Kitchen Cabinets and Wood Floors – A Grainy Question

Kitchen Wood Grain

If you have wood floors in your kitchen and a natural wood finish on your kitchen cabinets, should the floors and cabinets be the same species of wood and the same color or should they contrast? And if they should contrast, which should be the darker color?

I often discuss this issue with my clients. My feeling is that there needs to be some color distinction between the flooring and the cabinetry so that the cabinets don’t look like the floor is simply wrapping itself up the walls. After all, one is the floor and the other is essentially furniture and they should express themselves differently. I would suggest that there is no rule about which wood is the lighter or the darker.

But I would also say that you need to consider the grain of both woods. This characteristic of the wood is often overlooked. If your flooring has a busy or strong grain, like oak, hickory, or even an antique pine, a smoother grained wood, like cherry or clear alder would be best for the cabinets. This will keep you from being overwhelmed with too much visual activity in the wood grain. I also think that the flooring is the place for the strong grained wood and not the cabinets.

In my book, Designing Your Perfect House: Lessons from an Architect, I discuss this very issue. Here’s a photo of a kitchen where I used cumaru teak for the flooring, with a fairly strong grain, and quarter-sawn oak for the cabinetry. Oak is normally a pronounced grain when plain sawn, but when rift or quarter sawn, the grain is smoother and much more refined. The combination worked out very nicely.

I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

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Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch


  1. Eunice on December 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I have a question. I read that the floor should be more grainy than the cabinets. My problem is that our cabinets are Hickory and there fore more grainy. How do I find out what plainer floor would go with it.

    With the variation of the grain would you suggest same color vue as cabinets or as you say in this article go lighter or darker. We have a fairly small kitchen but it does have enough light.

    I am not sure this can be answered by you but it sure would be appreciated

  2. Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 6, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Eunice – This is a good question. I would suggest that since you already have cabinets with a strong grain, you should look for wood flooring that has a smoother and straighter grain. Take a drawer of cabinet door with you to a wood flooring showroom and put it alongside of some samples to get a good idea of how things will look in your kitchen. I would suggest looking at cherry, lyptus or santos mahogany. There are others to consider, as well. Just stay away from woods with swirling grains and knots that will compete, visually, with your cabinet wood grain.

    Best of luck with your project.

  3. Eunice on December 19, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Bill, thanks a million. You saved the day. I was thinking along the same lines about the grain but was hung up as to the type of wood. I can’t thank you enough. I really am lost for words to let you know how much I appreciate you taking the time to help me.
    God Bless,

  4. Cora-Lea on February 15, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Bill, much help needed. We just bought a house and want to change flooring that will go from kitchen to dining/living room bathroom hallway and foyer. It is a very open concept floor plan. The kitchen bath both have natural oak cabinets and we are thinking of a darker smoked maple for the floor/ we are trying to modernize the space. Your input would be appreciated.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 15, 2009 at 10:56 am

      Cora-Lea – Maple flooring with oak cabinets could be a good choice. Maple is a very smooth grained wood, so it won’t “fight” with the visually active grain of the oak cabinets. Ordinarily I would suggest lighter colored floors for a more contemporary look, but since you already have the natural, lighter finish on the cabinets, your choice of a darker finish on the maple sounds good because it will give a pleasant contrast. I would caution about getting the floor too dark, though. Dark floors tend to show every speck of dust and light colored debris, such as salt, lint, etc. If you have a pet, dog or cat hair will show very easily. Even if you keep your floors very clean, you’ll find them hard to keep up with if they are too dark. So a medium colored oak might be best. It would also maintain the more contemporary look and not make the house have too much of a country style.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for the question.

  5. Tiffani on March 24, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    We have oak kitchen cabinets and an oak floor – as well as oak spindles and handrail leading up the open foyer. We’re having our floor refinished (currently they are the exact same stain as the cabinets and handrail). We’re considering going natural with the floor. What do you think??? And soon down the road attempt to darken the kitchen cabinets a bit – or at least eliminate some of the yellowing that has occurred on the cabinets.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 27, 2009 at 7:44 pm


      Finishing the oak floor as a natural color is a nice way to let your other wood finishes show off a bit more. I like the idea of darkening the other wood a little to add contrast. The yellowing you mantion is a residual effect of the oil based polyurethane finish. Some people find this desireable, others don’t. If you want to prevent the yellow, consider using a water based polyurethane. It doesn’t yellow and actual provides a bit harder finish so it’s even a little more durable.

      When you get to the point of darkening the oak cabinets, don’t go too dark. Dark stains contain minute particles that give it the darkness. Oak has all of those streaks of open grain that catch the particles. If the stain is too dark, the particles will make the wood look very streaky as the grain becomes more prominent. If you are not totally refinishing the cabinets (stripping and sanding) you might experiment with lightly sanding and then simply coating them with a polyurethane that contains a bit of stain. That could give you the color you want with a lot less work. Just be sure to experiment in an inconspicuous location since the underlying finish will make the end result difficult to predict.

  6. Lily on April 5, 2009 at 12:25 am


    We are building a house and are having trouble finding the perfect wood floor color to match our kitchen cabinets. Our cabinets are made of maple with an orange-red stain. Should we do a darker wood or lighter wood flooring?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 5, 2009 at 9:19 am

      Lily – The idea would be to have some contrast between the color of the cabinet wood and the color of the floor. Since maple is a smooth grained wood, you could use a wood with a strong grain, such as oak or hickory. Those woods look best with a medium to light stain. That would give you the contrast you would want. But light polyurethane finishes often have a yellowish cast. That might “fight” with the orange-red color of the cabinets. So maybe a dark wood, like Santos mahogany, cumaru, or walnut would be good choices. I’d suggest getting samples of the flooring with a finish on it and laying it next to the cabinets to get a good impression of how the two will work together.

      I always advise people to try to select a wood floor that has a natural color they like rather than depend on staining the wood to get the color. If you do use a stain, try to use it sparingly so the true look of the wood shows through. It will give you a richer and better look.

  7. Paul on April 5, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Bill, I am glad to find this page because I am facing this very issue. We are getting new cabinets in our kitchen, and later on we want to put in wood floors throughout the combined kitchen/dining room/family room space. I want to make sure we have enough contrast between the cabinets and the floor, but I’m wondering which type of contrast is more important: a light vs. dark contrast, or a active vs. smooth grain contrast. Right now our two main choices for cabinet wood are alder and cherry.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 15, 2009 at 10:14 pm

      Paul – I think creating contrast is important in the light versus dark decision. Regarding the active versus smooth grain issue, it’s more a matter of keeping the grains from clashing rather than acheiving a contrast. So putting two smooth grained woods together works nicely as long as there is some color contrast.

  8. Jasmine on April 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Glad I came across your blog. Finalizing cabinets for kitchen. Our wood floor choice is santos mahogany and we are thinking about a honey stain maple cabinet colour. What is your opinion with this combo? Do you think a natural maple would be better suited?

    Any assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated!


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 15, 2009 at 10:18 pm

      Jasmine – Since Santos Mahogany has a rich color, I think you could use the honey maple nicely. Sometimes natural maple can even look a little too light and a bit unfinished since the wood is so light in its natural state. Incidentally, Santos Mahogany is one of the few woods that lightens in color from exposure to daylight. Most woods get a bit deeper in color. But even if the mahogany lightens, I think the contrast would still be pleasant with either the honey maple or natural maple cabinets.

  9. Jasmine on April 16, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Thanks Bill!

    I did not like natural maple bc I thought it lacked the warmth. With its warmth, I am still a bit hesitant on the honey maple, bc our kitchen is north facing and it might be too dark with floor. I am going to the cabinet maker to see if I can a stain inbetween natural and honey. I think the best of both world – maybe. I’ll cross my fingers! Thx for you help!

  10. Anita on April 18, 2009 at 6:37 pm


    I was wondering if you could tell me if you’ve often seen kitchens with lighter cabinets on dark hardwood. Nowadays, it seems many are opting for dark (chocolate or espresso stained) cabinets on natural stained hardwood. Another popular trend seems to be white or antique white cabinets on dark hardwood. For some reason, I am drawn to honey colored shaker style cabinets on dark (chocolate stained) hardwood but after looking and looking, I cannot seem to find any pics to give me a better visual idea of what this would be like.


    Anita 🙂

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 19, 2009 at 9:16 am

      Anita – Don’t let the fact that you can not find photos of examples of the combination you like stop you from doing your kitchen the way you prefer. I think the idea of honey colored Shaker cabinets on a very dark floor is simply a matter of stylistic preference. It does not seem to me to be wrong. I think the contrast sounds good and I don’t see a clash of materials or colors. You are correct about the current style trends, but it wasn’t too long ago that dark floors and light cabinets were being done. I know because I had clients choose that combination myself. I’ll bet that after you get you kitchen completed you’ll start seeing similar kitchens appearing in magazine frequently. You can be the trend setter.

    • Patti Gildersleeve on December 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Aloha! We are replacing our kitchen cabinets with a fine grain bamboo and are debating which wood flooring would look best with them. So far we are considering engineered cumaru or reclaimed teak. Both of these types seem to have a wide range of values…we are concerned that the flooring might be too busy. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

      • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 18, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        Patti – I think I have to come to Hawaii to see your cabinets in person. Maybe stay a couple of weeks! Just kidding. You said the bamboo is fine grained. That will let you use a flooring with a more “active” grain and the two should live together peacefully. The cumaru or teak should give you a pleasing color difference, too.

  11. Anita on April 19, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Thanks Bill! Your viewpoint is reassuring! I believe I will take your advice (as mentioned above) and not go too dark with the floors though, as we do have 2 cats and I know that dark floors show everything! I really enjoy your blog! Thanks for all the great advice!

    Anita 🙂

  12. James on April 29, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Hi…..I need your help!

    I have Oak cabinets (Golden oak stain) and ceramic tile currently. I would like to replace the tile with hardwood flooring……the only problem is my living room and dining room have oak flooring already and all of the doors, trim, and stair parts are oak too!

    Do I install the same wood in the kitchen as in the living room and dining room and run the risk of the cabinets and floor being almost identical?

    Or do I go with a different color or species of floor in the kitchen and have 2 different types of floors downstairs?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm

      James – This is a tough one. Yes, you run the risk of having too much oak. But depending on the arrangement of things, the oak may not be as overwhelming as it could be. Changing to another species of wood might be an option depending on how the rooms join each other. I’d say that if the rooms are very open to each other you would not want to change floor species. But if they are separated by a doorway where you could insert a threshold board flush with the floor, then you could change species. I had a client several years ago who wanted a pickled wood floor in the dining room but oak elsewhere. At first this sounded like a bad idea, but it really came off nicely. The dining room gained its own charachter and did not look out of place from the rest of the house.

  13. Tara on May 8, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    We are planning lighter wood floors and darker cabinets but want to ensure a contrast so it doesn’t feel like a sauna! The choices are overwhelming and hard to envision. We’ll also be adding recessed & under cab. lighting so although things are dark now (smaller windows, N facing) the room should brighten up a little. We are trying to choose between Amendoim or Cumaru flooring, and a med brown with coffee glaze or espresso cabinets. I worry the brown with glaze won’t be dark enough, but that the espresso will be too dark. Any thoughts?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 27, 2009 at 8:02 pm

      Tara – If your cabinet style has plenty of grooves and edges where the glaze can “hang up” on the surface, the glazing will show up more. If the cabinets style is very smooth, the glazing is almost a wasted effort. Raised panel doors and beaded edge details seem to work best for glazed finishes. I agree that the coffee glaze might end up with not enough contrast to the underlying medium brown cabinet color. But the best way to find out is to have the cabinet company provide you with a full door and drawer-front sample with both finishes. That way you can see the true final look and not have to make a decision simply based on your imagination.

      I would have a little concern that the Amendoim might be too “active” a grain to go well with the glazed cabinets. Cumaru, although far from plain and uniform grained, might provide a better contrast to your detailed cabinets. But here is another place where a physical sample might help you decide. Ask for a reasonably sized sample section of both floor, with finish on the, and then put them with your cabinet samples. this might make the answer obvious. Good luck.

