The Controversy Over Hardwood Floor Stains and Finishes

Hi Everyone!

First of all, WOW! Just WOW over all of the incredible comments regarding ways to keep our home air comfortable AND healthy. <– (that is the link to the post) I knew that you guys would come through dozens of great suggestions and info that I hadn’t thought of or don’t even know about.

That is definitely a post to bookmark, just for the fantastic comments. So, thank you all so much for that!

The second piece of information before we get into hardwood floor stains and finishes is:




So, what’s next?

Right now, I’m doing the following:

  • decompressing, which is crucial for my mental well-being
  • setting up things like cable, internet, phone, electricity, parking permit, etc. yaaaaawn…
  • holding my darling super at gunpoint to finish fixing stuff in my apartment, he was supposed to have finished already.

Okay, it’s a water pistol, but it seems to be working!


And, of course, thinking a lot about my new place and what I want to do to it and when.


One thing I realize is that it is far easier to do stuff before one moves in. But, as I’m always harping about, a plan is crucial. Therefore, sometimes making that plan BEFORE one takes possession is more complicated.

It is easier to do things after one has been there for a bit. I realize that’s a contradiction. In this case, yes, because it’s a duplex. I can always escape to one floor or the other. Pretty brilliant, I think.

Plus, decisions made in haste can create regret later on.


And, one of those early decisions is the hardwood floor finish.


Right now, it’s the standard golden oak, orange-ish wood hardwood floor stain. Until the last 30 years or so, this was the most common stain color. In fact, every home I’ve ever lived in with hardwood floors has had this stain color. That is, except for one. That was my apartment on W. 78th St. in New York City. I lived there for seven years in the 80s. Those floors were stained a darker walnut color. But, the other six or so homes that I’ve either owned or rented were a golden oak stain.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because in my heart of hearts, golden oak is not what I really want to have. I mean, I don’t hate it, and there’s nothing wrong with it. And, of course, I could live with it, but if I’m going to refinish the floors anyway, I’d like to explore my options.

I bet some of you can already guess where this is going. Tell me later if you knew at this point without looking ahead.


So, here’s what I did.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment current hardwood floor stains

I took a photo of the empty living room during the walk-through before the closing. However, because of my camera or the lighting, the walls look too yellow. They aren’t that color.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment before hardwood floor stainsAnd, so I manipulated the colors like this.

Then, I put this image into PicMonkey. And, from there I am able to change the hardwood floor stains and add in some furniture.

I love PicMonkey. If you don’t know what it is. It’s what I call photoshop for smart dummies. Haha. It doesn’t require any special skills. You just have to play with it. I did a detailed tutorial explaining how to use PicMonkey to make mood boards and some tricks I’ve learned over the years.



Below are the five hardwood floor stain colors I experimented with




Natural – pale stain

Golden oak

English Chestnut


The first two would have a matte finish. And the other three would have a shinier finish.

Okay, let’s go from darkest to lightest.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains dark floor
The espresso stain is an elegant, sophisticated look. But, here’s the thing which I’m sure most of you are chomping at the bit to warn me. And, that is yes, every speck of dust, lint, whatever lands on the floor is going to show like dandruff on a black shirt before you meet your inlaws for the first time.


Therefore, this color is probably not going to work for me. By the way, I will not do truncated drapery rods and would not do those two trims together on the shades and curtains. But, I definitely want to do the Roman shade with that trim. You’ll see it alone, in a bit. That fabric appears to be silk, but we will not be doing silk.

Nosireeeeeee. Please read here what happens to silk and if it comes anywhere near the sun.


We can do a lovely non-shiny polyester taffeta, which will stand up to anything.


I’m sorry to be going off on tangents. This is important. If you’re ever doing a design like this, I will make a life-size template for your workroom. You can make it out of heavy paper and draw the trim showing the placement and precise sizes. Trust me on this. You think they’ll be able to figure it out from the photo, right? Maybe, but usually not.

Also, if you’re interested in finding out where to get the trim on the bottom of the drapery, sorry, you can’t purchase it anywhere. It’s a custom design by Kelly Wearstler that she did for a hotel several years ago. Yes, the Kelly Wearstler, who got arrested many years ago in Florida. (eyes rolling)


However, several months ago, during the initial Covid lockdown, I painstakingly “cracked the code” and created a scale template, which you can find here.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains English Chestnut stain floor


Next up is English Chestnut.


This is a very beautiful, deep, rich color that’s quite popular right now.


Family room dining area drum pendant light over dining table
We did Minwax English Chestnut in this home I worked on in 2008!

And, yes, that’s Cotton Balls on the trim.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains - cognac finish

Above is the cognac or golden oak stain.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains natural stain floor

This is like the finish we see in Gerald Bland’s exquisite showroom in New York City.


Gerald Bland, Inc. Antiques showroom painted hardwood floors

Please follow Gerald Bland on Instagram.


I’m not sure what this stain is. It might be Rubio Monocoat, which is actually an oil and stain in one. I’ve heard great things about it.


This is reminding me. Do you know what they used to do for stain, say in the 18th century?


Usually, nothing. They just left the raw wood, untreated. I read that somewhere today. Of course, I think they also stained their floors sometimes, as well. And, they definitely did painted finishes, as well.

The last of the hardwood stains is either a white painted floor or a white stain.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains white floor

Can I tell you how much I love this look? I do. I love Gerald Bland’s floors too, but this one, I like just as much, maybe even more.

Now, before some of you get your knicker’s in a twist over this possibility, let’s talk about the advisability of doing a color that’s not in the mainstream.


The number one reason is:


I love it. And, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do this. Well, for the last 20 years or so.


But, Laurel, your home is Victorian, and I don’t recall seeing painted floors in that period.


It’s true. They had fallen out of favor. But notice that I said fallen out of. That’s because painted floors were all the rage 100 years earlier as part of the classical style.


However, I feel that this home in Boston has more of a neo-classical feel of the 18th, early 19th century than Victorian.


This could easily be a home built in the Federal or Greek Revival period. In fact, some have pointed out the similarity between this and Gil Schafer’s giga-gorgeous townhouse in Greenwich Village, NYC. And, this makes sense because Boston is a city very rooted in tradition and classical design. But, no matter, Greek Revival ended only 20 years before this house was built, and the builder or owner was likely a fan of classical architecture.

So, it’s not inappropriate to have a painted floor in a home built in Boston during the reign of Queen Victoria in England.


But, there’s another point I’d like to make. I think that painted floors would be greatly appreciated and coveted if people were exposed more to them more often. However, several of my favorite A-list designers decorate frequently with white painted or white-washed floors.


Albert-hadley-living room

Albert Hadley’s amazing room for Nancy Pyne.


simply white ode to albert hadley living room - best shades of white paint

Mr. Hadley’s timeless interior design inspired my Simply White palette board for the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.


Other designers who decorate with white hardwood floor stains and paints are:


Darryl Carter white and black kitchen-masculine room

Darryl Carter

Darryl doesn’t do white floors, but he always uses lots of white in his interiors. I adore his genius!

Laurel? Question. Doesn’t white show the dirt the same as a super-dark floor, but in reverse?

Well, I think a slightly off-white floor that shows some of the wood grain is probably the most desirable. Please check out one of my favorite posts about painted floors.


rod-collins-furlow-gatewood - white painted floor

Furlow Gatewood

A decorative artist did this gorgeous, painted floor masterfully.


via Katie Considers - Furlow Gatewood hardwood floor finish - white floor - antique-armchair-robert-kime-fabric-gingham-upholstery

via Katie Considers

And a closeup Furlow Gatewood’s painted floor. In case you’re wondering, that gorge fabric is a Robert Kime design. That is sold exclusively through John Rosselli & Assoc. (yes, Bunny Williams husband)


Willaim McLure - gorgeous white on white apartment - hardwood floor stains

William McLure

William is known for his painted white floors. I love that he’ll take a rental apartment, rip up the fugly carpeting, paint the hardwood floor underneath– without getting permission. I guess the landlord knows he has a creative genius occupying the space, and it’s best just to let him do his thing!


