Simple changes in your home can brighten and elevate the space. Painting the walls or swapping out throw pillows are popular design recommendations yet often we don’t consider one of the largest surfaces in our home – the floors.
Changing the color, texture, and sheen of hardwood floors can completely revive your home and while the process is easy to accomplish, it’s important to pay attention to a few critical factors for success.
Work with the wood
Kristin Kelsey, AIA, an interior architect who leads the interior practice at Seattle-based Signal Architecture + Research, notes that color consists of three components: hue, value and chroma. “In wood, there are variations in the hue of the grain, but we can also control the hue by providing stains and pigments to make them appear a particular way.” Working with the type or species of wood as well as the natural color tones will ensure the right results.
Nordic hues are a current floor trend across the Seattle area. These colors offer a “whitewashed” look to the floor creating a neutral, calming, aesthetic in shades of gray, white, ash or frost. “This trend originates with the influence of Scandinavian design; it’s lovely to have a bright, light reflective, clean floor,” Kelsey explains.
No matter the color choice, the system of products used to achieve the look is critical. Out-of-date techniques, like using bleach to achieve the Nordic tones, is not only unsafe for the contractor and your home, but also damages the wood. Today’s innovate products can keep your home safe while also creating beautiful floors. It’s a good bet to request a waterborne finish which is not only safer for your home but easier to work with when changing the color.
According to Erik Peterson, Bona territory manager for Oregon and Washington, “Some contractors are still using products that are highly toxic. One example is ‘Swedish finish,’ which is high in volatile organic compounds putting dangerous levels of toxins into the air for months after the floor is completed. In fact, it’s been outlawed in certain parts of the country; Seattle and Chicago are two major cities where it still remains readily available.” Peterson notes that the Nordic, light floor look isn’t compatible with Swedish finish because it yellows over time. He recommends waterborne finish such as Bona Traffic HD which is low in VOCs and highly durable.
Sheen and texture
Just like wall paint, floor finishes come in a wide range of sheens from glossy to extra matte. Kelsey notes that matte finishes are often desirable because they allow you to feel the grain of the wood. The result provides a natural wood aesthetic that brings an organic, warmth to the room. Kelsey offers one caveat: “Wood finishes that are matte [and] wood that is light in color may require more maintenance than one may be accustomed to.”
For added texture during the floor refinishing process, Peterson recommends a technique called wire brushing which enhances the natural grain of the wood. “Wire brushing the floor is kind of like sandblasting the wood. It removes some of the softer grain creating a beautiful depth and texture in the color and feel of the wood,” he said. “This process is particularly popular in the Seattle area where many homes have floor-to-ceiling windows and/or lake or water views. When the natural light bounces off the floor, it gives it a beautiful, organic look to the floor.”
Use a pro
Changing the color of your hardwood floor is a job best left to a professional hardwood floor craftsman. For example, while the Nordic hardwood floor color palette is popular, it won’t work with every type of wood.
Some species respond well to color or pigment while others can be much more challenging. Attempting to achieve the Nordic look with a red oak floor, for example, takes a specific skill set and the right products. “I’ve had many calls where a red oak floor turned pink from incorrect product usage and application,” says Peterson. “It’s possible to achieve the Nordic look with red oak, but the products and process matter.”
From a design perspective Kelsey adds that when you have floors that that may appear too pink with the Nordic colors or it’s just not the right design decision for the space, there are options to create a pleasing color without losing the grain of the wood.
Whether you decide to change your floors to the Nordic tones, a deep brown or a mahogany look, Kelsey recommends embracing the process. “The ritual of refinishing the floor can be a lovely way to understand and appreciate that these are living materials that will grow with you over time in your space.”
Bona has created a world of innovative sustainable solutions for every wooden floor challenge — from installation and renovation to maintenance and care, with the needs and safety of our customers, and the environment, in mind.