  14. jon on May 14, 2009 at 6:39 pm


    My floors in my loft have sustain some water damage and will be getting repaired, sanded and then stained. I cant decide on what stain to use. I have maple cabinets and am leaning towards a darker stain for the floors. Any thoughts?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 27, 2009 at 8:04 pm

      Jon – I like to contrast the flooring with the cabinets but you don’t want to make the contrast too harsh. A medium stain might be best.

  15. Lynn on June 1, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Bill, we are going through a dilema with choosing a floor for our kitchen and great room. We have older med oak cabinets in our kitchen which are in great shape and we can’t afford to change. Our ceiling is wood in this room and stained a dark brown with a fieldstone fireplace covering one wall. We are out in the country. I’m debating between a dark floor and a light. Prefering the dark more. But how dark do you go? We are looking at ash floors by The mill is right by our house where they make the flooring.We already have oak flooring in our den which is a separate room off the kitchen with a normal size doorway. I have got so many samples I feel like I’m going crazy.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm

      Lynn – I think you can go fairly dark in this situation. But keep in mind that dark floors will show light volored specks, like crumbs and pet hair. So if you feel this would be a problem, you might want to not get too dark. But from a purely aesthetic point of view. The darker the floor (but not black), the more contrast you will have with the cabinets and the better it will all work. One other caution. Ash is a very, very similar grain to oak. You might want to look at some other specieas of flooring with a smoother grain so it won’t start to look much like a visual continuation of the cabinets. Contrast is good, so try to acheive some with your selection.

  16. Betty on June 12, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    My flooring & cupboards are the same color. The cupboards have a saffron stain while the KEMPAS flooring has the same RED coloring! I really don’t like it, do you have any suggestions?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm

      Betty – Hopefully you have a spare piece of the kempas or can get some to do some experimentation on. I fear that if you simply start adding darker staind to the kempas you will end up far darker than you might like. This might sound crazy, but a diluted bluish or greenish stain might mute or kill the redness in the kempas without making it too dark. It probably won’t take much color to do the job. So sample lightly and be sure to put the urethane or other finish on top of the samples when they dry so you will be looking at the finished product. If you try this, let me know how it works out. If you send some photos I’ll post them on the blog.

  17. Jose on June 13, 2009 at 11:28 am


    I am planning to install wood floors on my living room and kitchen. Our furniture is dark cherry in color. What would you recommend would be a good wood type for this?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 18, 2009 at 9:27 pm

      Jose – Cherry goes with almost anything. If you like an interesting grain in your wood, then white oak would be good. I would consider a very light to medium oak stain on it. If you would like a smoother grain look, oak might still work well but you might consider quater-sawn or rift-sawn oak. This method of cutting the wood is a bit more expensive but it removes the “cathedral” or “zebra striping” you commonly see in oak. This kind of floor can be extremely handsome. If you are interested in a smoother grained wood you might look at santo mahogany, chilean cherry, kempas or lyptus. With the dark cherry furniture you should avaid getting the flooring too dark. You wouldn’t want to lose the furniture in the floor. Again, a bit of contrast always adds interest.

  18. Julie on June 20, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Hi Bill,

    I need HELP! We have just purchased a house and our cabinets are an espresso maple colour. My husband wants to put espresso hardwood on the floor as well and carry that into our open concept great room, but I’m afraid that the kitchen will look too dark if we do this. Our counter tops are a light tan and we have quite a bit of light in the kitchen so he thinks it will be fine. Would you be able to give me a couple suggestions of other colours of hardwood we could look at for the floor instead. I love contrast and wouldn’t mind a light floor, but i haven’t seen anything that i like – everything looks too yellowish!

    I appreciate your advice because I just don’t know what to do!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 20, 2009 at 4:25 pm

      Julie – I would be afraid of carrying the espresso maple from the cabinets to the floor. Your cabinets might appear to simply be an extension of the flooring and not stand on their own visually. Think of your cabinets as pieces of furniture. If all of your furniture was made of the same wood and finish as your flooring, the furniture would be “lost” in the flooring and it would look to monotonous and uninteresting.

      Because maple, the wood your cabinets are made of, is a very smooth grained wood, you could use almost any species of flooring, even one that has a range of colors and a stronger grain. It’s hard to go wrong with white oak. This could either be “plain sawn” where you will see much of the “cathedral” grain patterns typical in oak, or quarter sawn where you get straighter graining. Quarter sawn oak is a more sophisticated look in my opinion. Plain sawn is less formal. With oak, as with other flooring, you can keep it from being too yellow by staining it lightly to influence the color and using a water based polyurethane finish. Typically oil based polyurethane finishes are used. But they tend to yellow as they age. This might be what you find unacceptable in many of the floors you have seen. But the water based finish stays clear. Plus it is more durable than the oil based finish.

      Another other flooring possibility might be heart pine. This is available as a reclaimed wood and usually in wide boards. This could be a good choice if you want your home to look older than it might actually be. If you prefer a smooth grained wood floor, maple always is a good choice. Even though your cabinets are maple, the flooring could be a lighter finish. After all, in it’s unfinished state, maple is very light. There are some very good choices of prefinished maple floors available these days. You can find some lovely, well priced selections of prefinished floors that have a hand hewn surface texture or a distressed finished, too.

      If I were making the choice for you, I would avoid getting the floor too dark so your cabinets will visually stand apart from the flooring and not look like a continuation of the floor itself. Ask the flooring company if you can borrow a sample panel of the floors you are considering. Then take it home and lay it on the floor next tot he cabinets to see how they work together. This exercise might be all you need to reach a good decision.

  19. cynthia on July 4, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    We are getting ready to build a new house with the major living space across the back – family room, dining, large kitchen – open with a cathedral ceiling. The kitchen cabinets will be shaker style creamy white and the island natrual cherry (most of my wood furniture is natural cherry). I plan on wood counters on some of the painted cabinets, soapstone on the rest. I’m trying to decide on the wood flooring – both color and type. Would like to hear your suggestions.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 8, 2009 at 5:52 pm

      Cynthia – This sounds like a room made to order for a traditional species fo wood flooring and not one of the tropicals. I would look at a medium wide white oak, possibly quarter sawn or rift sawn. I would consider no stain or maybe just a bit of stain to get to a medium shade, but no darker. If not oak, then a wide plank, reclaimed heart pine would be great. Oak or heart pine would have been the flooring of choice in early homes with painted Shaker style cabinets and cherry furniture. the soapstone goes right along with the theme. The oak floor would be easier to take care of with a smoother surface and smaller gaps between boards. But either one would finish off what sounds like a great room.

      I hope this helps. I would love to see the finished product!

  20. Mary Cuellar on July 7, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Hi Bill,

    I am so glad I came across your blog! I have a huge problem. We are building a house and what started to be a great first time experience has turned into a huge problematic daily dispute. My husband has recently started to work with wood and he undertook the project of creating beautiful paneling around the fireplace from the floor all the way up to the top of the fourteen foot ceiling. The wood work is beautiful and something we are all proud of, however, his idea of stain color really has created a point of dispute. He used a gel mahogany stain on the oak woodwork. It looks nice except that the house has an open concept and the kitchen opens up into the great room where the fireplace is. The kitchen has golden oak cabinets. Now my problem is that I don’t know what color wood flooring I should use. The golden oak has alot of yellow hues and I had chosen a hickory distressed hand scraped floor which also has yellow tones. Now if we use that, I am afraid it will not look right with the reddish tint of the mahogany around the fireplace. Any advise you can give me will be greatly appreciated. I am at my wits end. Thank you in advance for your prompt response.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 8, 2009 at 6:46 pm

      Mary – It sounds like the color clash is the dilemma. My suggestion would be to try a wood floor with no yellowish or reddish tone. Some of the prefinished hand hewn engineered floors are maple with a stain. Maple is very white and non-colorful when unstained. Because of that, it can be tinted any way you choose. Maple also is not a visually strong grain wood. So it would offer a nice background for the strong grain of the oak cabinets and panelling. Look for flooring colors that are basic neutral brown with no hint of red or yellow. If you can’t find a prefinished floor you like, mabye a field-finished floor could be stained with a latte, diluted walnut color, or some other stain that is neutral in its underlying hue. Be sure to use a water based polyurethane finish. Oil based polyurethane will yellow with time and alter the color. Water based polyurethanes do not yellow. So the color you start with will be the color you’ll have for a long time. With the mahogany color in the Great Room and the golden oak in the Kitchen, you might want to take a serious look at a lighter colored floor to offer some contrast and let the cabinets and panelling be prominent. I hope this helps.

  21. Cathy on July 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Bill, we are building a new house. In the great room we will have ash flooring stained copper, and an oak central stair case. The flooring is ash stained copper. We are trying to decide on the kitchen cupboards, we were going to go with cherry stained toffee but decided we should go with oak stained in sienna instead. We felt if we choose oak because we didn’t want to many wood in the same room. The oak cupboards would be considerbly darker then the floor. We also thought the cherry seemed to make the floor look pink, and wondered about how much it would redden with age.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 8, 2009 at 6:57 pm

      Cathy – If you are asking how much the ash flooring will redden, I would say it won’t change much. Ash is fairly white. If it has an oil based polyurethane finish, it will get more yellow over time. Actually, only the finish yellows. A water based polyurethane will not yellow. So it would tend to keep the wood it’s original color better. If you haven’t made your final cabinet selection yet, you might reconsider some of the smoother grained woods such as alder and maple. They are whiter in their natural state and can be stained any color you choose. If you liked the cherry, there are stains and glazed finishes that will help mute the redness, such as a mocha or sable glaze over the cherry finish. My usual preference is to have some contrast in grain from the wood floor to the wood on the cabinets rather than using the same grained wood.

  22. Cathy on July 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Heres the weblink for the colour cabinets

  23. Elise on July 8, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I am having a very difficult time choosing wood floors. It seems that the Santos Mahogany is the best color blend with my cabinets but I am fearful of the light sensitivity. How big of a worry is this? Is it just the areas in direct sunlight that change color? I am fearful that when it comes time to sell the house we won’t be able to because there will be shadows or where our furniture/rugs had been all over the wood floors.

    Also some exotics have a huge color variation? Is that something I can expect with the Santos or does it tend to be a little more consistent from board to board?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 8, 2009 at 7:10 pm

      Elise – What a beautiful, musical name. I can play your song on my cello! Santos Mahogany is one of the few woods that actually fades in sunlight. Most woods darken. I used Santos Mahogany in a house not too long ago and although parts of the floor faded, we all felt the fading was charming and gave the house an older, more established look. All of the wood that is uncovered will fade. The parts in direct sun will fade more. If you move the rugs, the “shadow” of the rug will show. But over time, the shadow will fade and the wood flooring will even up. However, this could take a few months. I’ve had this experience with a fir floor when my client decided to turn their rug 90 degrees when they rearranged the furniture. The shadow was very dominant, but it all went away after the light had a chance to work on the previously covered portions.

      Santos mahogany, like many of the tropical woods, has a fair amount of variety from piece to piece. Ask the supplier for a sample that represents the variance you could expect. Have him give you a very light, a very dark, and a medium piece, at least. Your installer should spread the various boards somewhat randomly around when he installs the flooring so the variations are blended nicely. If you are looking for a more uniform mahogany look, you might consider sapele. Often this is a bit more consistent. Another wood that is often used is Brazilian Cherry. However Brazilian Cherry is not a species of wood. It is an assortment of three species so the color range is substantial. But if you ask for Jatoba (one of the species in the assortment), the color will be a more consistent red.

