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  Buying Guide > Hardwood Floor Design

Choosing hardwood flooring, wall paint, cabinetry wood and colors that work well together can seem a bit overwhelming at first.

But looking through design magazines, as well as a visit with a knowledgeable flooring expert, can be a big help in formulating ideas. Below are some other things to consider when you select hardwood flooring.

What mistakes do people make when trying to match hardwood flooring with paint?

In general, people try to be too precise with their paint matching, when in fact they should try to complement the floor. Similar tones on the floor and walls can flatten out the space (for example, using a yellow-toned floor and yellow walls). But pulling out one of the highlights or undertones on the floor will create more depth both in the room and the floor.

The floor is as important as the walls. When picking flooring, think about your furniture or an inspiring item you have always loved (like art or a pillow), and take this inspiration with you to a flooring store. Think complementary rather than identical.

Keep in mind the color wheel: opposing colors on the wheel are complements—such as purple and yellow. You might wish to find one element you really love-the flooring, the cabinets, some fabric or a piece of furniture-and build a room around it. It can be overwhelming to walk into a show room with a blank slate. However, if you have an element you like a lot, you can use it as a guide in the rest of your decision making.

You can also look to nature. The views and moments in nature that we find ourselves drawn to are another source for a color palette—a beach scene with golden sand, blue—green water, misty mountains, etc.

Are there practical solutions for matching flooring, paint, and cabinets?

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to pick everything at once.

Understand the style of what you’re trying to achieve—use magazines and books to help determine what you really love and what you don’t.

Try to get an idea of a theme and style before hitting the stores.

Simplify your space—don’t go crazy on every element. If you use a very bold floor, cabinet and paint, they will compete with one another. Instead, find a balance; choose one element to be the bold statement and use the other pieces to support it.

Look at the space as a whole when making each decision. We have all loved something in a store, then brought it home to find it just didn’t work. Think about your furniture, the qualities of the space you are working with, and how the light moves through this space.

Borrow samples from the flooring showroom and take them home to see in the actual light of the room. You can do the same thing with cabinets and paint samples; move the pieces around to different walls so you can see how they change in different light.

What are the common mistakes people make when trying to use contrasting paint colors?

People sometimes pick paint colors they are drawn to without considering how they will work in the room.

For example, they might think they need to be bold and paint all the walls of a room to achieve drama, only to end up with color that seems overwhelming, and a space that feels small. Instead, try one accent wall of a bolder color, and play up the colors in furnishings.

Look to your existing household items that you like to figure out what colors will blend with what you already have:

Energetic: orange, red, yellow—these colors make us excited, and even hungry!

Traditional: creams, burgundies, rich browns—these add elegance

Meditative: blues. greens and earth tones—all calming and reflective

Color trends change yearly. At a minimum, change an accent wall. Paint is powerful; it makes a big impact without a lot of cost!

You can also use fabrics and accessories to pick up new color trends —just make sure they don’t clash with your existing belongings.

Different personalities respond to trends differently. If you like to keep up with trends, you can build a more neutral room and change the accents seasonally with paint and fabrics that keep your hardwood flooring and cabinets from going out of style.

You can be experimental with paint, whereas the cabinets and floor are more permanent.

What are the common mistakes people make when trying to match cabinets to floors?

Many people wrongly feel they have to use the same wood species for both cabinets and floors. But rarely are the floors and cabinets manufactured identically, so usually the finish and color are not a good match.

Go with complementary rather than matching. If you have a light floor with a bold, dark grain, for example, choose a cabinet that picks up the dark grain, so that the flooring and cabinets complement one another rather than compete or mismatch.

Don’t use rival grains. Some woods like hickory and oak have very strong grain patterns. If the colors you choose are dark, they will most likely be fine, but if they are light so the grain is accentuated, the effect can be overwhelming.

Determine your style and make sure that both elements work with that concept.

Remember, your cabinets are in a vertical orientation and the floor is horizontal. You’ll experience them differently, partly because the light will hit them in different ways.

Dark elements can ground a room. They’re great when you’ve got a big room that needs some definition, or if you want to make a room feel cozy. However, if your space is small, use lighter cabinets so the space seems larger.