William_Mclure_Apartment_not boring white painted wallsWilliam McLure white floor

Please follow William’s fantastic Instagram account.



Frank Babb Randolph


Loi Thai Tone on Tone dining room with white washed painted wood floors - hardwood floor stainsLoi Thai – Above and below.

Loi Thai - white floor - hardwood floor stains


Loi seems to have taken down his gorgeous blog. There is a new website, but there’s only a placeholder at this time. However, please follow Loi Thai on Instagram.


Vicente Wolf - white painted floor


Vicente Wolf


That’s some mad-wicked amazing company. Therefore, white hardwood floors are an enduring classic.

Well, what about resale, Laurel?

Gosh, I just bought the place. But, that’s a reasonable question. Here’s my thinking. Boston is a young, progressive, sophisticated city full of educated, cultured people. Of course, a white floor isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but I don’t need everyone to like it.


Plus, the hardwood floor stains can be changed.


But, here’s the thing. Stain can most likely be sanded out, but paint is likely to get into the crevices and won’t come out. The worst-case scenario is that the floor would need to be changed. If we’re talking about the living room, den, and bedroom, that’s about 900 square feet.

Okay, I’ve said what I have to say regarding hardwood floor stains.

The only other thing I want to add is that after looking at hundreds of apartments in Boston, this is my take.

And, the gray is not done in a classical Robert Adam way.

There is nothing classic or tasteful by anyone’s definition. The builders are just doing what they think folks want.



One thing I know that I want is this table. Well, a table like this one. I saw it last summer when I was looking to buy the house in Northampton. I love the Pot board base on this table and the hand-planed finish to the top. Anyway, the table was sold to someone else. However, Englishman’s, a company I’ve worked with many times, and one of my favorite sources in Laurel’s Rolodex, could make me a table exactly like this.

I just put that in, in case anyone is wondering.

In closing, as you can see, the color of the floor stain can have a significant effect on the room’s overall look and style. Some stains make the room feel more formal and some more casual. However, that also depends in part on the other furnishings.


Would I carry this stain into the entry and kitchen?


Well, that’s another post for another day.  However, I keep thinking about this apartment. I love all of the floors in this place. I love it all!

So, dare I ask? What do you think? Would you do a pale stain? Or, maybe you already have. If so, please tell us about it.


However, please check out this post showing my dear friend and fabulous kitchen designer Susan Serra’s gorgeous white painted floors.

There’s a lot of great information in the post and comments in this post about hardwood flooring.




PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES and get a headstart on your holiday shopping at the brand new Holiday Shop for 2020.


147 Responses

  1. Iam going to look up the ecowax that Beckett mentioned.

    Does that one designer have a giant tortoise as a pet?! And with white floors!
    Ha ha just kidding. I am tired of looking at my orange floors. I need to paint my ceiling a blue green (thank you for that post!) and I think my floors would look so much better white. I am blessed to have great shade but that means I need as much light and bright as possible.

  2. I’ll second or third the Rubio monocoat. It is a really beautiful finish and it leaves the wood with a lovely feel underfoot. I must warn, however, against using their “precolor easy” least the white stains. We wanted scandi white floors (for about 20 years) and my dh (I’ll blame him 🙂 wanted more opaqueness than the whiter oils offered, hence the precolor. The combination is gorgeous but marks up dark scuff mark from moving a piece of furniture. I can try adding a little more stain but the wood won’t take it unless I were to sand that whole area back to bare wood. I can protect the area with more oil but the mark stays. I’m hoping that it will all turn into a patina at some point. If you do Rubio, I would stick with one of the oil colors. For what it’s worth, we used precolor in “Nordic White” and oil in “cotton white” on red oak.

  3. Laurel, May I add that I took your advice several years ago.put in hardwood..and did English Chestnut….It is stunning..I don’t regret it ever…I have seagrass rugs and off white linen slipcovered sofas..and bamboo shades..and cotton balls walls and ceilings in Matte: reading all from your blog…Voila my condo is stunning…thanks to you..
    May you derive as much joy as I did in making a new home for myself after the jerk left after 25 years

  4. I share your distaste for the orange-golden oak that was so ubiquitous for a time. I do think that the whitewashed wood floors scream “country” or “beach house” in a way that’s hard to combine with the new trad look you favor. That said, you’re the only one making that call, and if it will make you happy to look at these floors every day, then go ahead and enjoy!!

  5. Just have to say that I am so incredibly THRILLED for you! I love that we will all get to live vicariously through you as you turn this gorgeous apartment into something even more gorgeous. You are so deserving of this opportunity, Laurel! Bravo!! What a rare treat to live in such a beautiful abode. xo

  6. I love the whitewashed look. I can’t afford hardwood, but I’m looking at vinyl plank in a greyed or whitewashed look. Something about it has always appealed, maybe because I do love the look of the classic Gustavian rooms. I do dislike the golden oak look. So much of that everywhere has quite put me off oak, unless it’s whitewashed or something.

  7. Have you considered darker floors in the more formal areas upstairs, and doing lighter floors downstairs in the bedroom/garden area? That might be a way for you to have and enjoy the best of both! I love light floors, and painted floors in bedrooms, but agree they may not fit as well in the more historic upstairs. One benefit of the duplex arrangement is the ability to try both.

  8. One of the small joys in life is seeing sunlight reflecting off a beautiful wood floor. And your windows face south…..

  9. Hi Jim,

    The entire downstairs as well as the den are new wood. I agree with you regarding keeping the old wood. Sadly, most renovators, even in Boston have little regard for the history, at least on the inside. The outside, is another matter, thankfully.

  10. Hi Laurel, I love your apartment. I have had it all. Whitewashed floors, beautiful, but when you have an area caroet on it for a long time, when the carpet is removed, it is like the stain has lifted. Dark is beautiful, but, yes it shows everything. My favourite is a medium reddish cherry stain. Locks great with mahogany furniture. Now, I am in a rental with varnished natural (yellow) oak parquet floors. I hate them! I would love to stain them. I guess I could. Hope this helps. Good Luck!

  11. Sherry, I’m just the messenger, reporting the news, and not encouraging anyone to break rules. William, however, does know what he’s doing. And believe me, each of the properties he rented was vastly improved after he got his talented hands on it. Of course, I realize that’s not usually the case.

  12. Mary Beth, If doing a pale or white stain on red oak, the floors would first need to be bleached. Also, one time, we used a pale off-white stain with some green in it to counteract the red.

  13. Dark looks classy and elegant when you look at all the pictures you made.I feel that white floors make the rooms look ungrounded. They make the furniture look like it’s floating and it’s very hard to make that look cohesive and inviting. I have rift and quartered white oak hardwood stained walnut and espresso 50/50. We just built our house 2 years ago I really wanted light floors but am so glad I did this combo as they really aren’t hard to keep clean at all, very very easy and I have huge walls of windows and 16 ft sliding glass doors everywhere not a problem at all. I had way more problems keeping my light floors clean in our last house, you see literally every single speck of dirt or fuzz or hair on a light floor! Don’t be afraid of the dark, dark is way more forgiving and hides things better.

  14. I’ve had white washed (got tired of them very quickly), white painted and now mid tone brown oak floors. Although the dark floors show dirt more easily, they are my favorite for the main living area. Still love the white painted floors for bedrooms.