  24. Sara on August 2, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    We are having a difficult time trying to decide on wood floors for our kitchen, entryway, and dining room. We have cream colored cabinets, verde butterfly granite counter tops, and a dark oak ceiling in the entry way and dining room. I think we should go with a light floor and dark grain and my husband thinks we should go with a dark floor. Thanks for your help!!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 2, 2009 at 10:31 pm

      Sara – I would suggest a compromise. Look at some medium colors. I would be afraid of matching the floors to the dark ceiling. This could make everything feel too dark. It might also be to harsh a contrast with the cream colored cabinets. There are some practical issues with dark floor in kitchens. Every light colored speck, like sugar, salt, flour, etc. will show up. No matter how clean you keep your floors, something will stand out against the dark finish. On the other hand, very light colored floors might alienate the dark ceiling. So maybe a Golden Oak or Fruitwood stain might give the wood some character, darkening it somewhat, but not too much. This would give a pleasant amount of contrast witht he cream cabinets.

      One way to really figure this out is to stain several portions of the floor with different stains as a test. Do this before the final sanding. The stain doesn’t actually penetrate very far and it will come out with the final sanding. If you’re looking at prefinished floors, ask the dealer for a few pieces of each candidate flooring and take them home to test out next to the cabinets in the actual rooms. This usually makes the decision easier.

  25. mark on August 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Bill I have golden oak cabinets that 10 years ago were a natural oak color. Can I apply a stain and/or shellac over the existing finish to darken w/o out stripping the existing finish? I really don’t care for the golden oak color. Thanks

  26. Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 15, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Mark – There are polyurethane finish available with a stain mixed right in. I believe if you simply clean the cabinets and lightly sand them, you could apply one of these stain and polyurethane combinations finishes right over top of the old finish. You should always test out an area to be sure you will get the results you expected. Chances are your end result will not match the color on the can or color charts since you will be going over the original finish and not bare wood. Consider using the backs of the doors for these tests.

  27. Newlyweds Jamie and Sarah on August 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Bill,

    This thread holds a lot of great information. We are in the process of building our first house and have saved up for wood flooring. Our problem is that no matter how much time we spend at flooring or home improvement stores, we can’t find a good floor cabinet combination. One is always too red, or too yellow, etc. We also have problems with the same wood species looking different at two different locations. We are not into the rustic look, but not the real formal look either. We are also working with a pretty modest budget. So far, the favorite flooring colors we have chosen are Saddle stained hickory and Timborana. We also like the Tigerwood and Amendoim, however, we are very reluctant to use the photosensitive wood species. We are leaning towards a “lighter floors and darker cabinets” combination, but don’t like anything to either extreme. We are truly newbiews here, so any info you can relay on what wood combinations go great together we would really appreciate it.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm

      Jamie and Sara – I tried to post this comment the other day but it didn’t work correctly for some reason. I’ll try again.

      I’m not that familiar with timborana, but it looks a lot like sapele, which I use a lot. I would call that a medium dark wood so your cabinets would have to be very dark to be darker than the timborana. You said you prefer a “light wood and darker cabinet combination. The other species you mentioned, tigerwood, hickory, and amendoim are all very “visually active” woods with pronounced graining. If you choose one of those, you should select a cabinet wood with a smoother, more subdued grain. Cherry or clear alder might be good choices. Maple is a possibility, but when it’s stain darker, sometimes it can look splotchy.

      If you want the light wood and medium cabinet color combination, you might want to look at white oak for the flooring and cherry for the cabinets. The white oak may seem to ordinary to you if it’s “plain sawn.” But if you go with a wider plank quarter sawn or rift saw, good old white oak can be a very interesting wood. If simply finishing the oak with polyurethane leaves it too light for your tastes, a light stain can be applied to enrich the color without going too dark. That holds true for the cherry. It would look good either finished in its natural state or enriched with a light stain.

      Whatever you decide, be sure to get a sample of the cabinet door and at least several pieces of the wood flooring with a finish on it so you can put them side by side to see how they look. Small samples and photographs just won’t let you see things well enough to make a proper decision.

      Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  28. Virginia on August 19, 2009 at 4:58 am

    Bill, I installed an engineered wood flooring (Brazilian cherry) throughout a large portion of my house about 3 years ago. I have been very pleased with it. It has held up well and has darkened to a beautiful rich color. Unfortunately, in spite of my best efforts, the areas underneath the rugs are a lighter color than the rest of the flooring.

    I put my home on the market a couple of months ago and the fading is becoming an issue with prospective buyers. What can I do? Is there a short term solution that can help even up the fading? I am reluctant to refinish all of the floors since they are in perfectly good shape. Please help!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 19, 2009 at 1:32 pm

      Virginia – If you leave the pale portion of the floor uncovered it will eventually even up in color with the rest of the floor. But that can take a while. I’ve seen where woodworkers have replaced cabinet fronts or portions of panelling and left the new pieces out in the sun for a week or two to let them darken for a better match. You c simulate this indoors by aiming a sunlamp or two at the pale portion of the floor and leave the lamps on for an extended period of time. Making sure plenty of sunlight enters the room will help, too. It may not seem as if you are making any progress since the effect is gradual. To gauge your progress, you might want to place something like small piece of cardboard over a portion of the floor. That way you could move it after a day or two to reassure yourself that the floor is darkening.

      Good luck. Let us know if this works as expected.

  29. Newlyweds Jamie and Sarah on August 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Anyone else able to shed any insight to our dilemma? Please see the above post from Aug 16th. Thanks!

  30. Stacy on August 21, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Hi Bill, I have a question…we are doing major construction on our house. We are gutting our kitchen and making a big great room. We picked out maple hazelnut cabinets and I am not sure what color I should do my hardwood floors. The hardwood is throughout the entire house. I was thinking of Jacobean. Will that be too dark with the darker cabinets? There is a contrast between the cabinets and floor but i am afraid it will be too dark. what is your opinion? Thanks

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 24, 2009 at 9:21 pm

      Stacey – Dark cabinets with dark wood floors or light wood cabinets with light wood floors are tough combinations to make look right. Strive for a comfortable contrast. Jacobean is very dark. If your floors are oak, I would especially avoid that color because the dark pigment soaks intot he open grain in an unattractive way. Remember too that dark floors will show every light colored speck (salt, pet hair, etc.) that falls on it. It won’t ever look clean in a kitchen.

      I’m not sure what tone Maple Hazelnut is, but I’m guessing it’s a medium to medium-dark tone. Consider a warm, but light color for the wood floors. That should enhance the richness of the cabinets and give you a floor that is easier to maintain.

  31. Mary on August 21, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    We have Honey Maple cabinets but they have quite a bit of grain in them. They appear to have golden and green tones. We are planning to install hardwoods using the engineered click-installed. I love the Manchurian Walnut which looks almost like a cherry but with a bit more black in the grain which seems to bring out the black grain in the cabinets. Is it okay to mix the red tones with the golden ones?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 24, 2009 at 9:28 pm

      Mary – It’s hard to answer your question without seeing the actual samples. But I can say that red and golden tones can go together well. It just depends on the nuances of the colors. Try to get several pieces of the wood flooring and place them next to the cabinets to get a feel for how they will work together. Be sure to look at it under incandescent lights and not fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lights (with the exception of full-spectrum fluorescents) to not give the full spectrum of light so some colors will not show properly. Often colors look grey and muted. If you can look at the samples in daylight, but not direct sun, that will be best. Then just trust your eye. If the combination looks right to you then it is right.

  32. Brenda on August 27, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Hi Bill,
    How happy I was to stumble across your blog. I am looking at refinishing my maple floors- they are currently Honey in color. The flooring runs thru the kitchen, dining and great rooms. The kitchen cabinets are a golden oak, as is the staircase in the home. I am looking to darken the maple floors to add some contrast and get rid of the gymnasium floor look- do you have any suggestions. I was somewhat considering an ebony stain- your thoughts would be truly appreciated.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm

      Brenda – I’m glad you like the blog. Please tell your friends! The more visitors the better.

      It sounds like you have a good start for your floors and cabinets with the smooth grain of the maple contrasting with the more “visually active” grain of the oak. Maple can be stained most any color. But you should test out some choices. Sometimes maple can get blotchy if the stain is too dark. It’s a very hard wood and the stain doesn’t soak in evenly. The wood might receive the stain better if it is sealed first and then a polyurethane that contains a stain is applied over top of the sealer. The color will come out more evenly. An experienced wood floor finisher can give you good technical advice and help you work through samples to get just the look you want.

  33. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">anne floy on September 2, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I am doing a kitchen update for resale as the kitchen has been a barrier to selling. The 25 yr old kitchen has many great features but the dated almond w/wood trim euro cabinets turn people off so we plan to have them refaced. The question is what finish to use? It is a large area with an upper kitchen area(18×12) featuring a 4.5×8 double sided island surrounded by 3 sections of cabinets (u shape), no windows, then stepping 1 step down to an informal eating/sitting(19.5×14.5) area with a 15 ft wall of east facing windows. Flooring is mahogany in a medium color(faded some near windows) with window trim to match. New granite counters and backsplash go in next week in Creme Brazil, a mottled cream w/black and occasional dk cranberry spots.

    We live in MN with long winters. I don’t want the kitchen to feel like a cave. Need to be in line with what mid 30’s professional couples will want so white thermo formed or oak is out.
    Would you recomend a light tone with a natural maple (similar to current color family), medium with birch stained light to medium cherry, natural cherry, or??

    I’m planning on a shaker door, flat panel drawers as that seems to be a style that is acceptable to most everyone and is more in keeping with the traditional 2 story center hall home style but not dated looking.

    I welcome your thoughts on the cabinets. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 6, 2009 at 10:15 am

      Anne – I think anything from a light to a medium color will work nicely. I would be a little careful choosing a natural maple finish. Maple is very light and might look too contemporary or plain. That could turn off some potential buyers. Maple stained a light cherry would work. But natural cherry would be even better. Cherry has a smooth, but more interesting grain than maple. It simply looks richer. And that would be a good thing when selling a house.

      One other thing to consider is to not make all of the cabinets the same. There is a growing trend, especially in larger kitchens, to do the perimeter cabinetry (the ones along the walls) in one finish and the island in another. The perimeter cabinets could be a painted finish, maybe a creamy color with a glaze, and the island could be a natural cherry. Or this could be the other way around with cherry on the perimeter and painted with a glaze on the island. Look through kitchen magazines and I’m sure you will find examples of this that might help you visualize the end result.

  34. Margaret on September 12, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Hi Bill,
    I am so pleased to have come across your blog and I apologize in advance for the length of my letter!
    I am having a problem with knowing what to do with my oak kitchen cabinets, oak staircases and my Brazilian Walnut (Ipe) flooring. The oak cabinets/island were installed in 1989 and are a medium brown/golden colour (the cabinets and their color seem to be in every house of that era!!). The walnut floors are newly installed, finished and are a ‘rustic’ grade – the colors variations are from blonde to dark brown. The oak stairs are new and unfinished. The house is a four level split so there are oak banisters throughout in a very similar shade to the kitchen cabinets and the different woods are visible from any room in the house.
    The cabinets need to be refinished so I have begun sanding them down but what I thought would be a fairly straight forward stain/finish choice, I am now having quite a lot of difficulty with! I think, perhaps, the island and cabinets should be slightly different shades. The kitchen flooring is a faux-granite laminate flooring in brown/grey tones, that then switches to the Ipe at the kitchen/dining room wall and goes through the dining & livingroom areas.
    My question is, with the walnut flooring having so many color variations and having oak cabinets, island, banisters and stairs that need to be finished/redone, I just don’t know where to start in picking the correct stain/finish for everything. I would like the oak and the warm browns and blondes of the walnut, to be able to ‘work together’ somehow.
    I did take several boards of the walnut flooring into a store to get a custom stain color/tone match for an oak trim piece. Unfortunately, that piece of oak trim now looks quite ashy colored (almost green!) against the floor and I am concerned that will be the result with all of the other oak I have left to do. Also, the walnut and the oak have quite different grains and I’m not sure if that is something that I have to consider when selecting a stain/finish?
    I am really at a loss as to how to proceed and was hoping you may have some ideas or suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks in advance for your time and advice!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 12, 2009 at 9:49 am

      Margaret – It sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you. I’m surprised to hear that the color match you had made up came out ashy and greenish. Sometimes the particular wood can soak up the stain in peculiar ways and not give you the results you expected. One cure for this is to first apply a clear sealer on the wood and then apply a colored finish over it. That will keep the wood from soaking up the color unevenly. There are tinted polyurethanes available just for that purpose.

