Should Wood Floors Be Lighter Or Darker Than Cabinets?

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Remodeling a kitchen is a huge undertaking, but it can also greatly impact the look and resale value of your home. For this reason, it can be incredibly complicated to sort out all the different elements you will need to decide on. Floors, cabinets, walls, countertops….so many choices! And should the wood floors be lighter or darker than the cabinets? Decorators all agree on the answer.

Wood floors can be lighter or darker than the cabinets, as long as the colors complement each other. The best way to do this is to start your project by picking 2 complementary colors and an accent color. Use these colors when you select the parts of your kitchen decor.

Below, find a thorough list of everything leading decorators agree that you’ll need to consider when picking the right color combinations for your floors, cabinets, and other kitchen decor. Learn how to pair different kinds of wood, match the right wood undertones, when and how to use contrast, and more.

White kitchen cabinets on wooden floor, Should Wood Floors Be Lighter Or Darker Than Cabinets?

Coordinate, Complement, Contrast – Don’t Match

When selecting wood floors and cabinets, it’s best to avoid matching. It can be hard to find a floor and cabinet that are an exact match, and if the material looks similar but not identical, it can create a less than pleasing visual. It can come across as an accident or poor design. For this reason, it’s typically recommended (and easier) to pick items that complement and coordinate with each other, but don’t match.

Another downside to matching is that cabinets and flooring take up the majority of the space in a kitchen. Having both items match can create a monotonous, disinteresting room. Looking at so much of the same color can be overwhelmingly boring. Adding a little contrast can create a sense of excitement to your design.

How To Pair Wood Floors With Cabinets?

The simplest rule for selecting the right floors and cabinets has two parts:

  • Work with your set color palette of your 2 dominant colors and your accent color.
  • Within this palette, choose colors and combinations that are at least 3 shades away from each other. This creates a distinct difference, it is obvious to the eye that the two items are different and not meant to match. It also adds a bit of contrast and visual interest.

There are a few other questions to ask yourself when choosing wood floors and cabinets. While there’s no one right answer for a color scheme, these factors can help you decide the right answer for you and your home design.

What Action Does The Room Take?

Dark floors tend to perform poorly when it comes to high-traffic rooms. Scratches, scuffs, and dents are more visible on dark floors than lighter ones. Dark floors also show dirt. However, if you really want to have a dark floor, at least use a matte finish. Matte reveals fewer floor imperfections than a glossy finish.

What Is The Mood Of The Room?

The style of the room and the mood you want to create will play a part in the colors you pick. Floors that are darker than the cabinets will create a more “grounded” look for the room. This can also make a small or dimly lit room look overwhelming. Dark cabinets can make the kitchen seem more elegant or dramatic; light cabinets make the room seem open and bright.

The contrast between the cabinets and the floor will also set a tone for the room. A strong contrast draws the eye in and makes the room seem more serious, “weighty,” or perhaps even bold. A more blended or complementary look seems, by comparison, cheerful or relaxed.

Do Wood Floors Have To Match Throughout the House?

Wood floors only have to match if that’s the style you prefer for your home. Just like there are downsides to trying to match your cabinets and floors, the same issues can occur when trying to match multiple floors in your home. 

You will, however, want to at least consider the other floors in the house. Especially floors that are visible from (or connected to) the kitchen. Whether they match or not, you’ll still want to select floors that work well together and bring an overall sense of unity to the decor. By examining the floors you already have, you may be able to answer the question of light or dark floors in the kitchen for yourself. You can read more here: What Color Wood Floor Should You Choose?

Should Wood Floors Match Countertops?

Wood floors do not need to match the countertops, but once again, they should coordinate to create a cohesive, attractive space. Use the color scheme you picked of 2 dominant, complementary colors and 1 accent color. Pick a countertop within your scheme, and it will look great in the overall kitchen. Learn more about picking a countertop color here: Should Kitchen Countertops Match The Cabinets?

What Color Cabinets Go With Wood Floors?

In order to tell what color cabinets will go with your wood floors, you will first need to identify the undertone of your wood floor. Wood comes in a warm, cool, or neutral undertone.

  • Warm undertones are red, pink, yellow, or orange. Examples are cherry, mahogany, or hickory.
  • Cool undertones are green, blue, or purple. They look a bit gray. Ash, maple, poplar, and pine are woods with a cool undertone.
  • Hickory and birch are an example of a neutral undertone, which looks beige.

If you haven’t picked your cabinets yet, read this article for helpful hints: 36 Types of Kitchen Cabinets You Should Know About

Whites, grays, and beige can work well with all undertones. If you have a warm undertone and want to accent that warmth, select a warm color paint. This can make a room seem smaller, more intimate, or “cozy.” If you prefer to contrast that warmth with something from the cooler side of the color wheel, that works also. This will convey a more open space that seems wider.

The same is true for cool undertones. Enhancing cool undertones with a cool cabinet color can create a calming effect and make the room feel broad. However, for some people that can be too cold, and they’d rather balance the feel of the room by adding a little warmth. You can also use your color scheme to help you decide. For example, if you picked blue and yellow as your dominant colors, and already have a warm yellow floor, you can use a blue cabinet for a great overall look.

For inspiration, try this post: Kitchen Color Schemes with Wood Cabinets [30+ Picture Examples]

Should You Install Floors Before Or After Cabinets?

An unfinished kitchen with cabinets being fabricated and installed before the flooring

If you are doing a full kitchen remodel and can choose the order of installation, it is preferable to install the cabinets first. There are several reasons for this:

  • Heavy cabinets sitting on top of the flooring keep it from being able to expand/contract as it needs.
  • Putting flooring in first would mean that a lot of the floor ends up covered (and never seen) – why spend money on all that material you don’t even need?
  • High risk of scratching your brand new floors later trying to drag heavy cabinets into place over them.

What Color Hardwood Is Best For Home Resale Value?

The best hardwood color for resale value will change with whatever is currently the most popular. For this reason, there’s no advantage to selecting one color over another unless you plan to sell the house in the near future. It’s impossible to anticipate what will be the “right” floor color in the future.

To Summarize

Wood floors, cabinets, and countertops should be selected to complement and coordinate with each other. This will ensure that your kitchen has a unified and cohesive appearance that is pleasing to the eye.

It does not matter which elements are lighter or darker. However, the colors you select will change the overall mood and tone of the room. Always work within a set color palette. This will guarantee that your colors and kitchen look intentional and well designed.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kay

    I need help! I live in a raised ranch. There’s light/medium colored hardwoods through out the home.,My living room had a large framed cherry colored tv/fireplace surround..The kitchen cabinets are also a dark cherry color with black grainte counters and tan stone backsplash…What color should the wall paint be??? I want to paint 1- color through out..Plus all trim is bright white…Can you suggest something?? I have a very large attached Florida room off kitchen that is open and bright so lots of light come through there.,,I was thinking a light blue/green/gray like Seasalt?? Or the color Serenely, Nimbus,Rainwashed,or Wispering Spring…Some are Benjamin Moore some are Sherwin Willams….HELP!! P.S If worst comes to worst, I can have the cabinets and fireplace surround sprayed white

  2. Kay

    I forgot to leave my email so I can get some help….Here it is. [email protected]. Thank You

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