  15. Hi Laurel, I have an 1880s row home in Baltimore and I love my honey oak floors. I don’t really like the white. They give off a Scandinavian vibe which is trendy right now. But you are the designer and homeowner. I think you should do what makes your heart sing! All the best to you. Have fun! Cheers, Brenda

  16. Chestnut for me. I find the whites fine in a rustic setting, particularly Scandinavian. Otherwise they tend to look instantly beat up, cold, and dirty. And aesthetically speaking, forced and decorator-y. Especially in a classic old building in Boston.

  17. Congratulations! Lovely home! My favorite is the cognac, its light enough to offer contrast with the darker tone furniture and lighter walls. I feel that the painted floors would take away from the historic look of the home and might be a tad trendy. However…you are the designer and the home owner, do what makes you happy!

  18. I love the idea of light floors! We too had honey/orangish red oak floors. Our amazing floor guys did a stain of 3/4 white and 1/4 gray and then topped with matte nordic seal. They are glorious and make my heart sing! We have been enjoying them for two years and they look fabulous! SO glad I went light!

  19. Congratulations on your place. In our last home, I stained the floors a high shine, espresso color. They were extremely difficult to maintain a pristinely clean look, but wow did I love it. If your heart sets you in one particular direction, go for it.

  20. Congratulations to you! Every room in my house on Long Island, NY is done in Minwax Special Walnut. My oak floors have a lot of variation in them so the stain color shows off that variation beautifully. There are lighter areas and darker areas giving the floor a lot of character. It’s the best of both worlds! Good luck to you and many blessings!

  21. I absolutely love either the white painted floors or the stain. I’ve been wanting to do the same thing for years. I am looking at using Woca products to do the scandinavian wood soap finish. Until I can replace my floors, I decided to paint them white (strip maple) and it made a world of difference.

    That white finish is so classic and beautiful.

  22. Omg congrats Laurel!!! One thing I wanted to share with you in case you hadn’t heard of it is a 2 part process called wood bleach consisting of lye and high percent hydrogen peroxide (like they use in pools). Gerald Bland’s showroom floor you posted looks exactly like that was the finish used on it then maybe a matte tung or linseed oil finish.

  23. My husband and I purchased a 200 year old three room schoolhouse three years ago. The previous owner (thankfully) had the floors refinished. They were done in “English Chestnut” with a Satin Finish. They were stunning with all white walls and trim! Then we bought a reproduction salt box just down the road. It had wide pine floors in a dark finish that was worn out like an old pub. We had them stripped down to the bare wood with three coats of matte “traffic” water based urethane.
    We regret our decision.The floors though light, just don’t have the depth and warmth of the beautiful and classic English
    Chestnut. It’s a big decision! Your first instinct will be the answer. Follow your heart. Much happiness to you Laurel, in your beautiful new home!

  24. Whatever you do will be gorgeous! If you have always wanted white floors, go for it. Who knows if you will have that chance again. Congratulations on your new home and I enjoy all your posts and how you are thinking through all the decorating decisions! Have fun and enjoy yourself!

  25. Enjoy your blog so much, thank you! In this instance, I would go with a white porcelain floor (or similar), or a whiter/lighter shade of luxury vinyl plank. It’s modern, beautiful and practical. Lasts for years. For such a lovely place, I would not go with the painted floors or the original hardwood. I also love a floor I can wash and not have to worry about ruining anything.

  26. ********* HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS *********

    I think you should do exactly what you want!! If the white floors make your heart jump, then I vote for that. We’re only here for a short time and love wins.

  27. Hi Laurel: I LOVE your apartment but I don’t love your floor color choices. I know, I know, I’m not the designer and you are. The dark floors make me think that they’ll show every little piece of dust and the color just doesn’t make me happy. The white ones, IMHO, are too contemporary for the architecture. If I WERE the designer, I would go with a honey/fruitwood color with a very light sheen. Just soft and beautiful. I’d be happy to share the color of my floors in my new home here in NH if you’re interested…they too are honey/fruitwood and soft and lovely. Thanks so much for sharing all the news and designs and renos to take place in your new apartment. I’m living vicariously thru you because my new-build home is nearing completion on the things we still had to do after we moved in. How I LOVE projects…which is why I read each and every one of your emails. Congratulations!!

  28. First, Congratulations!! So happy for you that you finally have possession of such a beautiful place! Second, your floor choice is totally yours to make, and I’m betting that anything you do will look awesome! I chose something close to the English Chestnut in our old/new house. I like it, but it does show every speck of dust/pet hair (but I think that’s true of just about any hardwood finish). Third, I just have to note that in that second William McLure photo, I also own that print of the old woman on the bottom right (and her mate as well)!

  29. Congratulations, Laurel! It’s a beautiful home and I look forward to the many new and inspiring decorating ideas we will all gain while following you on this journey!

  30. What a great post! Thanks for all the excellent images and food for thought. I would love all of them to suit my moods of the day – not as easy as painting a wall so I know decisions need to be made. One thing that’s sure, and it’s confirmed by most of the photos, is a matte or semi matte finish. Even in the white stain the matte is softer and more welcoming. I know you’ll make a great choice and can’t wait to see the finished product. That room is exquisite!

  31. Congratulations Laurel!!!!
    You have now a beautiful canvas to work with.
    I love the look of white stained floors, as if time has passed softly . It looks great with your apartment and it looks beautiful without rugs too.
    This is your chance, don’t miss it!

  32. I like the whitewash stain rather than white paint. I think it gives the floor more depth and visual interest and disguises imperfections/dirt better. I have had white painted floors in a previous house, and they have similar, but different, issues to very dark stains. They don’t show every dust bunny or scratch, but footprints are a killer if you live anywhere wet or muddy. Your new home is beautiful – Congrats!

  33. Laurel, You know how much I love white floors either solid or washed. My one regret is that we had too move in right away and couldn’t paint the floors. I loved the painted floors in our last house! The examples you showed are some of my all time favorite rooms and designers. Albert Hadley’s is the cover of my pinterest file “All Time Favorites!” XO

  34. Laurel,
    Lovely post! If you like a light floor color have you considered stripping the oak flooring and just using a water based polyurethane on it. It would be similar to the color of a new unfinished oak board. We just did ours using Zar crystal clear in satin and it is vey light, and the finish almost resembles a waxed look and is very pretty. This water based polyurethane does not have an amber cast to it, and will not yellow over time like the oil finish does, and with 3 coats holds up very well. Benjamin Moore also makes a water base poly that is not amber. I have used it over painted steps and it has held up for 5 years very well. It’s called Benwood Stays Clear.
    Enjoy your lovely new place and thank you for all your posts!

  35. Chestnut! Definitely not the grayed stain, which seems too “of the moment” as well as having unpredictable undertones as it ages. As to paint, my first thought when I enter a house with a painted floor is always that the floor must have been horribly damaged and they had no option but to paint.

  36. I just did a whole house renovation, interior and exterior and I was able to procure over 2,000 square feet of Reclaimed Antique Dirty Top Pine in 10 inch wide boards, 16 foot lengths. This is long leaf pine that was logged out of extinction, and sitting in a factory in St. Louis for over a century. The boards were in such good condition that we didn’t even have to tongue and groove them. I used a medium stain and a natural matte finish. The medium is dark but allows lighter boards to stay light. The color variation is incredible. If you like saw marks, nail holes and joist marks that give rich character, this is for you. They do not sand but screen the floors after being laid and that is when the magic happens. It sets the tone for the entire renovation and gives me the look and feel of a New Orleans Garden District home. I actually call my style as Modern Acadian Farmhouse with a New Orleans and Coastal twist! I’m retired and needed a project during Covid. I used The Higgins Company, here in Louisiana to acquire the material and got an installer who specializes in the type flooring. He is an artist. You can see pics on their instagram page of various projects.