      Regarding the color for the cabinets relative to the walnut floor, I think I would try to keep the oak cabinets light or medium light in tone. I would worry that if you matched the darker colors in the walnut, you would lose the contrast and everything would tend to run together and lose visual interest. A uniform, light tone on the oak would let your eye be drawn to the color variety in the walnut, accentuating the warm, darker tones you like so much in the flooring. Matching produces monotony. Contrast produces interest.

      Please let me know how things turn out.

  35. Deborah on September 12, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Hi Bill,
    What a great site with wonderful advice. Here is our dilemna…. we have existing wood in our house (kitchen cabinets, stair railing, front door) that is honey colored oak (lots of yellow in this). And we are considering putting hardwoods throughout the downstairs, which is a very open concept. After reading your blog, I think I would like to go to a medium darkness on the flooring to contrast with the existing wood. Do you have any recommendations for a wood with a good grain to go with the existing cabinetry, and also a hardwood that will be durable enough to withstand our family and a future dog? We are looking at birch at the moment, and I fear it does not have a good density factor. Any advice is much appreciated!! Thank you!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 12, 2009 at 11:49 am

      Deborah – You might want to take a look at some of the tropical species, like cumaru, jatoba (Brazilian cherry), lyptus and others. These are usually much more dense than birch or oak, so they will tolerate daily living much better. Some species are so dense they won’t float! You can probably find density information on websites that sell hardwood flooring. Tropicals may cost a bit more, but the added cost may be worth it in the long run. Be sure to check the source. Many tropical species come from plantations and don’t deplete the rain forests. They are renewable.

      If you prefer a domestic species, maple is the hardest of those. Maple is used for gym floors and is the species of choice for many of the prefinished, engineered floors, including the hand hewn and wide plank types.

  36. Andrew on September 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I’m renovating my kitchen and need help choosing the stain/colour of my kitchen cabinets. I’ve opted for cork flooring with a darker stain. The floor is not a smooth finish. It purposely has some nicks and dents in it. What stain should my kitchen cabinets be? The cabinets will be made of maple. Also, what colour should my countertop be? I’ve opted for a quartz counter.

    I’ve had people suggest that I choose a stain for my cabinets not too dissimilar from the flooring and go with a lighter colour so the counter “pops”. Whereas others have suggested choosing a lighter stain of kitchen cabinets and going with a darker counter top, so there’s some contrast.

    Would going with a lighter stain of cork flooring give me more options for my kitchen cabinets?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 18, 2009 at 2:22 pm

      Andrew – I think making the floor lighter will actually limit your options. A medium to light finish on the cabinets will create a nice contrast to keep the cabinets from being too visually connected to the floor. You could then use either a dark or light countertop and still have some additional contrast with the cabinets. Choosing light or dark countertops would depend on the brightness of the room. Obviously, a lighter color would lighten the room with more reflected light. Personally, I think I would go with the dark floors, medium cabinets, and lighter top, maintaining contrast with each step. But that is only a personal preference.

  37. Sarah on September 17, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Hi Bill-

    We had a few questions. We bought jatoba for our kitchen and had pretty much decided on antique white cabinets. I like the color combination, but now my husband is reluctant. Is it taboo to have those colors together in the kitchen? If so, what should we go with? Also, we were thinking that we would like to go with different color cabinets for our island. How do you feel about that? Thanks Bill!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm

      Sarah – That’s not taboo at all. It can be a very nice combination. But if you want to tone down the brightness of the antique white cabinets, you could choose one with a darker glaze. They call this a “hang up” glaze. First the cabinets are painted the antique white or other color. Then a darker color is put on top and wiped off while it’s still wet. some of the paint stays, or “hangs up” in the grooves of the moldings and some light streaks remain on the flat surfaces. It can be a very nice look. A dark brown hang up glaze might work well with the jatoba flooring.

      I’ve done a number of kitchens with a different color cabinet for the island, even dark green or distressed black. This can be a very good look. And if you have a large kitchen with lots of cabinets, the variety can keep one color from being overwhelming. Just be sure to choose something that’s compatible with the other cabinet finish.

  38. Lynne on September 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Bill, I have Brazillian Koa to install throughout my existing home. My furnishings are mostly cherry or teak. I need to redo my kitchen cabinets and would love cherry, but am concerned it will be too similar in color to the koa. What ideas can you suggest? Any ideas apreciated. Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm

      Lynne – Yes, the Brazilian koa and natural cherry would be fairly similar in tone and color. You might want to consider a cherry with a bit of stain to darken it slightly and possibly make it a bit browner and a little less red. That might let it gently contrast with the flooring. Be sure to get good sized samples to help you see what the final result will be. Don’t settle for postage stamp sized samples or, even worse, photos. You’re going to spend good money on your kitchen. The vendor can afford to give you proper samples.

      Keep in mind that cherry will darken a bit when exposed to light. So whatever you choose for the cabinets, plan on them becoming a tone darker over the first year or two. They will stabilize from there.

  39. Jaime on September 20, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I have a question about what type of flooring to do in our living room, kitchen, and dining room. We have dark cherry stained cabinets, trim and doors. Our house is mostly contemporary, but would like to add a bit more warmth and comfort to our house. I really would like to do a hand scraped hickory with a natural finish to contrast with the darker woods we have in the house. My husband isn’t so sure it will look good. I’m pretty confident, but wanted some assurance that it will look good. The reason for the handscraped is that we have a large dog and three small kids. I just don’t want the scratched to be as noticable. Thanks for your advice. -Jaime

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 21, 2009 at 6:16 pm

      Jaime – The hickory sounds like a winner. The visually active grain of the hickory will be a nice counterpoint to the smoother grain of the cherry, and the color tone should give you a pleasant contrast to keep the cabinets from “disappearing” into the flooring. The hand scraped flooring is a good look, too.

      Please send me a photo to post when you’re finished. I’m sure others would love to see the final result.

  40. Margie on September 22, 2009 at 3:22 am


    What a great resource! I’m having a hard time choosing flooring for our open-concept home (entry, kitchen, dining and living room are all connected). Our cupboards, all trim, doors, pillars separating dr and lr, and staircase banister are oak with a medium reddish/yellowish stain. We actually mixed 2 stains together when we had the house built 11 years ago.

    I am more of a rustic/ country gal and am leaning towards a medium brown maple handscraped engineered floor, but when I put the sample next to the trim, I’m just not so sure. One is very brown while the other is definitely not. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 22, 2009 at 8:55 am

      Margie – It’s hard to say without actually seeing the color samples. But I would suggest trying a wood flooring with either a lighter or darker color to gain a little contrast with your cabinets. The maple sounds like the right way to go because it’s smoother grain will not “fight” with the more visible grain of the oak cabinets.

  41. Elie on October 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Glad to have found this blog. Interesting design ideas.

    I’m having a similar dilemma to Sarah’s with my kitchen re-design. I am in a relatively open concept townhouse, with entry in black/charcoal tile, leading into the livingroom which is chestnut red oak hardwood with matching crown molding throughout. The LR opens to my massive 200 sq. foot combined kitchen/dinette via a 5′ doorway (going to be reduced to 4′ width in order to gain some wall space for additional cabinetry).

    I’m pretty much set on antique white cabinetry, but the flooring choices are driving me nuts. I would really like a darker (than red oak) tint jatoba or bamboo floors, which I believe would be a really nice contrast with the antique white cabinets. The walls and moldings are light colored, dining furniture is espresso (but would be offset by a nice light rug). Basically, I’ll have the oak from the LR running right up to the threshold in the doorway, and will have a transition to whatever I end up doing the kitchen in.

    I’ve been getting conflicting advice: one designer from one of the big box home centers is telling me to go with light tile looking laminate (which I really didn’t like at all), to get away from the wood look…she feels 2 different tones of wood would not look good preserving the ‘flow’ from LR to kitchen (even though they are separate rooms). She also felt it would make it look smaller, despite being an Eastern exposure with lots of natural light.

    Another designer is telling me that it will not look bad at all going from a red oak to darker bamboo or jatoba, and that a dark floor will be a nice contrast to the new cabinets – and not to worry too much about ‘flow’ from the LR, as the walls / entry opening pretty much delineate a different room.

    Would love to hear some opinions. I have pictures, but don’t know where to upload them to. Much appreciated.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 6, 2009 at 11:07 pm

      Elie – I disagree with the “big box” designer. I’m afraid a light tile floor would “wash out” your light cabinets and make your kitchen look too sterile. I think you can change wood species and colors from room to room successfully as long there is a logical transition between the rooms. It sounds like you have just such a situation. You should consider installing a flush threshold of a wide board or boards at your wide opening to the room to further delineate the transition.

  42. Kevin OB on October 6, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I’ve read the many posts above and thanks Bill for posting all this great info!! I have a question that seems an amalgam of several of above. Here goes: I’d like to put in hardwoods in my home. The kitchen cabinets are a golden oak, as are the steps and handrail of the staircase (there is carpet down center of handrail). I’ve got dogs and kids. From above and other research, I gather the following:
    1. I believe I’d need a ‘hard’ hardwood to handle pet traffic and kid traffic.
    2. I should find a wood that provides “some” color distinction; although really dark floors are a mess to keep looking clean.
    3. I should “consider the grain” (I’m admittedly needing help here at a minimum)

    What would you recommend that accomplishes the 3 above? I’ve been peeking at brazilian cherry but not sure if the red and gold would look startling. I’m open to any recommendation as I don’t have my heart set on anything in particular… nor does my wife 🙂 … so give us a winner! Thanks!!!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 6, 2009 at 10:41 pm

      Kevin – Take a look at Brazilian Walnut. It’s browner (less red) than the Brazilian Cherry, aka Jatoba, and dark enough to contrast with the golden oak. The grain is not heavily striped, like oak. so the two species of wood should live happily together. Brazilian Walnut has a reasonable amount of variation in color from piece to piece, so dog hair and other remnants of everyday life won’t show up too easily. Best of all, it’s very dense. So it should endure the abuse of those doggie and kiddie feet.

  43. Michael on October 6, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for all the helpful information. We purchased a home and are refinishing our hardwood floors. We are trying to decide on a stain color. We have dark cherry cabinets and the existing floor is a light/medium brown oak. Which color stain do you think would be better–a medium cherry or brown stain?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 6, 2009 at 10:24 pm

      Michael – I’d suggest keeping the floor from getting too dark, otherwise it will not contrast well with the cabinetry. Golden Oak, Fruitwood, or Pecan stain might be good. Remember, you can do test areas before committing to the entire floor. You flooring refinisher should be willing and able to do this for you.

  44. Elie on October 7, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Many thanks for the reply & suggestion,Bill.

    The red oak from the LR currently ends roughly half way under the 8″ thick kitchen wall entry, and the new kitchen floor will run perpendicular to the LR, so that’s what I was thinking as well…trim back the oak, and use some kind of wider flush transition to delineate each room directly under the opening.

    Thanks again!

  45. Tom on October 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I really need your help.We are completely redoing our kitchen and my wife wants kitchen cabinets that are white with a coffee glaze. I want to put hardwood floors in the kitchen and dining room. In addition we are going to put in a medium stained cherry island. I also have a dining room set that is dark cherry. The problem is, I don’t know what floor would be the best for these rooms that will make it flow nicely? We like the Santos Mahogony but it is a little “pinkish” and I’m not sure if it would go with the “coffee” glaze and cherry. We also looked at Brazilian Koa which is nice but again I’m not sure if it will give me the right look with the cherry and coffee white cabinets. I’m also thinking of a gunstock wide plank oak. I do have younger kids and a dog so I would like something that will hold up. Any thoughts?? Thanks. Tom

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 10, 2009 at 9:44 pm

      Tom – The Santos Mahogany is one of the few woods that lighten over time. That means that the pink tone will actually get more pink. I think you are correct in worrying about it clashing with your coffee tones. The gunstock wide plank oak sounds like a good idea, considering the kids and a dog. It should live well. With the painted cabinets and the smooth grained cherry cabinets, you can handle the more visually active oak well. I hope it turns out great!

