Facility Managers Trends

Dark or Light Hardwood Floors? Design and Functionality in Commercial Spaces

by Jason Brubaker

When you're trying to pick what color hardwood floors you want for your commercial space, one of the first major decisions you'll need to make is whether or not not choose a light or dark color. Hardwood floors can vary from a light ash to a very dark, coffee brown. The color you select will influence the character and ambiance of your commercial building and may affect everything from the emotional state of your clients to the lighting and visibility of the space. Understanding the benefits of dark and light hardwood flooring can help you decide which type is right for your needs.

The Good, the Bad and Beautiful of Dark Flooring

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Total uniformity is one of the primary characteristics of dark flooring. The darker the color, the more hidden the natural grains and imperfections in the wood will be. Knots, swirls and variations in the wood's coloring are easily disguised by heavy layers of dark, rich wood stain. The ultimate effect is that hardwood stained very dark can be very rich, luxurious and homogeneous.

Because of its depth and rich coloring, dark floors tend to work best with light-colored upholstery, light colored walls and high-contrast works of art. This helps balance the dark, deep color of the wood and prevents interior spaces from becoming dim and moody.

Because dark hardwood floors are so uniform, scratches, scuffs and crumbs tend to show up more easily. Without variations in color and tone to disguise everyday wear and tear, dark floors show imperfections quickly. Business owners who like to maintain the beauty and uniformity of their dark hardwood floors must therefore invest a lot of time and money in floor maintenance. Well-placed rugs can protect floors from some wear and tear, while regular cleaning and conditioning can keep dark hardwood floors looking their best.

The best places to install dark hardwood floors include:

  • Buildings with a lot of natural light.
  • Interiors featuring high contrast color schemes.
  • Commercial spaces with relatively low foot traffic.

The Ups and Downs of Light Colored Floors

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Light colors more easily reveal the natural characteristics of the wood and they allow swirls, whorls and knots to be visible. In fact, some types of light floors will place emphasis on these characteristics by darkening the darker parts of the wood while leaving lighter parts relatively untouched. This means that light wood may be more patterned and textured, which can attract attention to the floors.

Light colors are also very flexible and can work well with light or dark furniture and upholstery. But, in some environments, light floors may be too bright. By reflecting sunlight up into the room, light colored hardwood can sometimes create a brightness is best balanced by dark upholstery, curtains and wall colors.

Because light hardwood floorboards are more textured, they can easily hide scratches and dirt. In environments with high foot traffic, light hardwood is a bonus because it requires less day to day maintenance. Light hardwood is also preferred in many buildings with relatively small windows and little natural light, because light hardwood stain is more reflective.

Color and the Effect on Mood

Dark colors are smart and modern and have a sophistication that works well in academic environments, office spaces and art galleries. In a loud place like a restaurant, darker hardwood floors may have a calming effect that can keep conversations hushed while setting the mood for romance.

However, light colors work well in hustling, bustling public places. Hotel lobbies, train stations and clothing stores all utilize floors with light stains to keep the energy high and keep the public walking. Light colors promote movement and high minded conversation while stimulating and energizing.

Other Factors to Consider

When deciding what color flooring is right for your needs, business owners have a lot to consider. For example, darker colors can make small rooms look smaller and large rooms seem more cozy. Light colors can make small rooms seem just right, while making large public spaces seem gargantuan.

Window placement and window size are also important. In a large public lobby facing west or south, sunlight will heat up the space and brighten the space every afternoon. Light colors will bounce light around, and may even be somewhat blinding to reception area desks. Dark floors, by contrast, will absorb heat, thus contributing to the warming of the room. In some cases, medium toned flooring will work best to ensure comfort and visibility for employees, guests and clients.

Commercial building owners must work with their interior designers, flooring installers and contractors to ensure that the flooring color will be attractive, practical and will meet the needs of the business. By considering all the factors, including the architecture of the building and the purpose of the business, you can find the right flooring. Working with a reputable flooring company can help ensure that your flooring will contribute to your interior design and the functionality of your interior space.