  37. Congratulations on the gorgeous apartment. I love everything you post. Have you considered a wax finish? I lived in a 17th century building in Germany that still had the original waxed floors. They came in and re-waxed twice a year. Over the years, the color darkens to something like the English walnut, but with a beautiful depth. I grew up in a 50’s house with hardwood floors finished with paste wax too. You do need a buffer, or a couple of enthusiastic little girls skating around with thick wool socks. I think Lauren Liess had a post on waxed finishes, Love them. With one person, no dogs, and an entry way outside your condo, they should hold up really well.

  38. Hi Laurel! I love all your posts and I always look forward to Sunday and Wednesday. This post on floors was very informative and inspirational. We have the golden oak 1950s floors. I love the description “Cognac”, it sounds prettier. I am so thankful that our floors were still intact when we bought our house. One day I would like to have them refinished and I love the floors from the Gerald Bland showroom. We have two large dogs and it seems like this non shiny natural finish would hold up well. The English Chestnut finish has always been a favorite of mine too. I am just so excited for you and your lovely new home and look forward to seeing what you do with it.

  39. Congratulations on finally getting your new home. I vote for you doing whatever you love with the floors and everything else!
    I agree with Catherine that you should wait until the stair issue is resolved, and even until you decide what to do with the kitchen flooring.
    We had a new kitchen put in last summer and we pulled up all the terrible kitchen tile, in the foyer, and in the powder room. Our oak floors were sanded and new flooring was matched and woven in between the boards to make it look like the whole first floor was always one. Like you, I did not like the existing orangy golden oak. My contractor talked me out of my stain choice by leaving large samples and I chose the oak left natural-no stain at all-with 3 coats of poly; it did not have that orangy look at all. The newer polys do not fade that way. We went with satin finish and they look fantastic, and easier to clean in the kitchen and P.R. than I would have imagined. No one can believe there were four different flooring types here previously. He was the only contractor to bring large samples to leave for a few days & see in various lighting, just like you always suggest when choosing a paint. It’s a year later but it has not yellowed, although I can expect some darkening from my large south-facing windows. This not only gave me a slightly lighter look (without orange!), but it also saved money as there’s one day less labor! He did not recommend the new water-based poly; he had tried it in his own house at his wife’s assistance due to environmental concerns, but it wore so badly he had to resand and put down oil-based poly two years later. We moved out for a week to let it thoroughly dry; you can just decamp to the other floor for a few days!
    I mention all this as ideas to think about because I am sure that whatever you chose will be beautifully executed.

  40. I agree that your new old home has a decidedly classical look, not (merci dieu!) Victorian. And I love it. How’s that for dodging the question?:-)

  41. Since you asked…I like the English Chestnut. The white with white walls make me feel like everything’s just floating in the room. But everything I’ve seen you do is gorgeous, so I’m looking forward to seeing what your finished apartment.

  42. Whatever you choose, you’ll make it lovely, I’m sure. Of the boards you show I really love the English Chestnut – it just looks classic, grounding, versatile, and rich.

  43. A Roomba will keep the floors clean but they are a PAIN to clean out, and they get stuck, or fall down the stairs. A cordless Dyson is much easier and less work in the end.

  44. From looking at the boards you created, I love the look of the English Chestnut. As others have mentioned, it seems to make all the other elements of the room shine. And I love the warmth that it adds also. That said, it’s your place, so do what makes your heart happy! If you go light, I like the idea of a light stain instead of painting. You didn’t tell us if you have white or red oak flooring. I know that will make a difference in how the color may turn out. I see from a quick online search that there are ways to get that whitewashed look on a red oak floor, so that it won’t turn out looking pink. I know whatever you choose, will look amazing!

  45. We did one coat of Nordic seal on new white oak floors at our shore house and the same sealer. It has held up to 3 dogs, sand, and a packed house in the summer. A very natural look-we also tried out 2 coats of Nordic seal and it was a VERY nice whitewash effect but wanted more of the wood character to show through so we went with one coat. I will say with the high traffic matte sealer its very hard and I notice it in my foot bones compared to my hardwood floor at home. As an aside, we vacationed in a home in Nantucket that had new painted floors. Ended up calling the realtor immediately because one could not pull a kitchen chair back and sit in it without extensively marring the floors. They looked horrible after our 2 weeks there, obviously something was not done right.

  46. Thank you SO MUCH for the introduction to picmonkey on your blog. I was up late last night (again) playing around with it. It’s addictive. I’m trying to decided between three sets of club chairs for my living room. I had already found photos of most of my existing furniture online, so it was easy to plug in the different chair combos to figure out which one I liked best. So fun and simple! You have saved me a TON of money and angst by helping me actually SEE potential purchases in my room before buying.

  47. From experience – if the floors are in decent shape, give them a protective coat of poly. If you need to sand them, 3 coats of poly will give color and durability. You are using a rug anyway. If you stain/paint any dark color, every speck of dust will show. WRT the round
    table, we searched everywhere for a smaller 42″ size. Settled on a nice inlaid mahogany one from Ethan Allen with a durable lacquer finish.
    Best of luck!

  48. Comments say no to white floors, but I say yes. Most want white on their walls, but I want white on my floors!!

    I would go with the stain rather than the paint, not because of resale or refinish so much as the general look of seeing the grain. Your earlier posts have made it clear that my preference is not a mistake but beautifully done, and your examples here look delicious to my eyes.

    You want white. You know you do. Go for it.

    All the comments about white being too beachy just don’t ring true to me. I think it is a matter of what people are used to and feel safe with.

    In any case, the white stain is reversible, and I like the idea of preserving the floors for the future. As someone mentioned: hardwood will become more and more scarce

    I am laughing about the suggestion that white floors float rather than ground. Maybe so but we all float on a very unstable ground whether we realize it or not. 25 years living in California taught me how unstable the ground actually is. I would rather be floating a few inches above it in most circumstances. LOL.

  49. Congratulations on your new home! I love these gorgeous pics and the casual feel of the light floors. It seems that most do not use area rugs – just see a natural fiber rug in the Loi Thai pic. Can’t wait to see what you do with your space!

  50. Laurel. I loved this post! I am so happy that you are getting this gorgeous apartment. I shall enjoy seeing its progress in the coming months. A foundational learning from you is to see the scene in its entirety. With this in mind, I scrolled through your 5 options with an open mind and let them wash over me. I was surprised by the impression that the chestnut version seemed to enhance your other elements so thoroughly, even the different shade table. In a sentence, the chairs all “popped” and the tasteful draperies and rug looked so much richer. Now, my bias – we have had golden oak floors for 35 years and we like them as an old friend and some of the lighter options you chose are lovely too, but the chestnut was surprisingly complementary. I consider it analogous to the elements of the orchestra, what, the larger horn secrion that support the first violins (upholstered pieces) and the playful flutes (Greek Key drapery skirts). Sorry for the clumsy analogy (I play the guitar) but I thought you may like it.

  51. I have the original red oak flooring in my 1958 ranch home. I’ve looked at ways to lighten them, but it’s extremely hard. They tend to come out with a pink hue. I would LOVE to paint them white, but worry about the maintenance. In your case, if you can paint them, go for it! It’s a beautiful look.

  52. I am liking the idea of the light flooring. I think it adds visual excitement to the beautiful and traditional bones. Plus, if it’s something you’ve been wanting to do, seems like a fitting time to go for it. A fresh take for a fresh time.

    P.S., apologies for misspelling your name last time I posted. 😱

  53. I’m totally in love with Loi Thai’s designs. Could you do a Picmonkey to the two photos you included and change the floors to a darker color? I wonder which one you would like better?

  54. Now the fun begins… After looking at various photos of rooms with white floors, my initial impression is the lack of being grounded. White floors and white walls creates an airy feeling that I might get tired of. But let’s be practical. Would painted floors be irreversible? Would the paint wear out in certain areas causing bare spots? Would it look too shabby chic? It’s a bold choice, that you could probably pull off beautifully, but I’m too safe. I would choose the English Chestnut.

