section and look at the green grays here.

 

Sherwin Williams subtle greens for dark wood floors

  • best shades of green paint for dark hardwood flooringSherwin Williams Sea Salt (my favorite of this bunch)
  • Sherwin Williams Rainwashed
  • Sherwin Williams Filmy Green

 

Benjamin Moore subtle greens for dark hardwood flooring

  • Benjamin Moore Dew drop
  • Benjamin Moore Iceberg
  • Benjamin Moore Beach Glass
  • Benjamin Moore Quiet Moments
  • Benjamin Moore Boothbay Gray

 

 

Darker grays, blues and navy for accent walls

dark hardwood floors with dark accent wallsI caution customers about going too dark on their walls if they have dark floors, but sometimes, darker colors can create drama when they are selectively used, especially for an accent wall.  These colors can be striking if they are used on one wall in a living room or a Master Bedroom.  Sometimes, they can look great in a dining room, especially if you have white wainscoting or a chair rail where white paint would go on the bottom and then the dramatic pop color on the upper two thirds of the room.

 

And, sometimes it really works if you choose a darker color or darker accent wall in the bedroom(s) as these colors tend to help people relax and fall asleep better (and yes, there have been some studies that show that people who have blues, grays and darker walls in their bedroom get more sleep.  In general, be sure to choose a color for your bedroom that you love…and that makes your bedroom feel like a sanctuary…somewhere you love coming home to after a hard day at work…and that you want to retire into at the end of the day.

 

Here are some great darker accent colors.

Dark gray accent shades to go with dark hardwoods

  • dark accent paint shades for dark hardwood floorsBenjamin Moore Kendall
  • Benjamin Moore Fieldstone
  • Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron
  • Benjamin Moore Black
  • Sherwin Williams Chelsea Gray
  • Sherwin Williams Peppercorn
  • Sherwin Williams African Gray
  • Sherwin Williams Stamped Concrete

Dark blue and navy accent shades to go with dark flooring

  • Benjamin Moore Van Deusen Blue
  • Benjamin Moore Newburyport Blue
  • Benjamin Moore Blue Note
  • Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

 

Note:  It is super important that these accent colors go with your base color selection.  You can see some examples of coordinating grays and their corresponding accent colors in this article:  Most popular shades of gray paint.

 

Helpful tools if you are going to paint yourself

Here are some painting tools that may come in handy if you’re going to do the painting yourself.  Also, be sure to check out my article on the Top 10 DIY Painting mistakes and how to avoid themThe products below can be found on Amazon and delivered straight to your door.

  • Painting brush – this one costs a bit more, but it’s totally worth it.  It will help you paint faster and more accurately.  If you’re going to paint yourself, don’t skimp here.  Incidentally, this is Amazon’s Choice as well.
  • Painter’s tape – a must have.  Use for all the trim as well as ceiling area
  • Paint roller kit – this includes a tray.  Use the brush for the edges and the roller for main areas of the wall (and ceiling).
  • Drop cloths – Yes, you’ll need them for sure.  Some people have some on hand, but often not enough if you are doing many rooms.

Do you need any paint shade fan decks?

Amazon can help with that. It’s so much easier when you have the full color wheels and can see all of these in your own home (vs. going back and forth to the store MULTIPLE times).

Sherwin Williams           Benjamin Moore

 

Color for trim

If your trim is painted, go for white – it’s most popular and looks more modern and up to date.  If your trim is wood (and you want to keep it that way), then stain it to match the floor.  If your trim is wood and you want to paint it, you’ll need to prime it first.

 

Trim includes:

  • Base molding
  • Doors/door jambs
  • Windows/window sills
  • Chair rails, wainscoting, crown molding
  • Stair risers, stringer and spindles (banisters and balustrades should either match stain color on wood floor or paint (hint: black lacquer looks super stylish and contemporary for the banister if you have dark hardwood floors and tends to hold up well)
  • Fireplace trim

 

Be as consistent as you can throughout the house, painting (or staining) all trim the same color.

 

Other design tips:

  • Base molding tends to look best when it’s white.  It looks more premium and professional.  Most people use a semi gloss finish for this (and flat finish for the walls).  The white base molding also creates a striking contrast with the dark floors.

 

  • Ebony/black furniture and accent pieces tend to work well with this color scheme

 

  • Brushed nickel or chrome hardware works best (and is most popular) with the cool color palettes and is especially popular for kitchens, bathrooms, but can also be used around fireplaces, window treatment hardware and door knobs.

 

 

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color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to many requests, I’m now starting to offer phone consultations, too.

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Best shades of paint for dark hardwood floors