Hardwood floors add natural beauty and warmth to any space, but choosing paint colors that complement the wood can be a challenge. If you’re aware of the undertones present in each type of wood, however, you can choose colors that will create the effect you desire, whether you want to go for bold contrast or subtle enhancement of the wood’s natural hues.
Understanding Wood Undertones
Wood floors are typically available in various shades of brown, but each type of wood has undertones as well. For example, woods can be placed into four categories: those that look yellow, such as bamboo and pine; those that look orange, such as oak and fir; those that look brown, such as walnut and teak; and those that look red, such as mahogany and cedar. The colors you use to paint the walls will either enhance or tone down these undertones, but the good news is that several color choices will match most types of wood.
Wood is full of warm, neutral hues, so the simplest way of matching a wood floor is to use neutral colors on the walls as well. It doesn’t matter what undertones are in the wood; most neutrals work well together. Using a lighter shade on the wall, however, will make the darker hues in the floor pop. If you add a darker shade on the wall, it will draw the eye away from the floors. Neutral colors include shades you’d find in nature, such as brown, green or gray, but whites, creams and subtle oranges will also work well with wood floors.
Cool or Warm
Dark, rich floors, such as mahogany or cherry, look best against warm wall colors. The intensity of the color, however, is crucial to the overall effect. For example, if you use dark, rich reds or browns on the walls, the room may feel a little too cozy. Lighter shades that are still warm, such as burnt orange or tan, open up the room, while still complementing the rich tones of the wood. Cool-colored woods, such as maple, look best against cool paint colors. For example, colors with undertones of blue or gray make the cool undertones in the floor stand out, but don’t go too dark. A dark wall against a light floor cuts the space up and can make it look too choppy. Choose colors that are one to two shades lighter or darker than the floor color.
Color theory proposes that colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel always work well together because they provide contrast that brings out the best of each color. This is true when matching wall color to wood floors. For example, mahogany, cherry and cedar floors have red undertones, and shades of green enhance and intensify the red hues of these woods. Yellow-toned woods, such as maple, will pop against colors with purple undertones, such as violet, while orange tones found in oak floors stand out against blues. If you’re matching floors that have brown undertones, go for earthy colors, such as blue-green.