  55. We’ve had dark stained floors for 16 years and are very happy with them. It’s just the two of us, me being miss neatnik and he being Pigpen from the Peanuts column. The floors are vacuumed once a week, and we have no problem at all with dust, etc. With it being just you, I can’t see a problem with a dark floor.

  56. Personally, I like the English Chestnut. It gives a bit of warmth and frame the rest of the 5 white walls and light-colored furniture. The white will show all the dirt and dust.

  57. Hi, Laurel:
    I have refinished floors in two dwellings, both built in the mid 1940s with the golden oak original finish. In the first one I used a stain called “Provincial” that was a neutral medium tone, topped with semi-gloss poly. In my present house I used Minwax “Dark Walnut” and a “satin” poly topping and they are gorgeous. The darker stain makes the floors receded expanding the volume of the room. I don’t like any white or light painted floors: too trendy, not authentic, and they show dirt/dirt/dirt. Good luck with your n ew home.

    nancy in Savannah GA (a very traditional town).

  58. What ever you decide will be perfect for you. I would be hesitant to do the floors until the staircase placement has been nailed down. It might be hard to get a good match if you shift things around.

  59. Hello Laurel, It is of course your opinion that counts, but I like the oak and walnut stains the best for that space. Perhaps you can find a shade a trifle less orange-yellow. White floors look modern (not fitting for your place), informal (again not matching the architecture) or very ‘decorator’–here, if anyone can pull off this look, you can. (White floors also have the problem of the dark-looking cracks, again perfectly suitable for some rooms.)

    I think even more important than color is the degree of refinishing. Of course you don’t want splinters, but I think a 140-year-old building should have 140-year-old floors. I hate the look of shiny, overly-refinished floors in an old building. If that were my house, I would not let an electric sander through the doors. My own floors are all marble, with the original gloss gone and a few cracks and imperfections if you look closely, but I would not exchange them for glitzy new floors that to me are without character, at least for an older building.

  60. I am so excited that it is yours at last! And just as excited for the coming updates 😃 I prefer the lightest finishes on wide planked floors, not sure why. I think the chestnut finish is so classic, but would much prefer that you do exactly as you please!
    (I’m just recalling when we added on and I couldn’t decide on flooring, or afford what I thought I wanted. We used a faux finish fresco roller on the plywood and a blend of sapphire/aqua tones and then polyurethane over. It was so beautiful and so stinky! We spent a couple of days away and still had to leave the windows open for a few nights after.)

  61. Congratulations on the closing! Beautiful bliss! Referencing your last post(and my comments) about indoor air quality….
    I was attracted to the matte, velvety look of Pallman’s Magic Oil hardened oil finish and used it on over 5000sq ft of white oak hardwoods.Popular in Europe, it is low VOC and doesn’t off-gas. I LOVE it. Comes in all your color choices. Be glad to send you pics of mine. Excited for you!

  62. Hi Laurel! We just ripped out our espresso stained floors. Hallelujah! They showed every speck of lint and pet hair possible, so I do not recommend that choice.

  63. I read so many wonderful comments all I have to add is this: the darker the wood, the more the dust and dirt show, the lighter the wood the less. My lesson has been learned. I have white maple, which is yellow, yes I know, but the lightness is wonderful and easier to clean. The last house was almost ebony, wow what a pain. Cleaning floors all the time.

  64. I’ve been reading your wonderful blog for a very long time and I love that your design inspiration always leans to classic and traditional. I find myself thinking, “what would Laurel do” when decorating my own traditional home. Your advice has been excellent over the years. Please do not paint these beautiful historic wood floors. The English Chestnut will be gorgeous and timeless. Or, do a lighter stain between white oak and chestnut. Once they are painted, you can never go back. In the end, it is your decision and you have to do what makes your heart happy!

  65. OK, here is what I think, keeping in mind I have some Joan Crawford tendencies. If staining, I would only go with a darker stain, because it will help to camouflage the cracks between the strips of flooring. You are a manic sweeper, so I don’t think dust will be an issue for you. That said, it sounds like you only want white. If that is the case, I would look into putting a light engineered floor over your existing floor. Once again, Joan tendencies, but I don’t like seeing dark cracks in white floors, and that is what you will have if you try to stain or paint your floors white.

  66. I love the white look of floors. I think I would have them stained white so that the next people do not have to tear them out.

  67. Such a beautiful space. Please no white floors. The chestnut color is elegant, warm, and welcoming. White may seem fun for awhile, but will never match the beauty of the chestnut stain.

  68. Like most of the comments, I love the English Chestnut floors–but if you had always wanted white floors you should go for it!
    That is the beauty of owning your own home- you can do exactly what YOU want!

    And while thinking about resale is something that everyone talks about,I think it is only very important if you know that you will be selling the house in a few years. I don’t think it matters as much when you are planning to stay in a home for the long term.

    You should do just what YOU want…who knows what people will want 10 or 12 years from now

  69. Hi Laurel. I’ve been reading your blog for about two months now and always find something incredibly helpful and interesting and new (to me). I just love it! Today I clicked on the link to “Mrs Laurel builds her parisian dream home”. That’s my dream home too! I just bought an old townhouse and plan to redo the floors and add molding and paint everything. I’d love to know your best guess as to the paint color in that parisian apartment. That’s the color I want! Thanks for your help.

    Amanda in Virginia

  70. I’m thrilled for you! Your new home is fabulous, I can’t wait to see what you do with it. I painted our beach house kitchen floors white. OMG what a mistake! The only way to clean them is with a magic eraser after I sweep. Mopping doesn’t not work on my floors. Plus light or white floors seem so beachy. I think dark wood floors are classic. I like the chestnut option for your oak floors, dark but not too dark.

  71. If you are going for an austere look, do the light stain or white paint. However, in the picture boards you showed, the 2nd stain, English Chestnut, looked the most natural and least forced.
    Good luck,

  72. Hi Laurel,

    We recently moved from sunny Southern California to steamy South Carolina. Très différent! People, politics, food, weather, landscape (where’s the desert?) and more.

    We purchased a home that, upstairs, has several wide plank painted pine floors–some rooms white, some dark gray. Yes, they are beautiful, but I find them impossible to keep scuff free and pristine. I do realize pine floors have different (softer wood, etc.) characteristics than oak. If a chair is scooted across the floor, there are marks and sometimes splinters. Perhaps the wrong paint or gloss? Anyway, my adventure with painted floors hasn’t gone very well and while I like them conceptually, they aren’t very practical. But, I’m not going to change them–they’re part of the character of this French Country home in the Colonial South.

    I also have 2,500 SF of travertine floors–same house, ground floor area. I’m considering having them diamond honed and polished. Do you have a recommendation for the final finish? The floor specialist is recommending a gloss finish–exisiting floors have a honed finish. Which finish is easier to maintain? BTW: I have a husband, a dog and grand children, so maintenance is an issue. I did look thru your blog, but saw no entry on stone floors.

    Many thanks for your blog. It’s informative, helpful and irreverent. Irreverent is the part I like best!


  73. Your apartment is gorgeous and I’m so very excited for you! My daughter is at university in the Back Bay so we’re there all the time and I know just how beautiful that area is. So one more opinion to add to the list is – I just don’t think white floors go with the overall look. Your apartment looks like a gorgeous Parisian pied a terre. To me, white belongs in Cape Cod cottages, Joanna Gaines-style farmhouses, Scandinavian apartments. Painting your floors white feels like trying to put a rustic French kitchen into a 2020 tract home. I think any of the stains you are considering would be way better. (Or even stripped and waxed.) But I’m not a designer so I’m prepared to be wrong and to adore whatever you do!!