  46. Miriam on October 20, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Hi Bill,

    My husband and I are buying our first home which needs new flooring and kitchne. We are completely new to this and don’t have a clue on the various types of wood cabinets and flooring. We’ve been researching online and we know the type of look we’d like for our home. We’re both into the contemporary/modern/eclectic look. We looked online and were very intrigued by the Brazilian Koa (Tigerwood) flooring. Do you think this would go well with darker modern/contemporary cabinets? We like the type of wood cabinets that show very minimal grains if any that would be suitable for a dark chocolate brown/modern look while going well with the Brazilian Koa. Any suggestions? Lastly what are your thoughts on the Brazilian Koa with respect to fading and longevity? I’ve noticed some people have had issues with the wood floors darkening on exposed areas but staying pale in others. That concerns me b/c we do have many windows in our new home. Would engineered Brazilian Koa work better for us? I appreciate your advice!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 21, 2009 at 10:16 am

      Miriam – I think you’re on the right track with a minimal grain cabinet wood on the Brazilian Koa floor. The two should go together well.

      Most woods get darker when exposed to light. This includes indirect light, so the areas with lots of windows probably won’t get any darker than the areas away from windows. The areas with more light will simply darken a bit faster. The wood will eventually reach a point of equilibrium and not keep darkening. I think what happens is the pigments in the wood migrate toward the surface. You might want to ask the flooring people to show you a new piece and an older piece so you can compare the two and know what to expect.

      Engineered wood is the very same wood on the surface as the solid wood, so the darkening effect will be the same. Areas beneath rugs will not darken and people often become disturbed by the difference when they move their rugs. But even that difference, given time, will eventually even out. One good way to avoid this problem is to leave the wood exposed to light (without rugs) for a while so it will all age more evenly.

  47. Miriam on October 22, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Great Bill. Thanks so much for your advice! This site has been very helpful.

  48. sandi on October 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Currently we have oak cabinets in kitchen, honey color. Our walls are beige on three walls, darker beige around glass door and soffit of kitchen, floor is also oak mannnington vinyl, , the grainy kitchen has gotten to me.
    due to the way we live five dogs, a couple seniors, and young grandchildren, and farming we prefer vinyl, the mannington is still in good shape but, too much grain.

    I amlooking a congoleum, I like Bellagio Multi beige Slate or golden , also hazelnut, so confusing. Also under Pacesetter the Navarro line, which I think is much too much stone look.

    Back splash is also a pale beige, stone.

    At wit’s end, finding something that is not too overpowering, oak grain cabinets and too much stone effect in the vinyl floor.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2009 at 7:16 pm

      Sandi – Have you considered a tile floor for your kitchen? Porcelain tile is exceptionally durable and very well priced. It might even rival high end vinyl in cost. And it will last forever. Your dogs can’t scratch it. On the Mohs hardness scale for scratching, it is between granite and diamond! It can be set with very narrow grout joints to help with cleaning. It will not absorb stains and cleans up with water. Can you tell I like this stuff? I encourage all my clients to look at it before choosing flooring.

      You will need to make sure you have the proper underlayment. But large, 18″ x 18″ porcelain tiles in a smoother look might actually let the look of the floor become more monolithic and not fight with the cabinetry. If you are worried about standing on it for long periods of time, you could place a mat in front of the sink. Many people do this for all types of floors. It can be a real knee saver.

      If you would like some help in making a selection, I do offer consulting. If you are interested, please drop me a note at and I can let you know our rates and how we could work with you, even from long distance.

  49. sandi on October 28, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Coincidentially, the store where we purchase our flooring and carpeting suggeted or mentioned porcelin, but, I wa being myopic , in my thinking

    Problem with real tile, we have no place to go while it is being installed .

    Our kitchen is in total 34 feet long, work area, peninsula and area for eating or whatever. Then we have the family room which is about 20 feet long.

    Let me ask Earl today about procelin and timing of when we can use the kitchen . Also,wondering if we can use porcelin in area where we eat and there is a glass door, and put vinyl in the work area.

  50. Aaron Wintergreen on October 29, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Spending 18 grand on a remodel seems excessive. I know the website 10k remodel was successful with their goal of 10 thousand dollars. Online kitchen cabinets can be found for a fraction of the cost. I bought mine for a little over a grand and they still look terrific three years later. If you can avoid using a contractor it will make your life a whole lot less stressful.

    Good blog

  51. Sarah on October 30, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are in the process of building a new home. It’s an open floor plan, and we have white ash hardwood floor with clear coating on it (no stain, just the finisher) in the kitchen/dining/great room which is all one area. I absolutely love the floor, but I am having a hard time finding a wood type & finish for our cabinets that I like. It seems like the cabinets with a lot of grain make it seem like too much grain in the house, but plain cabinets look too formal and fancy. Do you have a suggestion for a type of cabinet wood & stain finish you’ve seen that looks good with a White Ash floor? Someone suggested knotty alder with a nutmeg finish. I’m open to any suggestions. I don’t want it to look like a cabin, I want the house to look modern and contemporary. Thanks for your help!


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 30, 2009 at 7:08 pm

      Sarah – Thanks for the question. You say you are going for a contemporary look. Your choice of white ash is a good one. It has a light, clean look about it. But it does have a strong grain that is similar to oak, unless you used quarter-sawn or rift-sawn ash. Generally, I would stay away from alder. Alder is a lightweight wood and will dent easily. It is commonly used because it is cheap and easy to work with. I’ve always considered it a second tier wood and I’m always surprised to hear cabinet companies bragging about using it. Knotty alder is actually an inferior grade of alder with more knots and blemishes, but ironically, it sells for more money than the good stuff. It just shows people will pay more for character.

      Cherry is a great wood with ash or oak. You mentioned that you don’t want the cabinets to look too formal or fancy. Take a look at distressed (a lower grade) of cherry. It comes with a lot of interesting blemishes and small knots that create a good look without looking too rustic. You can also consider adding a glaze to the cherry. This will darken the details and indented wood shapes and give teh wood shapes even more emphasis. But because the grain of the cherry is subdued, you will be safe from the problem of having an overwhelming amount of grain in the floor and cabinets.

      I’d love to hear what you decide and how everything turns out.

  52. fred on November 1, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Just found this site, I’m finding it very informative. I’ve also just ordered your book.

    We’re doing a remodel and considering medium natural walnut flooring. Do you have a recommendation for cabinet wood and colors?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm

      Fred – Thanks for ordering a book. I hope you like it and it proves to be helpful.

      Walnut is a dark wood and often there is a blend of dark, heartwood with portions of light colored sapwood. This makes walnut a fairly strong statement. I think I would consider a smooth grain wood, like maple. Natural maple may be too light and too much of a contrast with the walnut. But something with a medium to light/medium stain on the maple might work well. If you are not set on natural finish wood cabinets, a cream color painted cabinet, possibly with a dark brown glaze would work very nicely with the walnut floors. That’s an option you might want to consider, too.

  53. sharon on November 2, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    please help!!! i have bronze cherry laminate floors by armstrong, i am painting my cabinets antique white. i am thinking about using a gel stain also.
    which colors would compliment my floors?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 5, 2009 at 10:23 am

      Sharon – When you say “gel stain” I’m assuming you mean a glazing you would wipe over the painted cabinet doors. Without having actual color samples in hand, it’s really hard to make a color recommendation for you. But generally, I would say you should find a color that picks up on the color of the bronze cherry laminate floors and use that as the gel stain. That way the floor and the cabinets will “automatically” compliment each other. And favor the browner colors. If there is too much red, when you wipe it on the cabinets it may tend to start looking pink.

  54. linda on November 9, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Would like to know I have Brazilian walnut flooring in the kitchen, do I have to put light kitchen cabinets in the kitchen or can I put dark cabinets. What color wood can i use for this project.

    Is their a rule for kitchens that floors and cabinets are to be the same?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 10, 2009 at 5:22 pm

      Linda – There really are no rules. But I would advise that you should not use the same wood for the cabinets and the floor. this can be too monotonous and the cabinets will be visually lost in the floor. You don’t have to put in light cabinets, but something in a medium range would go better with your dark floors than something dark.

  55. Jen on November 9, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are building a house and are trying to figure out the hardwood flooring and kitchen cabinet combination. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Right now we are leaning toward a oak floor in gunstock (somerset hardwood flooring) and the cabinets (trying to pick between a misson/shaker look or tuscany) are made by homecrest and we are looking at a cherry wood in a finish called autumn (next darker from natural). Any recommendations? As I’m sure you understand, we really can’t afford to get this wrong.

  56. Leigh Ann on November 12, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Wow!! So glad I came across your blog. I am really glad I read through all of the questions. Linda’s above helped a lot. We too are building and are installing Brazilian Walnut throughout. I am now having to decide on kitchen cabinets. I will look for a medium range color in stain for them as you suggested to Linda, since the kitchen floor will also be Brazilian Walnut. But what species should I look at? Maple? I was leaning toward Knotty Alder, but will that be too busy with all the color variations in the flooring?
    Thank you so much for all your input.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

      Leigh Ann – I’m glad this conversation has been helpful to you.

      Knotty alder might work with your flooring, but it risks being too busy, as you suggest. Looking at sizeable samples of flooring and the cabinet together is the only way to tell. In general, I would steer you away from alder and toward maple. I know a lot of cabinet makers use alder and tout it as a great wood. I’ve always thought of it as a second tier wood because it is soft. It will not wear as well as a hard wood like maple. If your cabinets need to live with kids, dogs, or others who might bang into them from time to time, maple will tolerate “real life” better. Plus the smoother grain will probably work better with your wood floor choice.

      Good luck with your house.

  57. Mary on November 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Hi- I have oak cabinets with a tile flooring in my kitchen. We will be putting in wood floors in the family room and office which can be seen from the kitchen and they will butt up to the tile in the kitchen. Would a light maple colored flooring be ok even if I have oak cabinets? The baseboards, crown molding and fireplace mantle will remain white.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 16, 2009 at 10:08 pm

      Mary – It sounds like you have a good plan. The smooth grain of the maple should work nicely with the visually active grain of the oak. And the tile floor makes a nice separation between the two. I hope everythin turns out great!

  58. Leslie on November 16, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    We are staining an Ash hardwood with a red mahogany stain, the floor has
    been sanded and 2 coats of stain applied. In one area the floor is lighter, should we sand this area again and restain? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm

      Leslie – It’s hard to say why one area turned out lighter than the rest. If the floor was sanded to remove all of the previous finish and there were no stains (like water marks, etc.) in the wood, it all should have come out the same. Have you asked the floor refinisher what he plans to do to fix the probelm? Arguably he is responsible if the floor did not have any damage previously. If so, he should fix it.

      Regarding solutions, sanding just one area and then re-staining it is risky. You could make the problem worse since the edges of the re-stained area are almost certain to show. You might try a light coat of a polyurethane with some color already in it in that area. It will have to be applied carefully. Check with the floor finisher to see if he can “finesse” this issue in some way. This sounds like a problem that will require just the right touch to resolve.

  59. Judi on November 22, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Would love your advice. We have honey colored maple cabinetry in the kitchen and family room. Our downstairs is an open floor plan. Right now our floors match–a narrow, 3″ light maple floor. Our entry way (which has steps down to the right to the living room and steps down to the left that lead to the hall, family, room) has the light wood along with a beautiful inlay pattern in a darker wood. My friend has suggested we leave the entry way with the light wood and dark inlay and the steps the way they are, but put in a darker wood throughout the rest of the downstairs. The engineered, distressed walnut wood we are considering is 6 1/4 wide. Will having these two woods together work?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 22, 2009 at 7:08 pm

      Judi – I think if the darker wood in the inlay is similar to the walnut, this could work quite nicely. But the only way to know for sure is to gett some decent sized samples of teh wood and put them next to your foyer wood just to see how it looks. Don’t try to select your floor while working from tiny color chips.

