Stain color trends for hardwood floors

Hardwood floor colors for Refinishing - 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.


Most popular stain colors for hardwoodingIn addition, over the last two years, 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)

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

Stain color testing westchesterMinwax stain colors - Colors for hardwood flooring






Hardwood Floor Colors – What are the options and what is most popular?

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 a 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.


2017 hardwood trends - True Black Duraseal stain 199–  Over the last year or two, many customers are looking to go darker and darker – even darker than ebony.  Ebony is a very cool toned color, but you can still see the graining of the oak.  Due to this high demand, last year, Duraseal introduced a new color to their line up called “True Black” and it is striking.  So, if you want extremely dark, give this color a try.


Above right, you can see Duraseal True Black (#199).  And, below, you can see a stain test showing True black (left) vs Ebony (right).


true black vs ebony stain test 2019 flooring trends

Many who prefer dark flooring are going for a more opaque look – one that shows less graining.  Some of this may be driven by the impeccable pictures shown on Pinterest and Houzz.  (Note:  Many dark floors look darker in the pictures vs real life.)


The darker you go, the less you see the graining and you also see less color variation in the wood planks.  Many prefer this look both because it’s more contemporary and also because the floors are more uniform making it easier to decorate.  Others, prefer a bit lighter as it is easier to clean and maintain.


Hardwood flooring stain color trendsIf you would like to buy the True Black stain, you can purchase it online at Amazon by following above link or clicking on the picture of the can.  It’s not available in most stores yet.



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


Note:  The type of polyurethane you use (i.e. oil vs water polyurethane) can have a big impact on the color, especially for very light floor.  Oil based poly will be a bit darker and more amber.  Many customers love this; others are trying to move away from the yellow/golden look, and instead opting for a lighter and more natural look.  The best way to achieve this look (and simultaneously have a durable floor) is to use Bona Traffic HD.


You can read more about the polyurethanes I recommend here:  What are the best brands of polyurethane?  Which do I recommend?


✅ Are you about to sand your floors? Need help with how long you should wait after you refinish your floors? Check out my timeline here: How long should you wait before…

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, but lighter. 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).


Color consultation for Westchester County

Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog.


Trendy – Gray and white wash:

Gray hardwood floors

hardwood floor color trends 2019Yes, gray is the new hot color. It’s been very popular in tile and carpet for years and it’s now been making its way into hardwood for the last 3 or 4 years. 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


Note that gray stained floors work better on white oak than red oak (and even better on maple.  Please read the full article on gray hardwood floors.   I seem to get a lot of questions on this, especially as many contractors don’t have much experience with it.


Finally, I’ll mention that Duraseal recently launched a new line of 6 gray blend stains.  This are mixtures of grays and browns and beiges.  You can see these new stain colors here.


White washed floors

white washed hardwood birch driftscapeYes, one of the most surprising resurgences is white washed hardwood floors. Yes, 7 or 8 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 will help make your floors last longer (and will be less susceptible to yellowing), but this poly does cost more.



wirebrushed oak - stain color trends 2018Yes, this is super trendy (and more expensive) – creating a wire-brushed look.  This is basically when you have a main color (generally a darker color) and then you wire-brush the floors to pull out the grain, and then you add a second color (most often a white) so it creates a glaze and contrast on the grains.  This generally works best on oak or hickory floors, as they have a stronger grain.


It’s a tricky process, and most often you will see it in pre-finished hardwood flooring.  There are very few contractors that know how to create this effect on-site.


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 - hardwood floor colors


  • 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
  • New color:  True Black


Check out Duraseal’s new gray blend line here.


Video – Which stain colors are most popular


You may also find these hardwood flooring articles helpful:


Color consultation for Westchester County

Do you need a local flooring pro?  Find one here.

Do you need a local flooring contractor


For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.

6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook


Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors, whether they are light or dark



Hardwood flooring stain color trends for 2018