  74. I haven’t read all the comments yet so I’m not going to say anything about the painted floor (yet). What I did was look at your dream apartment, the Parisian apartment. I LOVE the staircase going down to the bedroom in that apt! Do you?

  75. Not that you’re holding an election, but Rubio Monocoat gets my vote! There are dark color options, as well as brights (green, blue, etc.), not only the light finishes.

    We DIYed our 1950s oak floors with Rubio “White 5%,” which left them looking very near to the unfinished color. The transformation from horrific layers of orange-y “walnut” stain to actual white oak was both hell (the floors were badly gouged from the last finish job) and heaven once the process was complete! Gorgeous! Rubio “Pure” is actually going to look more like a traditional clear poly that turns the raw wood golden, but we were wanting less gold in the end result.

    Rubio will be a matte finish and will require some yearly maintenance of high traffic areas, as well as their own soap for weekly damp mopping. No fumes. So easy to care for.

    For anyone who is looking for DIY info on how to apply and care for Rubio floors, Pete’s Hardwood in MN has a goldmine of information on their website and was very helpful over the phone and email during our project.

  76. Life is short…do what pleases you !!!!
    I’m relatively new to your blog..Love it
    One question though…do ANY of your readers
    SLEEP ???
    Welcome to Boston

  77. I was all set to have silk drapes made for my south facing window. Dark silk, navy to be exact.

    The I read that Lauel forbids it. No silk for me!

    just kidding but yes, I will not be doing silk drapes and possibly not doing drapes at all, after reading up on south facing drapes.

    I love the fact that I purchased a small apartment in an old building about the same time Laurel did.. Almost every one of her posts touch on something I am thinking about.

    My own recently-installed golden oak floors will stay, not because I love them, but because they are passable. Too msny other things to fix.

  78. Hey Laurel – in addition to my other comment – I really like white wood floors but to me, they read beach-y or minimalist. Also, since you were concerned about things showing on dark wood, according to an article in Architectural Digest “white floors tend to show dirt more easily and wear harder than floors with more typical finishes. As much as we love the look, we always try to make sure owners with kids or pets understand the upkeep they require. They definitely show more dirt than darker stains or clear finishes.” Even if I loved the look, I wouldn’t want to deal with this, but that’s me. I’ve done a lot of things to my houses that people advised me against and loved it, and that’s the important thing.

  79. I used Rubio Monocoat and I am so happy with it. I sanded and stained the floors with my bare hands- no sander. I wanted them to look authentic- I used 6 inch white oak – really long boards. Looks amazing. I love Rubio. If anyone uses it do not use the accelerator.

  80. Hi Laurel! Your blog is the BEST! Just a quick caveat on using oils and stains on wood floors. Whatever the “base” color of the natural wood is…like my 150 year old reclaimed white oak floors that most likely came from the south have some “red” in them from iron in soil(so much for “white”) will be much more pronounced than one might imagine or hope for once the oil is applied. A semi-transparent white oil stain draws out the “red” in the wood, so my white floors now have a “pinkish” cast/undertone. I hated them at first but they have grown on me and now I think they are gorgeous as do most visitors. I wash them with WOCA Natural(oil) Soap in the White color & that is lifting the shade, plus the wood is naturally lighter with age & sunlight.
    Certainly,painting will be a totally different & more predictable process than oil finishing.
    All this to say, wood can be tricky!
    Thank you for all your brilliant creativity you share with us! Your new apt is lovely!

  81. Tough decision. I have English Chestnut also. I do like it but honestly wish I had left my white oak floors natural. By that I mean no varnish or it would be orangey. I also love the white look. In the stain category, I also like the Duraseal “Medium Brown”. I believe Minwax bought Duraseal so it may be difficult to find. They also have a darker antique brown.
    It will be lovely with any of your choices.

  82. I like the Espresso. Anything that even remotely looks like the 90s Golden Oak makes me ill.

    I liked the first simulation pic Animal Prints!

  83. You should do what you’ve always wanted to do with the white floors, now’s your chance. But I did want to put in a plug for the English Chestnut. I’ve had it for 30 years and have loved every day. It’s a rich color that shows the grain of the wood, but is a nice back drop. My advice though is to have a satin finish. Many homes around me have the same color with the high gloss and you are correct that they show everything. The satin does not and yet still has some reflection to it. For 15 years we had a white dog and a yellow cat and even their shed hair didn’t stand out like dust on at shiny dark floor will. Have fun…so exciting for you!!

  84. Congrats on your new home!! Welcome to the Boston area. We had our light oak floors refinished in English Chestnut and I adore them. I prefer matte finishes so the refinisher suggested two coats of gloss polyurethane for durability and one coat of matte marine finish on top. Bingo! Just the finish I was looking for. They’ve held up perfectly. I do love the look of the white painted floors but would suggest a topcoat sealant for longevity. It’s your home – choose what your heart desires!

  85. The floors might not be stained, they may be natural with a clear coat. Old varnishes turn yellow and give that orange look. There are new clear coat water based varnishes that do not turn yellow. I would be afraid the white would show every little thing. I always thought white was a bit cottagey unless it had borders. I would paint the floors in your bedroom first and live with the existing floors a while before you change them. They may grow on you.

  86. I have a three story home with a porcelain tile floor that mimics slightly worn painted white wood floors throughout the home. I LOVE them! They create a wonderful neutral backdrop. Go for the white!

    PS so excited for you!!

  87. Hi Laurel,

    I have overseen the refinishing of floors for several clients. One client used the Rubio (prior to me working for him) and it was the dullest finish I have ever seen in a floor. It always looked dirty and unfinished to me. In the end, he decided to refinish them using the old standard oil based urethane. I did a lot of research and consulting with my best contractors and an old school floor finisher that I refer clients to and they all conclude that the most durable finish is still the old oil based urethane. The water based products are getting better but they do not hold up to scratches from pets, shoes, etc like the old finish. It stinks when you get it done, but it lasts for decades. If you want to change the colour, the floor will have to be sanded down to bare wood, then restained and 2 to 3 coats of urethane. If you want to paint, you just need to do a scuff sand, oil based primer, then paint. The shinier the paint, the more durable the finish. But the beauty of paint, is that its so easy to touch up if you do get scratches. It is super important to do the prep work though. Did you know Benjamin Moore sells a floor paint. Unfortunately it only comes in matt or super shiny. I would say, the Advance paint would likely hold up super well also but it does have a long cure time so you would need to be really careful about placing the furniture during this time and not wearing shoes that can mark the floors. But Advance is tough as can be once cured and you can chose the sheen that you like. I love painted floors. Its definitely a great option for floors that are in rough shape. I don’t agree with the others who think its sacrilidge. It’s your place. Do what you want. Hardwood flooring is not that expensive actually. $4 to $6 square foot here in Canada and not that hard to install.

  88. Rubio Monocoat has my vote. My two cents worth is if you are using a lot of rugs, the floor is just a canvas which gets painted with gorgeous rugs.
    Laurel, about the grim which comes into YOUR home, I understand, I live close to a busy road. Your windows are old and I would be putting my investment in having weather stripping put in. This doesn’t change the windows at all, it just gives you a better seal from the cold and heat and grim.
    In one home we built, we put in a system within the havc which zapped the dust into infinity. I would take the filter out about once a month and wash it off. The system was in the basement but I’m sure it can be placed in any system.
    I love your new home and it will be a wonderful adventure.
    I so look forward to each and every email I receive from you.

  89. Congratulations on closing! Yay! I have to say, I absolutely LOVE the chestnut stain with the white walls and tall windows with their gorgeous trim. Second is the natural pale stain like Gerald Bland’s showroom. To my eye, either of those stains would look amazing in any light. I love the contrast the chestnut adds to all the white features. If you prefer a monochromatic look, the natural provides a gentle contrast without shouting. It also makes me think of an old historic home before staining was popular. I am not a fan of painting the floor. Think of the wood as a person… do you want to highlight an aspect of its personality, which stain allows you to do, or hide its light with paint to achieve a certain look?