  60. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Joyce on November 24, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Thank you for the wonderful site! I am about to “redo” my kitchen. We will be installing light coloured tiles in the kitchen and have new oak floors in the rest of the house. The cabinets are of course the original goldish coloured, raised panel oak cabinets from the 80’s. The problem is that the finish on some of the cabinets almost looks new while other cabinet doors, especially those around the sink and stove area, are in dire need of refinishing. I’m afraid that if I try to refinish some of the cabinets they will not match the existing 30 year old wood/stain of the others. And refinishing all of the cabinets seems like too daunting a task. I’m almost afraid to ask this question but…I have heard that a grain filler can be applied to all the cabinets and then they could be …primed and painted (maybe white, I’m thinking country blue). There seems to be alot of controversy over painting wood, especially oak due to the pores. I would appreciate your advice.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm

      Joyce – I so glad you like the site. Thank you for the compliment.

      I’m not familiar with grain filler, but it sounds like a risky way to go. I would imagine it might be hard to control the outcome and potentially require a lot of sanding. You are correct that painting oak is not necessarily a great thing to do, since the “pores”, or open portions of the grain will show through strongly. But, believe it or not, there are actually new cabinets sold that are exactly that, painted oak. The texture of the oak is prominent and it’s part of the desired “look.” I personally do not like that look. But that is a matter of taste and you might feel differently. That’s why Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors. We don’t all like the same thing.

      A big problem with painting cabinets in a kitchen is that the painted surface will not be as durable as if it were painted in a cabinet shop or factory. The manufacturers of the better cabinets don’t actually use a paint. They use a conversion varnish which cures to a much tougher finish than regular paint. You can wipe it down many, many times with no damage. Regular paint will wear through on your most often used cabinets.

      I have two suggestions for you. One is to take the doors and drawer fronts off and take them to a cabinet shop and have them paint them there using conversion varnish. You could then paint the cabinet frames with paint of the same color without removing them from the wall. That’s the part of the cabinet that gets the least wear, so regular paint should work just fine.

      The second suggestion would be good if you really would prefer the natural wood look and don’t care to paint over the oak. You can not just refinish teh worn doors. They will look too different from the originals since the finish on the originals has probably yellowed over the years. You need to do all of them.

      Look at a product called Formby’s Paint and Poly Remover, or similar polyurethane removers. These products will easily strip away the polyurethane finish without too much effort. There is no need to sand through the original finish. This product dissolves it and you simply scrape it off or wipe it off with steel wool. It’s available in an aeresol to help strip the areas with curves, grooves, or tight corners that might be hard to get into with a brush. Next, you clean the surface with a Poly & Paint Remover Wash to remove any residue of finish. Once that is done, you can apply a new polyurethane finish and the cabinets should look like new. If you have any rough spots, you may need to do a bit of light sanding.

      If you do the refinishing yourself, take the doors and drawer fronts off. That way you can spread them out in the garage and work more comfortably than if you tried working on them in place. You might even try refinishing the doors and drawer fronts only and see if you really need to do the cabinet frames or not. If you have full-overlay, Euro-style cabinets, not much of it will show when the doors are closed. You may have to do any exposed cabinet sides, though.

      I hope this helps. Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  61. Pami on November 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I’m so glad I found your blog 🙂

    We have brazilian walnut hardwood floors in the kitchen and builder grade oak cabinets (think yellow). Kitchen is south facing, with lots of natural light.

    I’m wanting a modern cleaner looking kitchen and was thinking of ginger maple cabinets (shaker style) with lighter granite countertop (giallo ornamental) and backsplash (glass tile strips). I’d replace my appliances to stainless steel as also the cabinet hardware to straight simple stainless steel.

    I’d really appreciate your advice!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 25, 2009 at 5:14 pm

      Pami – This sounds like a nice combination of colors and textures. This should give you the cleaner look you’re after. Without having physical samples in front of me, I can’t be completely sure of the combination of the ginger maple cabinets with the Brazilian walnut flooring. But the smooth grain of the maple should go well with the more “visually active” grain of the flooring. Be sure to put some reasonably sized samples together to make sure they work. Don’t depend on postage stamp sized samples or worse, photographs of the colors. They can be misleading.

  62. Monica on November 26, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I am needing a suggesstion for my kitchen wall color. My cabinet color is Mahagony, with black appliances and baltic ‘brown granite” countertops and for the backsplash I have the “Glass Amber Mix” mosaic glass tile. My current wall color is Behr’s Peanut Butter. This color reflects a lot of Red. I want to change the wall color. Want to do it in a beige/brown family. Can you please suggest some wall colors for me which will look good?

    Thank you,

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm

      Monica – Without actual samples in front of me, it’s impossible to make a suggestion for your wall color. You might want to contact an interior designer in your area. Paying for a brief consultation with a professional would be worth the cost, especially if it helps you choose the perfect color to pull the entire kitchen together. Good luck with your kitchen.

  63. Theresa Lovin on November 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    I am currently in the process of a major remodel and am installing dark brown engineered hand scraped hickory wood floor. The kitchen cabinets will be a medium to light brown hickory. I have a small stair case, leading to the kitchen, that has a knotty pine banister. I don’t like the knotty pine but like the style and shape of the banister and plan to refinish the wood. Should I try to match the color of the floor? Do my wood stain baseboards and floor have to match? I was thinking of making the banister, baseboards and window trim a lighter color that matches the doors and wood work in other parts of the house. I have laid my floor sample down next to the existing baseboards and I think they actually complement each other nicely. I do not want to paint all my wood work white, as seems to be the trend, but I don’t want dark wood doors and window trim either.
    Thanks for a great resource. I look forward to your responce…

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 28, 2009 at 9:55 am

      Terry – Your plan for matching the baseboard to your other trim is a good one. The woodwork in a house should not match the wood flooring or else everything will look too monotonous. If you have a color combination you like, then go for it. For your banister, try staining it dark, possibly even darker than the flooring. If you think of old houses with wonderful railings, those were often mahogany that was stained even darker than the natural color. With your knotty pine, the dark stain will help disguise the knots.

  64. Theresa Lovin on December 2, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks so much for your quick response, and for telling me what I wanted to hear! :). I have been trying out different stains on the back of one of the pieces of knotty pine. I am using minwax oil based stain and even after several coats, and letting the darkest color ( dark walnut) sit for more than half an hour, the color is no where near dark enough. Am I being impatient? How many coats should it take? Any suggestions?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 2, 2009 at 9:04 pm

      Theresa – You might try Minwax Jacobean or Ebony colors. If that still is not dark enough, you might try contacting Minwax directly and see if they have any suggestions.

  65. Sherrie on December 6, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are in the middle of remodeling our kitchen and we want put hardwood floors in our kitchen, we have red oak cabinets with a medium stain now and they are in very good condition and we really do not want to get replace them.
    We have 2 labs and were thinking of putting hickory floors with a natural finish because it is a much harder wood and not too much more then oak.
    From what I am reading it sounds like these two types of woods with their strong grains will be too busy. We are on a budget so I really need help on deciding if we should stick to oak and go with a lighter finish, or go ahead with the hickory? Or maybe you have a third suggesting?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 7, 2009 at 9:50 am

      Sherie – The hickory would be too “busy.” More oak would take away from the cabinets by making them feel like they are “lost” in the floor because you would lose any contrast.

      I would suggest looking for a smoother grained wood, like maple. You can get some very nice prefinished maple floors, even hand-scraped and old plank types that might be appealling to you. The maple is very hard and the prefinished floors come with a tough finish, so they should tolerate the two labs. The color does not have to be light. These floors come in all shades. Find a good complement to your cabinet color. You might think about taking one of the cabinet doors off the hinges and taking with you while shopping for wood flooring. That can make choosing easier.

  66. laurie on December 9, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Hi Bill,
    We are renovating a 1950’s kitchen with honey maple cabinets with brushed nickel handles, light-green glass back splash, gunmetal gray counters, and metal appliances. After scraping off 3 layers of old linoleum, we found tongue and groove 4″ wide pine floors. We tried Monocoat in natural, which is a tongue oil type floor stain and it looked terrible – brought up all the dings and damage and scrapes, but not in a good, “gee it looks old” way. It also brought up tiger striping and lots of yellow in the pine. So my husband re-stripped with mineral oil and a very light sand. We are now a little gun-shy… we’re thinking of using a water based stain but not sure of the color.

    The old pine takes stain a little unevenly, so should we condition first? We also have old oak floors in the dining room and hall that will now butt up next to the pine… they have a beautiful old patina. Any suggestions? We were thinking minwax water based stain in “vermont maple” (“english oak” went really yellow). There is nothing close to the color of the real oak floors but we thought it might be a nice contrast, and we want to go darker than the honey maple. Thoughts? We were also thinking of using a semi-gloss water based poly on top to seal; is high gloss better in a kitchen? Thanks for any input!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 9, 2009 at 10:33 am

      Laurie – Pine is notoriously hard to stain evenly. Some parts of the wood soak up the stain more than other parts. One way to deal with this is to put a clear sealer on the pine first and then stain over the sealer after it’s dry. You will need to play with the colors, since the stain will tend to look different than when it is applied to bare wood. But this method should avoid the splotchy look that pine can have.

      Water-based polyurethane is a good finish for a kitchen because it is a harder and more durable finish than the oil-based poly. One knock against it is it tends to look dull. So you may want a bit more sheen than if you were using oil-based. But don’t go so far with the sheen where the end result looks like plastic. One big plus for water-based polyurethane is it won’t yellow over time like oil-based. So the color you have when you’re finished will be the color you’ll have over the years.

      As far as colors go, it’s pretty hard to comment without seeing the colors first hand. But generally I would suggest making sure the color of the cabinets is a pleasant contrast with the color of the floor. And it can be a subtle contrast. One does not have to be real dark and the other real light. The best thing to do are sample areas. The backs of the cabinet doors can be a good spot for samples. If you get them wrong, these places are not hard to refinish because they are flat. Unscrew the door from the hinges and use it as a sizeable test panel you can compare to the floor and also see the finished sheen of the polyurethane you are using.

  67. laurie on December 10, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Thanks! Great ideas, we’ll try the clear sealer and checking color on the back of a extra piece of cabinet trim. I agree about too much shine – I don’t want the poly to look plastic, which is why we were thinking semi-gloss. You are a great resource!!

  68. brian on December 13, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Bill,
    We have quite the dilemma. We’re planning to remodel our kitchen and family room before year end. The job involves replacing the carpet and laminate floors with engineered wood and our worn out kitchen cabinets are finally going to be replaced. We want a more modern/contemporary look so were levitating towards dark floors (somewhere in the range of black walnut). For cabinets we’re leaning towards antique white (simply because white is a safe color). The only problem with antique white is the fact that its the most expensive in the prefab family. Other cabinet colors like maple coffee are less expensive but were worried that the dark wood floors will not match the maple cabinets.
    The wall color is currently a light yellow but were open to changing it as well.

    Please advise,
    Thank You!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm

      Brian – I’ll see if I can help you a little bit. Walnut floors can be exquisite. But remember that there are two kinds of black walnut floors. One kind is the natural cut of the wood. Walnut is a dark wood, but the outer part of the log is where the living wood resides. This is called sapwood and it is much lighter in color than the inner, heartwood. It can make a walnut floor look streaky. This may or may not be a look you desire. Some people see this as beautiful while others see it as a detriment. So be sure to check large enough samples to see the full range of color and confirm that it matches your vision..

      The other kind of walnut is steamed walnut. The wood is steamed to draw the dark heartwood color into the light sapwood and make the color of the wood more uniform and remove the light streaks. This may be preferable to you.

      I’m surprised to hear that the antique white color is the most expensive color choice. Is it a “glazed” finish? If it is merely painted, I would expect that any type of white would be one of the better priced options. Glazing adds a step to the finishing process and therefore it adds cost. You might want to shop around for other cabinet brands before moving away from your first choice. Some other cabinet companies might be better priced. There are lots of cabinet manufacturers, so don’t feel limited in your options. I would imagine that the cleaner look of a white with the sharp contrast to the walnut would enhance the contemporary look you are after. The maple coffee sounds tasty, but it might be too yellow and more traditional looking.

