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Is it time to stop using dark wood flooring in houses?

I’m ready to break-up with my dark wood floors. There, I said it. The gorgeous espresso bamboo flooring installed just a few short years ago now holds less appeal than even those chevron prints that were once all the rage on pillows, curtains, walls, and well, everywhere.

Yesterday I said to my neighbor, “I think dark wood may be going out...” Her eyes widened in surprise. “But it looks great! I see it on TV all the time.”

She’s right. Scroll through the gallery at HGTV and there are hundreds of photos of dark hardwood floors. Why? Because people love those dark floors. Recently, a survey conducted by the National Wood Flooring Association revealed the demand for dark colors in flooring continues to increase. Fabulous.

Dark wood flooring is still as hot as shag carpeting once was. And shag carpet once was “super groovy”. It was everywhere for more than a decade and even managed a comeback a few years ago—retro was “in” and the shag was back.

Okay, true confession time. When we remodeled our kitchen a few years ago, we also decided to redo the hardwood floors throughout our first floor. They were the typical honey oak color and were in need of refreshing. So, we went with a dark walnut stain. The only room we didn't do was the bedroom as that's where we shoved everything to make this happen.

Were we influenced by trendy design pictures online? Maybe.

Here’s the thing, if I could travel back in time five years, would I choose a different color for our floors? And probably a bigger question, if I could travel forward in time five years, will the color still look good or will it seem out of date? If we knew those answers, we'd be geniuses in the design world. I’d probably go with a slightly lighter shade, something that would keep our black cats from blending in and becoming trip hazards against the dark wood.

Beyond the ability to help black cats up their stealth game, there are other real reasons why it’s time to stop using dark wood flooring in houses. In fact, there may be as many reasons to say goodbye to dark wood floors as there are to ditch the white couch when kids come along.

Dark Wood Floors Show Every Speck

If a real estate agent, interior designer, or even your best friend says dark wood floors don’t show dust or dirt, it’s a lie. The reality is, the darker the flooring, the more dust, dander, pet hair, crumbs, and general grit it shows. It’s particularly noticeable on sunny days when natural light beams into the room.

A handy robot vacuum cleaner can help keep it clean. But we have friends that when expecting company, the drill is to robot vac, then run the regular vacuum to spot clean about an hour before guests arrive. This may seem like overkill but it’s not, because these dark floors don’t hide the dust like a lighter floor or carpet does. It would help if everyone would actually remove their shoes before entering the house, but that's not even close to reality.


Scratches show up on dark wood like an uninvited guest. Even hardwood floors in low-traffic areas are susceptible to scratches and unfortunately, dark wood shows it all. Often, the actual wood is a lighter shade than its stain. When the plank is scratched, the lighter wood becomes exposed. These scratches stand out more because of the contrast. A scratch-proof finish can help reduce scratches. With genuine hardwood, it’s also possible to remove some scratches by sanding and refinishing.

If You Want the Room to Feel Smaller, Darker, and Warmer . . .

Dark colors absorb light, while lighter colors reflect it. This is why any smaller space painted in darker colors and/or with dark flooring feels even smaller than its actual size. Designers often recommend light colors for small spaces for this exact reason.

In addition, dark colors also absorb and retain heat from sunlight more readily. It’s actual science. “Darker colored objects heat up faster in the sun than light colored ones, which is why running across asphalt in bare feet can feel much hotter than walking across light-colored concrete.” (via Sciencing) So, dark wood floors + abundant sunlight = warmer.

Footprints, Footprints, Footprints

An average day of traffic through a room with dark wood floors can leave enough footprints to look like you just hosted an open house. Or the cast of So You Think You Can Dance. If you don’t want a criss-cross of footprints on your hardwood floors, opt for a lighter color.

Are we saying we should rip out every square inch of dark wood flooring found in homes throughout the country? Of course not. That’s silly, wasteful and way too time-consuming.

To be fair, it’s important to take a look at the other side of the story or the pros of having dark wood floors in a house.

Dark Wood Flooring is Gorgeous

Here’s something to think about: The National Wood Flooring Association surveyed real estate agents across the United States and 82% said that homes with hardwood floors sell faster than homes without. Hardwood floors can increase the value of a home.

If you’re looking to add wood floors to increase the value of a home, dark wood can be transformative. It looks elegant, modern, and sophisticated. Dark hardwood flooring has the power to be the focal point for the room, taking the space from just okay to wow. Also, it tends to fade less, which keeps it looking its best longer.

Offers Dramatic Contrast

Dark wood flooring with lighter walls offers a dramatic contrast in a room’s aesthetic. It’s bold yet as classically modern as Edison lights, brass accents, and hand-crafted furniture. Bottom line—it’s trend that’s not going away any time soon.

At the end of the day, it’s your house. If you love a dark hardwood floor, embrace the trend. We did it. The pros outweighed the cons for us. Go ahead and choose the dark wood flooring, but remember when it comes time for resale, there will be buyers that love it and those like me that have uttered the words, “I’ll never live in a home with dark wood floors again.”


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