  90. Great post. While the white floors are gorgeous, I like them better for a beach house. There’s nothing like the warmth of wood tones on those long New England winter days. I’d go with the English Chestnut. Lots of luck in your new place!

  91. English Chestnut is my favorite. About 3 years ago I did my stair treads & railing in this stain with an oil semi-gloss polyurethane on top, trim was cotton balls. Love it.

    I’ve lived with quite a few wide pine board painted floors. You can remove the paint with paint remover, then sand and you get back to bare wood. Its messy but so is taking off other stains. Paints do wear. I painted my bathroom floor and I had to repaint within 5 years. I think you have to put a coat of polyurethane on top of the paint if you want it to last, I skipped that step.
    Some of those photos look waxed or oiled rather than polyurethaned. I think that makes a really big difference in upkeep.With a dog who loves water, gardening, filling up the wood stove I have to have poly. Your results may vary.

  92. If you love it, go for it! I think it will look great and can’t wait to see it. We just closed on a home and the floors are stained in provincial, which I really love. We had them buffed and he put on a satin poly instead of the high-gloss that was there. Good luck!

  93. Good point, this comes down to what type of oak floors you have. In my experience: If you have red oak floors, they will definitely tend to go pink with a whitewashed finish. If white oak, they will not likely tend to develop pink overtones. Do a test area (perhaps in a closet) before proceeding to refinish the entire floor.

  94. Congratulations Laurel, your new home is beautiful! The floors are very pretty as is, especially if you invested in a gorgeous rug to ground each room. If you feel the need to change them, my favorite stain is the English Chestnut, very classic and timeless. It is so enjoyable reading about all of your ideas for such a lovely place.

  95. My first thought is: unless you either know from your own experience (ie, what with being a designer and all! ;)) or have already spoken to a floor refinisher—check with a floor refinisher about what stains are possible on your floor.

    I had the English chestnut in the apartment I spent 13 years in, in Boston—and loved it—and wanted it to replace the gym floor orange floors in my place (it used to be a school, and the floors look it!) in Pittsburgh…only to discover that I have maple floors, and it doesn’t take stain evenly…so…I could have unevenly stained floors, painted floors or natural. (I went with natural, and although it wasn’t what I wanted, it has a pleasantly greenish undertone that I can live with, and in a satin finish is quite pretty.)

    You probably already know that—but it was unpleasant for me to have to decide while the floor people were right there, ready to go, so wanted to save you some grief. 🙂

    Ok—with that said…MY vote would be for English chestnut. It’s unobtrusive, doesn’t show dirt easily, and is rich looking and anchoring.

    HOWEVER…it’s YOUR home, and you say you’ve had a a hankering for white floors forever—so unless you’ve purchased this place as an investment property and plan to move in a few years—GO FOR IT!!!!

    I think living your life for what you think you might do in a ten years or so is silly: you could be dead in 9 years—although I hope not! ;)—and then you’d’ve missed out on 9 years of bliss, everytime you looked at your floors.

    The housing market gets tighter and tighter in Boston all the time. Places in prime neighborhoods sell for outrageous prices, regardless of their floors. Sure, someday, a new owner might be cursing you over the painted floors—but WHO CARES????!!!! They’ll still buy it and fix it the way they want it. 🙂

    I’m 53. Green has been my favorite color since I was 11. Every home I’ve lived in as an adult has had as much green in it as possible, if it worked in the space—and 30 years of different homes and different cities has not made me get tired of it—nor have I ever wanted any other colors around me, regardless of trend. (If it comes to that—my clothes are the same way—everytime a certain shade of green becomes fashionable—roughly every 20 years—I buy up everything I can in that color, and stubbornly wear those things long after they’re out of fashion—because I LOVE GREEN!!).

    My taste in art has remained primarily the same. My aesthetic has remained primarily the same. I started drawing when I was 4–women, looking a certain way—and today, I photograph women looking a certain way.

    My point is—some people’s taste changes continually. Some people’s taste doesn’t. If yours doesn’t—and the white floors are what you know you want—then DO IT. You’re not going to magically stop loving them just because you have them. And however impractical they might wind up being, you’ll still love them.

    Your house. Your floors. Enjoy! 🙂

  96. I’ve always thought that people painted hardwood floors when they had been re-finished multiple times and the floors could not be refinished one more time. I would re-stain in whatever color you desire including the dark option and invest in a Roomba and run it everyday. I’m not certain that a white floor whether stained or painted is a wise choice in Boston where you have previously commented on the soot.

  97. I wouldn’t paint but refinish in a white range. I’ve been researching whitewashed floors for quite some time. I’m going this route in the upcoming months. There are so many aspects to the processes that it is imperative to have a contractor with lots of experience with the products. Too often I’ve read of folks ending up with floors that develop a pink tinge from the tannins in the wood or not getting the degree of opacity they expected. Not sure if it’s ok to post a link here, but take a look at allhardwoodfloorsllc (dot com). Their gallery page has a good illustration of the degrees of whiteness. I’ve also read about the effect of the finish coats on the appearance. It’s a transformative project that will set the stage and needs careful thought.

  98. Hi Laurel, Love the post. In terms of floor colors, it is hard to go wrong in this place with its beautiful architecture. I am clearly in the minority here, but my clear favorite is Espresso. I put it into my home and could not be happier. it really is not an issue with stuff showing on it – you will have rugs and will give it a sweep and vacuum and its not like you have a heard of people in there every day. The dark color is so beautiful with light walls. I also in my last house had English Chestnut which was very pretty. I really love the table you found – its a beauty!

  99. Laurel- Have been loving following your new journey! Unless my monitor is way off, I really really don’t think the existing floors are stained at all. They appear to be red oak with clear sealant or, if done long enough ago, clear oil-based shellac. If they are red oak you will never achieve that pale, raw, sans yellow/orange tone. The floors would have to be white oak. Love the English Chestnut tone. So classic. I agree, you’re smart not to do too dark. Upkeep nightmare! That said, i really, really love the look of bleached or pickled oak. I’d go with a Minwax Wood finish or similar, not paint. Just my two cents. Look forward to seeing the progress along the way in your new adventure. Wish you much happiness there!

  100. I’d say, Talk to Berj, the owner of Eco Floor Finishing in Watertown (close to Back Bay). I have always loved classic golden oak and assumed I’d get it when refinishing the long-neglected floors in my old Cambridge apartment. He had a range of much lighter finishes – some near white, still showing the grain – that he pointed out would increase the light in my small rooms. I hesitated because they seemed more contemporary/informal, but went with one and really like it. To Janine’s point, those floors even inspired me to put away my rugs snd go with traditional furniture on bare floors, French style.

  101. Just completed entire living area in a dark hickory to complement a walnut plank countertop on our island. The cabinets have been professionally painted simply white by BM with a marble backsplash. With champagne bronze hardware it doesn’t get more classic than this. The floors are the color of walnut and make the room seem endless, but if I were to do it over I would have gone a shade lighter like your second choice. I would never paint a hardwood floor unless it was damaged beyond repair and I couldn’t afford anything else. And I don’t think painted floors are something you’ll see much in New England unless you’re on a farm.

  102. Gorgeous post and I support your whitewashed floor choice, it’s beautiful and timeless no doubts. Mark D Sikes floor is pink? Whitewashed pink, have you seen the floor color in his living room? I adore it. What do you think about it? Could you consider writing new post about Mark D Sikes paint colors. They look so good with his floor color!

  103. I would do the English Chestnut–medium toned neutral brown floors are always in style, easy to care for and go with any decor. My favorite is Special Walnut.

