Decisions, decisions, decisions: Choosing a floor stain

I've been jonesing to change the color of our hardwoods since I first stepped foot on them. I'm sure some think I'm crazy for wanting to redo new floors, but they're just so.....orangey yellow. And getting yellower, thanks to polyurethane. Without a lot of natural light to balance them out, it feels like we're living in an orange peel without the refreshing fragrance. The floor is such a pervasive and integral element in the house – so I'd like it to be all blessing, no curse! After a year-long tryout the orange peel has had its chance to woo me and failed. It's time to make moves.

What our house looked like before we bought it – very orangey oak floors

Refinishing the floors is going to be a big project. They run from the living room to the kitchen, including the powder room, up the stairs and in the small hallway between our bedrooms. All in all it’s about 400 sq. ft. of flooring. If we decide to DIY it's going to be a lot of labor & stress, and if we hire it out it's going to be our most expensive project to-date – so I'm appropriately terrified of making the "wrong" choice of floor stain. In high-stakes scenarios like these, I turn to my friend Photoshop for a little extra help trying on different options. Let's talk colors, shall we? 

Option 1: White

If you've spent any time looking at home decor on Pinterest, in IKEA or Target you may have noticed a resurgence of Scandinavian style. It's minimalist & utilitarian in the most charming way possible, with lots and lots of white. One hallmark is a white floor – either whitewashed or painted. I'm a fan of both. White floors can play nice with just about any style, from super modern to shabby chic. They're cozy, fresh and serene.... like living in a cloud.


Before we go any further, let's hit pause so I can give myself a reality check. I, Chloe, recognize on this Friday the 5th of September, that these gorgeous photos are Pinterest fodder and, in the absence of perfect natural light, wide-plank floors or interesting architectural features, they should not be mistaken as actual representations of how my house could look. Ever. Sorry, sometimes I need a reminder...And now back to our regular programming. Where were we, then?  Oh right, an assy rendition of what this trend might look like in our house! Photoshop – Engage: 

A photoshop rendition of what our house might look like with whitewashed floors

Not as dreamy as the lookers before, but if you squint your eyes in the right way you can sort of envision living in a cumulonimbus cloud, right? If you’re still not seeing it, please refer to Section A of the above reality check & forgive me for my hasty photoshopping. A white floor could definitely brighten up the space & bounce light around, and it would improve the flow from the kitchen to the white-tiled floor in the laundry room. The question is – how much more time would I spend sweeping and mopping? No pets or kids 'round these parts, but we do have a set of size 12 Bean Boots slingin' mud during the wintertime... Are these floors like a sloppy 6th grader (only clean on picture day)? These are life's hard questions... ; ]

Option 2: Gray

Another less-than-conventional color I'm considering. I haven't seen many rooms rockin' the rocktones on Pinterest, but I'm taking that as the sign of a trend yet to blow up rather than one that's fallen flat. From the few gray-floored spaces I have seen, me likey. It reminds me of weathered driftwood, which reminds me of the beach, which reminds me of vacation, and I could use more vacation in my life...amiright? This palm wallpaper & driftwood floor combo is taking me there.

Love everything from the gray brown floors to the wallpaper and decor. via @sfgirlbybay and rockett st george

Source via sfgirlbybay

Mmmm...vacation.... OK, let’s see what this might look like in our house:

What our house might look like with smoke gray floors.

I like the contrast between the dark floors and light walls, and between the step treads and risers. I know I just said earlier that white floors could brighten up the space, but that's not a direct translation for dark floors == dark space. As far as I'm concerned, light walls and ceilings feel brighter and taller when emanating up from a dark floor. The contrast gives them an extra pop. Either way, floors that are much lighter or much darker would be an improvement from the mushy orange tone we've got now.

Option 3: Dark brown

Walking on rich, chocolatey brown floors makes me feel luxurious, like I should be wearing a cashmere robe and have freshly pedicured toes. I wonder if I'd return to my old ways of eating chocolate frosting by the spoonful if my floors looked this scrumptious… 

Source via Homepolish

And here's a similar tone in our house... I think you'd see more wood grain and less of a flat color in real life.

Here's what our house might look like with rich chocolate floors

My only concern with going very dark is the same one I had with going super light: keeping them clean. We don't have any pets, but I do shed like a border we 2 adult humans still manage to create weird things like dust and footprints. That said, spending more time cleaning the floor may not be such a bad thing. When we painted the cabinets white I noticed for the first time how dirty they get...  and thus realized how dirty they must have been during the previous year of neglect. Ick. Thinking about it makes me feel retrospectively gross and simultaneously pleased with our new, cleaner kitchen. Could be the same dealio if we switched to an extreme light or extreme dark floor. 

Which color would you choose?

So there you have it. Those are the three options I'm bouncing between right now. You can see them all side-by-side below. So tell me – what would you choose? It's a big decision, and I could use some help in making a final call. You can send me your vote in the survey to the right!

After we get the color sorted, I'll get quotes from different flooring companies and take a look at rental prices for sanding equipment before I decide to DIY or hire it out. If you've refinished your floors or had someone else do it, I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments! 

A side-by-side comparison of the three options I'm considering for floor stains