      Incidentally, if you want some help picking colors, we offer hourly consulting services. We can select colors for you from any manufacturer you choose and pull the whole room color scheme together. If this is something you might be interested in, drop me a note at and we’ll send you pricing information off-line.

  69. Mary on December 16, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks Bill for answering my question on the light maple color floor with the oak cabinets. If we ever decide to change the cabinets to a cherry color, will the light maple color flooring still work?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 16, 2009 at 8:16 pm

      Mary – It should work fine. Cherry is a medium toned wood, so it should provide a pleasant contrast with the light maple floor.

  70. Winnie on December 18, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Please advise:

    What colour of kitchen cabinet to go with Jatoba cherry flooring? I am planning to open up the kitchen to the LR and DR.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 22, 2009 at 10:09 am

      Winnie – I would suggest a smooth grain, lighter color wood cabinet if you want a natural wood finish. But what might be better would be a cream colored painted cabinet. I asked my friend, interior designer Agnes Preston Brame,, her thoughts and she suggested a cream color for the cabinets with possibly a brown glazing to pull the Jatoba color into the cabinets.

  71. Larry on December 18, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Thanks for this advice,

    I’m building a new home with flat slab door expresso brown cupboards. my backsplash is lighter brown/grey glass mosaic, my kitchen floor 12×24 tan/sand color modern tiles. Only the kitchen is tiled. I haven’t decided on countertop color yet. My

    it is a great room with dining and living room adjacent which will have glossy brown laminate floors a few shades lighter than the expresso cupboards.

    Since this is such a large area, my question is which paint colors do you recommend going in this great room.

    I’m thinking tan/sand like the tiles or that natural modern greyish green.

    any other colors you think would work well? If you cannot suggest other than tan or green do you have any comments on either color to help me decide? thanks.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

      Larry – I asked my friend, interior designer Agnes Preston Brame,, for her ideas for your kitchen. She suggested you keep the wall color similar to the floor so the cabinets could be set off nicely and look their best. The other colors could be introduced with accessories and fabrics. One advantage is this makes the colors easily changeable in the future.

      She suggested looking at Manhattan Grey granite for the countertop. It migh go well with your backsplash tile. But another possible countertop material would be lava stone. This is a very good looking manufactured product that can be made in any color you choose, so it could be a color that picks up the exact colors of the glass mosaic backsplash.

  72. Sherrie on December 18, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I just wanted to let you know that we put 2nd grade and better maple wood floors into our kitchen, and we love the way it turned out with our red oak cabinets. They are suppose to come back next week sand and stain the floors, I think they look so beautiful as is, I am not sure if I even want to stain then the light stain we picked out. Your advise to put Maple into our kitchen was spot on!! Thank you!!

  73. Karen on December 30, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Bill, We are redoing our kitchen and replacing the flooring throughout the main floor. We originally had medium oak cabinets and the doors and baseboards were the same throughout. We are going with natural maple shaker cabinets with stainless steel appliance and pulls and a quartz countertop called Brownstone by Cambria. Our flooring will be Laurentian hardwood -antique toffee stain. It is medium-dark in color. Our biggest problem is deciding on what baseboards to go with. Do we stay with the medium oak ones that we have or do we change everything including the doors to match the natural maple? Our cabinet maker suggested matching the baseboards to the maple cabinets. Do we carry this throughout the whole house? If you have any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 30, 2009 at 6:30 pm

      Karen – This is a tough one. If you were starting from scratch, I would also suggest matching the baseboards to the cabinets, just as the cabinetmaker has, or using painted baseboards to avoid having too much wood in one room. But since the moldings exist, the big question is whether it’s worth it to change the baseboards or not.

      There are a few parts of your question I am not sure about. So I’ll give you an answer (or a few answers) based on a few assumptions.

      If you have oak baseboards and/or doors only in your kitchen, it is probably worthwhile changing those to match the cabinetry. But if you have oak doors, trim and baseboards throughout the house, it would be a big undertaking to change everything. It also might look strange to change only the baseboards in the kitchen and not in the rest of the house. So in this case, I think I would put samples of the flooring and cabinets next to your existing baseboards to see the effect. It might look just fine, or even great! If it does not look right, consider changing the color of the oak baseboards with a gel stain. You might be able to tweak it enough to work with the other room elements.

      You did not say if the new floor was oak or another wood species. If it is, maybe the baseboards could be a slightly lighter tone of the same color to work with the floors and then not worry about working with the cabinets. Re-staining just the kitchen baseboards might be enough and not require you do the re-staining to the entire house, if it is all oak.

      Painting the oak baseboards is not a good option, though. Oak is not a smooth surfaced wood and the open pores in the grain will show through and make the paint look bad.

      I hope one of these ideas works for you and doesn’t require you to start changing all of the trim in the house. That would be a big job.

  74. Kim on January 2, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Bill,
    Like your followers, I am remodeling our kitchen and planning new floors. I like cherry cabinets, medium to dark and want hardwood floors. I have an open floor plan, dining room, foyer, breakfast room and small family room. All will be hardwood floors. Have a large dog and two teenagers, in otherwords, there will be much traffic through the kitchen,breakfast and family area. Looking at light/medium color on the floors and will an oak floor provide enough hardness for this type of traffic? Thank you in advance and I look forward to your suggestions.


  75. Carrie on January 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    You have an absolutely wonderful website. We are remodeling our kitchen. I’m considering a shaker style cabinet in quarter sawn red oak. We have also selected handscraped white oak plank floors in a butternut stain. I’m fairly confident, based upon your sound advice above, that the wood from the cabinets and the flooring will coordinate. In that our cabinets are being custom made (and the flooring is prefininshed oak with only an ebony and butternut stain option), we must choose a stain for the cabinets. Can you suggest a color? I was thinking a chestnut would look good but I don’t want to lose the beauty of the quarter sawn markings by selecting something too dark. Thank you again for your wonderful website and your time.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 5, 2010 at 5:50 pm

      Carrie – Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you like the website and find it helpful. I’m just starting to build another website that I hope will provide tons of good home design information. You can see the initial pages at It’s just the skeleton of what it will become. There aren’t even any graphics, yet.

      It sounds like you have made some good selections for your kitchen remodeling. It’s great that you see the beauty in quater-sawn oak and want to keep the unique grain and medullary rays visible. I have my family room mantel and flanking cabinets all made of quarter-sawn white oak. I used Golden Oak stain. It gives it some color, but it doesn’t suppress the grain as much as some stains might. That might be one color to consider. Fruitwood is another candidate. Try a couple of samples to see which one works best with your other finishes.

      Best of luck. I hope everything turns out great.

  76. Robin on January 17, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Hello Bill
    This is the only blog I can find that may help! In my 1 bedroom 1991 apartment the kitchen has hanging cabinets (there’s a 2ft gap between the counter & cabinets). Facing into the kitchen the cabinets are white but the back of the cabinets facing the dining/living room has this very light fake oak paneling, which now blends with the beige painted walls. The bathroom, closet, and bedroom doors also had this but were painted white by the previous owner. I am replacing the carpet in the dining/living/bedroom with laminate. Given there is not much light in winter I’d like the laminate to be a light colour but am really really confused if I really should get a white or classic oak laminate to match the paneling? It’s the easiest to find on sale but if I get oak will it look dated or overpowering for an apartment? Or is honey maple a good option? Or any other ideas? My furniture is dark brown in the living room with red oak/maple in the bedoom. I may move in 3-5yrs so I am thinking of resale impact as much as matching furniture.

    Your opinion would be very much appreciated. I had no idea how stressful this would be.
    Thank you so much

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 18, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      Robin – Don’t stress. The finished product will be worth the effort. I would suggest not making the floor match the paneling. You said the panels blend in with the beige walls. I’m afraid if you did that same thing to the floors, the room would be one solid beige box and look smaller than it actually was. A medium tone flooring color, such as a light cherry, would give the floor a little contrast with the walls and actually broaden the room by letting your eye perceive the point where the walls meet the floor. You could add a light colored rug in the center of the room to increase the light reflection for those winter days. The medium tone flooring will also work well with your dark furniture.

      Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

  77. Sue Lindbo on January 19, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Hi Bill,
    I’m glad to have found your blog. We have a 30-year old ranch style house and have decided to remodel the kitchen. We have chosen quaker style cabinets, but cannot decide on the wood. Reading your earlier responses you confirm my thoughts that the cabinet wood should not be a heavy grain like oak if we plan to have oak hardwood floors. We have looked at red oak, white oak, hickory,cherry, alder and beech. I like the cherry but am concerned if I will like the redness over the years. The alder seems to be a nice choice, but it is hard enough to avoid dents and dings? We seem to like tha natural finishes the best. Can you recommend a wood choice that is hard, modern, and will go with natural red oak flooring? And then there is the counter top. Light or dark? Our budge only allows for a laminate and we are drawn to the new Wilsonart HD similuating stone. We have decided on black appliances as we have had white for the past 25 years, but may consider stainless. This is a huge undertaking and unlike choosing the wrong paint color, will will live with this decision for many many years. Would love to hear your input and if you feel the money to hire a designer would be well spent?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      Sue – You are right in worrying about the hardness of alder. It’s not particularly resistant to dents. And neither is cherry, for that matter. A much stronger wood is maple. So is beech. Maple has a smooth grain and would be a good choice to go with oak floors. There are many finishes available in maple cabinets, so you should have plenty of choice in color. You should be able to avoid the redness of cherry.

      Black appliances are probably easier to care for than stainless steel. Stainless steel will show fingerprints, although some companies do have a “fingerprint resistant” stainless finish. Black also tends to subdue the visual impact of the appliances. So if you want the cabinets to be more prominent, black is the better choice. Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I would still predict that black will not go out of style.

      Regarding countertops, you could choose either light or dark, simply depending on your personal preference. I think light colors are a little easier to live with since they don’t show light colored specks, like flour and salt, as easily. By the way, laminate countertops can be dressed up a bit by using wood edges on them. You might consider this in a wood that matches your cabinets.

      Some advice from an interior designer can be well worth the money. If you don’t have one locally that you know or comes well recommended, I work with a terrific interior designer named Agnes Preston-Brame. She is in Greensboro, North Carolina and a whiz with colors. If you would like to contact her, you can either drop me a note or contact her at . Tell her I referred you, please. She could develop a couple of color boards to choose from with all of your finishes. A small expense up front can really guarantee a great result and keep you from making an expensive mistake.

      Best of luck with your kitchen.

  78. Margaret H on January 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Bill – I am enjoying your blog! We are building a house with an open concept design. We have selected natural hickory flooring for the dining and living room areas, but the kitchen floor will be linoleum. We are planning for our kitchen cabinets to be maple and all window/door casings and baseboards to be edge-grained douglas fir. I am considering either leaving the fir a natural colour or using a small amount of Fruitwood stain with the eurathane to add some colour. At this point I am planning to stain the cabinets somewhere between a light to medium tone. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thank you!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      Margaret – Fir is a fairly light colored wood. So unless your house is contemporary. putting a bit of fruitwood color in it sounds like a good idea. If you use an oil based polyurethane, it will tend to yellow over time. So pick a color for the stain that is a touch lighter than you want and when the yellowing occurs, it will end up just right. Water based polyurethane does not yellow, but it tends to make wood look a bit lifeless.

      I think either a light or medium stain on the maple cabinets would work well with the fuitwood stained fir. The best way to decide is to put a finished piece of the fir next to the cabinet samples and choose the one that looks best. A little contrast would be best. So don’t pick the cabinet that looks like an exact match. Pick one that goes well with the finished fir.

      Best of luck with the project.

  79. Regan on January 29, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Hi Bill,

    Great blog! – I have read about maple cabinets with walnut floors but I am considering the inverse. Any thoughts on a wood color to go with mission style walnut cabinets (with black glaze) We love the cabinets but are having a hard time deciding on what hardwood to install. I thought we would go to a natural walnut but the walnut is so soft and the color seems to be to close – on the opposite side I have seen a few kitchens with the walnut color with clear maple floors. While I never would have thought of that much contrast on my own I really like the stark contrast and clean look of the maple floors.