  104. Your new place is beautiful!!! I prefer medium to dark floors especially with high ceilings and white walls. I feel like it grounds the room.

  105. If you like the lighter look, I would go for a natural clear matte finish on the oak instead of golden oak and in lieu of the paint. We have used this on several home and it does not turn orange over time. We have also put some inlaid borders of several wood tones in strategic places (once separating the foyer, another at the entrance to our dining room) with a mixture of light and dark woods and I think that helps tie together the mixture of woods in furnishings. But if you are certain you would prefer painted, then go for it and don’t look back!

  106. Please don’t encourage renters to paint anything, much less something that can’t be undone, unless they have permission. How many times have my husband and I walked into one of our properties to see that the renters have made a mess painting because they don’t know what they’re doing. And they signed a rental/lease agreement that clearly says “NO Painting” and “NO acceptions.

  107. Go for it! This is your chance to take all the chances you’ve yearned after for years. Furlow, William and Vincente are divine company. Take the risks you’ve always wanted to – you will make it work. Isn’t that what the best designers do? And creatives in all fields? : follow your desires, intuitions- make leaps and then you find the way to put it all together. No politeness, no safety, no following rules of convention. The only rules are realizing your own style, aesthetic and imagination. ( same with finding the right partner—, say I after 29 years of happy marriage) . Cant wait to see how your already exquisite home evolves!

  108. Love your 2nd pic for English Chestnut, Gerald Bland’s floor (2nd pic), and your table! Addicted2Decorating Kristi has loads of info about her stained/painted oak floors.

  109. A dear interior designer friend in Westchester painted her beautiful wood floor white. Looked great for 2 years then quite dull and unsophisticated. Looked like a kid’s playroom floor . She had a cat and dog.

  110. Laurel I think you should pull the trigger and go for it! You love it, it’s definitely period appropriate, and it’s way easier than scraping and applying lye to bleach it, ha.
    I might also add that one of the reasons the Swedes painted everything white was to make their interiors lighter and brighter during the winter. Boston definitely qualifies. Honestly no matter which direction you ultimately choose, it will look lovely and tasteful.
    Can’t wait.

  111. Hi Laurel,
    First of all, Congratulations! All good things come in time!
    IMHO, no to painted floors. I think the English chestnut makes the furniture and colors pop.
    That being said, you are the expert. Everything you have suggested for me has been perfect. I know you will weigh the options and make it your own.
    Have fun doing that.
    Best always,

  112. Have you looked into bona stains? They have a whitewash solution called Nordic seal that is very pretty. Last year I chose bona natural stain with their traffic sealer in matte on white oak. Looks so good and the traffic sealer is commercial grade so I barely have any scratches after a year. I can send you pics if you want!

  113. I do not understand the rage to cover stained hardwood floors with paint, especially white paint. You must all have house keeping staffs. Do you not realize that hardwoods are more and more scarce and outrageously expensive to put into homes. A hardwood floor in a home is an extraordinary gift. To cover it with paint that can never be totally removed is sacrelidge. I love the rich wood tones that a wood floor bring into a home. If you don’t like the stain on the floor, change it, but never, never paint it.

  114. I’ve always considered paint a solution for the country and stain the option for the city. I would take a look at the Osmo line. It is fantastic for preserving wood countertops. It looks like nothing is on the wood, but protects them from water and wear.

  115. I have always wanted to paint my orange-red floors white or have them raw wood. Go for it! Plus, no one does it better than Furlow Gatewood. He is brilliant.

  116. So glad the place is officially yours! I’m a Rubio monocoat fan. If possible have the floor refinished make you a couple of samples in a small area of the living room after the floors are sanded. I have a custom white tint in my bedroom and love it. Plus it’s super easy clean. Had I known how lovely the product was I would have done my entire place with it.

  117. The question is, what works best with your architecture. Not, I think, painted floors, which go better with a more rustic or modern style unless they’re imitating stone. If you want to go pale, perhaps worth having a look at the latest post by Greet Lefèvre on her blog, Belgian Pearls. The post is about recessed versus bolection mouldings, but the pics to illustrate this show her floors, a modern take on the C18 scrubbed wood floors which were left raw and scrubbed with damp sand to clean them (the sand did the cleaning and the damp took up the dust).

  118. I love the look of the white painted floors. However my concern would be that paint would chip and wear quite easily compared to a stained floor. I’d never take the chance on a painted floor myself. Good luck making this big decision. I am enjoying the posts about your new home SO much.

  119. Yikes, Laurel I couldn’t believe your article when I read it! Perfect timing for me as I’ve been living with floor samples for months now!! I’ve got a 3000 sq ft beach condo under total reno and only can use engineered hardwood. I’m doing a very natural look with white walls and want light hardwood. Not grey, not yellow, not pickled. EVERYONE tells me I must do darker!! I just want a classic, non trendy light/ white floor but must be engineered due to it being a condo. Do you or anyone have any suggestions? HELP?!?! I’m about to go tcrazy!!

  120. I love the white floors, I have a victorian 3 story house/flat. its actually part of a large manor house. Our bit is 3 stories, 23 large sash windows and ground floor is stone, wood spiral stairs, wood floor boards on top two floors. I have painted the bathroom floor white, love it so much I want to do shower room on top floor as well. If I could do entire second and third floor white I would as well. Needs repainting every 7 to 10 years, but as long as you dont want perfection it still looks good. I would keep all floors the same if possible and go with the white, slightly imperfect style. Gorgeous!

  121. I used to “yearn” for white floors but with dogs and other outside animals it seemed a dream. now, I prefer the floor to anchor the room and not appear to float the room in a cloud, particularly a more traditional room. I want the floors to stay in the background and not overwhelm the decor. I live in an old house and all the floors are their wood’s version of golden oak. It is slightly different with each wood, there is new pine, old maple and old yellow pine. I put a sand colored rug in the bedroom for warmth first and a neutral like the rest of the floors second. I never think about the floors other than the fact they need to be redone in some places because again, of dogs, a wood stove, winter, life in general. I have even grown to like the very dark floors now but would still stay with the “golden oak” variety. Also, last but not least, redoing floors is not a fun project, you really need to move out the second time around, and if the floors are somewhat more delicate, they may not last as long. From what I have seen of your rooms and the wood floors, they are somewhat anonymous and allow the rest of the room to shine.

  122. I seriously love the floors that are currently in the duplex. They remind me of the floors in the old, elegant Parisian apartments with their tall windows–which were sometimes done in herringbone or other patterns. I would love to have them! I am not really a fan of painted white floors, but I admit that it could be because the ones I have seen were not done very well. I am sure that anything that you did would be very nice!

  123. I have been thinking seriously about white floors myself. I loathe mid-range tones. However, I do have cats and love black ones in particular. I do know that even with the cats I’d go either very dark or white (like the two ends of your choices). But you have made the white very appealing as I have a couple of emerald velvet sofas. Thanks for all your ideas, links and the reasoning behind the ideas.

  124. In our new (modern with a butterfly roof) house I was very much inspired by your earlier posts about white floors. I think you post so much about light/white floors that it’s the direction you may be happiest with.

    I really wanted to try an eco wax finish in white – Osmo Wood Wax finish. You can apparently get the white color without the down side of paint.

    In the end our contractor’s flooring guys talked me out of it as they had no experience with it. I compromised by having them stain our white oak floors as light as they could go. They are pretty and I’m happy we didn’t do a dark stain, but I dearly love the look of the white with wood grain showing through – and the Osmo sample boards look divine. Have you or any of your readers seen this wax used anyplace?

  125. For sure…..paint those floors! Next home we buy, I am painting all of the floors. And I LOVE the floors that Lee Radziwill did that were stenciled over painted wood. Gorgeous!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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