    Am I crazy to be considering something with that much contrast?



    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

      Regan – I think the maple floors with the walnut cabinets would look great. You would not only contrast the light and dark color of the woods, you would also contrast the grain. The smooth grain of the maple will not compete with the more “active” grain of the walnut. One other advantage is it will be a look you do not commonly see. Your kitchen will be distinctively attractive.

  80. Kara Theis on January 31, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Hello Bill
    I have quite the conundrum. We have recently bought a 1930 bungalow with original golden oak wood work and flooring. New windows are being put in and we are looking to redo the floors and trim since both are in pretty rough shape. The kitchen, living room and dining are joined with an open floor plan. The kitchen has natural hickory cabinets, tavertine tile floor with a darker counter top. My question is does the floor and the trim need to match either color or wood type. If not what would you recommend for floor and trim given our open floor plan and abundant trim

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

      Kara – The floor and the trim do not have to match. Because the floor is a flat, planar element, it is already distinctly different from the shaped wood that the trim is. In fact, a little color contrast between the floor and the trim is a good thing.

  81. Julie on February 17, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Bill,
    We are planning on putting in birch shaker-style cabinets in our kitchen and a tavern grade maple floor. Do you think these are too similar to look good together? Also, we would like to do butcher block counters but I think this will be too much wood?! If I can’t convince my husband to choose a different countertop, should we opt to match to butcher block to the cabinets or choose a different tone? The maple floors are our number one choice above everything.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 18, 2010 at 3:32 pm

      Julie – This does sound like a lot of wood. But it is possible to pull it off. I would suggest you make sure you have some color contrast from the cabinets to the flooring to the countertop. That way everything will not visually merge together. You also might look at some other wood for the cabinets. Birch is such a plain-grained wood, it could look very similar to your flooring. The butcher block might look great in a darker color. That would really set it off. You might want to check out the Durata permanent finish wood tops offered by Grothouse Lumber, They have a wood top with a finish that can stand up to water. Water is the biggest problem facing wood kitchen countertops. So whatever you choose, make sure it is properly treated or you’ll find it will stain and deteriorate around your sink.

  82. Cindy on February 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    We are building a new house this summer and we’re leaning toward a Maple floor in the kitchen. Would Cherry, Oak, or Quarter Sawn Oak be the best cabinet combination with the floor? Maple color would probably be fairly light and cabinets more medium. Open floor plan, kitchen windows face south so good natural light, ss appliances. Also, lighter or darker countertops? Or would you steer us in a completely different direction?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 22, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Cindy – Those are all good wood choices for cabinets. Plain sawn oak can sometimes collect dirt. That’s because plain oak has open pores in the grain. It is not a perfectly smooth surface. So plain sawn oak can build up dirt where it is touched frequently, like around the cabinet handles. Quarter sawn oak is much better about this because the grain of the wood is more perpendicular to the surface. Add to that it’s uniquely beautiful grain pattern, and quarter sawn oak is a winner.

      Cherry is great, too. It’s smoother grain and rich color make it a wonderful cabinet wood. It will be a bit softer than oak and can dent and ding more easily. The quarter sawn oak will be a little more durable, if you have a household with small children or large pets.

      Oak should not be stained too dark or it will begin to look artificial and lose its beauty, in my opinion. I like a golden oak or fruitwood stain on oak, or something similar. It will show off the grain without over-darkening.

      Usually I would suggest lighter countertops. But with an open plan with good natural light, dark tops would work, too. Dark tops are somewhat harder to keep looking clean. They show everything, even just a few grains of salt. Dark granites can also be very reflective. If you have undercabinet lights, they will reflect right back at you as if the countertop was a mirror. you’ll see every bulb in the light. So all in all, I would suggest lighter contertops as being better to live with in the long run.

  83. Dave on February 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm


    Great website! Just like many people here, my wife and I are in the process of building a new home. We have decided to go with hickory floors (5″ boards / #2 grade). We like the look and the hardness of the wood. We are looking for suggestions on wood to use for doors and trim throughout the house. Additionally, we are seeking suggestions on wood for kitchen cabinets. A good friend has suggested birch. We are concerned the birch will look to “modern” next to the hickory.

    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks in advance for your help!


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

      Dave – Birch does look modern because of its nearly invisible grain and its light color. Maple has these same characteristics. I just answered a question for Cindy where we discussed cherry and quarter sawn oak. Those would be great choices with your hickory flooring.

      You might initially think that oak would have too strong a grain and clash with the hickory. That would be true for plain sawn oak. But quarter sawn oak looks considerably different from plain sawn oak. Its straight grain, without the “cathedral” shapes common tot he grain of plain sawn oak, allow it to work well with more visually active woods like hickory. If you want an even straighter grain in oak, take a look at rift-sawn oak. if you can find cabinets made with this, they are lovely, too. But if you can’t find it, don’t worry. The difference between rift-sawn and quarter-sawn oak are very subtle.

      Having said all of that about quarter-sawn oak, you may prefer cherry. Cherry will be a little more refined look than the oak. Quarter-sawn oak will be a bit more earthy and slightly casual. It is the wood of choice for craftsman style furniture. I would suggest you choose the one that gives you the style you prefer. Either would work well.

  84. Theresa on February 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm


    We are currently remodeling our kitchen and have purchased brazillian teak flooring. Can you help me with a kitchen cupboard wood and stain?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 22, 2010 at 9:12 pm

      Theresa – Brazilian Teak is also called Cumaru. It sometimes is sold as light cumaru and dark cumaru. It has an attractive, distinctive grain. In the photo I have for this blog post, the floor is cumaru and the cabinet is quarter-sawn white oak. That combination worked very well. Other than that suggestion, I would take a look at maple cabinets. Maple is a smoother grain wood and would not compete with the cumaru grain. It’s hard to suggest a stain color without seeing exactly what tone of cumaru you have. You should strive for a pleasant contrast in darkness versus lightness. Try to avoid stains that get too red. This might clash with the inherent tawny redness of the cumaru. I would suggest a medium light tone for the stain if the wood is fairly dark. If the wood is lighter, a richer, light walnut stain might be nice. Be sure to get some large real samples of the materials to place side by side before deciding. Don’t try to make the selection from postage stamp sized samples or photos of the finishes.

  85. Julie on March 3, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    We have started some remodeling in our home. We have put down wood (oak) flooring (natura/light color). We also have the same color oak trim. My dilema is in selecting kitchen cabinets. Had planned to go with oak….but I think that is just too much oak. What do you suggest, as far as wood and finish choice?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      Julie – Because oak has such a strong, active grain, I would suggest contrasting it with a smooth grained wood like maple, cherry, or birch for the cabinets. You should be able to find many cabinet styles and stain colors to choose from. Take a finished piece of your flooring or trim with you when cabinet shopping to check how they look together. If you can’t take any flooring, bring home large samples (full doors) of your cabinet candidates to see how they look in your home with your flooring and trim before finalizing your selection.

  86. MaryJo on March 8, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Wow. What a helpful site this is! Like so many others here, we are about to remodel our 1982 kitchen/dining/living room. We wanted to enlarge our galley kitchen by knocking out the wall and taking in the patio. But budget only allows us to redo what we’ve got! I am quickly realizing how confusing it is to coordinate floors/cabinets/countertops! I’ve picked a great laminate countertop that has a matte slate-look finish in a neutral light brown tone with a hint of white throughout, which will hopefully pull in my white appliances that I plan to keep as they are still fine. For cabinets, we like the alderwood color. I’m stumped on the floor! I can’t seem to decide how much contrast to have between the cabinet color and the floors. We’re taking up the living room carpet and putting down wood in the kitchen/dining/living room. Our house tends to be dark. We are surrounded by large trees, and also, all of our wood trim is stained a early american/fruitwood color. My husband can’t stand to cover up wood with paint! Anyway, not much light inside. If I choose a lighter floor than the alderwood, will it look bad against the trim we have?
    Oh great, my husband just looked over my shoulder and said “maybe you should pick a lighter oak cabinet and go with a darker floor.” And maybe he’s right. What do you think?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 9, 2010 at 10:37 am

      MaryJo – I’m glad you like the site. It seems to get a lot of interest on this particular subject, too.

      I’m not exactly sure what color you mean by “alderwood.” Alder is a naturally light colored wood. But cabinets built with alder are often stained in many different tones and colors. Considering your darker countertops and white appliances, I would think a medium tone of wood on the cabinets would be best so as to avoid to harsh a contrast with the tops. It might even be similar in darkness/lightness to the fruitwood trim you already have. Then you could go with a light colored wood floor. That would brighten up your dark house and provide an appealing contrast with both your cabinets and trim. Actually, this would be similar to what I have in my own house. I have natural cherry cabinets (a medium tone) and light oak floors. The result is bright, cheery, and a pleasant contrast between the cabinets and floor.

  87. Joe on March 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    This is a very informative blog and has given me some great ideas for remodeling. I have natural maple floors in the kitchen that transition into an open family room with a 6″ step down. Currently the family room has a carpet we would like to replace with hardwood floors, but would prefer to use a darken color than natural maple. We have maple furniture in the family and would prefer a contrast with a darken floor, maybe Brazilian cherry or rosewood. It seems that most people are of the opinion that the floors should be the same from one room to another. Will the maple floor next to a cherry colored floor look terrible or out of place?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 17, 2010 at 8:56 am

      Joe – Changing floor colors when the flooring is at the same level can be difficult. It works best if there is a defined doorway between rooms. But in your case, even if the rooms are wide open to each other, considering your change in level, you can probably pull it off. A single, six inch step down can be dangerous. It is too easy for people to overlook the change in level and stumble over the step going up or miss it going down. Changing the floor color could actually help your situation by highlighting the difference in level. Plus, the distinct break can give some logic to the change in materials you desire.

      I think this can work. Just pay attention to how the two woods look together. Look for a nice compatible contrast and this could turn out to be an uncommon solution that garners compliments.

  88. Shannon on March 18, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Bill, thank you for providing such a helpful site. Reading over all these questions and answers gives us hope for our dilema!! Please help us.

    Our house is 15 years old with limited natural lighting. The previous home owners installed red oak cabinets, trim, molding, staircase and doors. The stain is all a medium color with reddish/orange tones. We are planning to install hardwood floors throughout the entire first floor. We have two questions.

    What wood type would you reccomend and what stain color would compliment?

    We also have children and pets. Thanks for your help.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 19, 2010 at 8:57 am

      Shannon – Since you mention that your house has limited light, I would suggest a lighter colored floor. With all of the oak you already have, you probably want to stay away from woods that have an active, strong grain. I would suggest looking at maple. Unstained maple may be too light and make your home look more contemporary than you want. But a maple floor with a small touch of stain to dampen its brightness and give it a subtle color tone that’s compatible with your cabinets and trim might be just the answer. I always suggest taking one of your cabinet doors or drawers with you when looking at flooring. That way you can make a good comparison with the sample in the flooring store. If they’ll lend you a decent sized sample to take home, you can use that to help get a proper feel for what it might look like in your house.

  89. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Gladys on March 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Hi Bill, We have put in Natural Maple Cabinets in our kitchen, matching island, we are putting in black granite w/bronze flecks. My ? is, we want to put ceramic tile on the floor? What colour do we go with? We have purchased tile, coloured Honey Blush (it has some peachy hues to it). We are thinking of putting it in & putting black grout (with some shiny fleck in the grout) in between these tiles or we also are thinking of buying different coloured tiles. Any suggestions? Oh! Yes! We have already put down Harvest Wheat Oak hardwood. Help? Thank you, Gladys

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 19, 2010 at 9:03 am

      Gladys – Without physical samples in front of me, it’s impossible for me to make good suggestions. The names of the colors are not enough to go by, since there is no standard color naming system. I would suggest consulting with an interior designer for this. I’ll bet they could give you two or three good choices pretty quickly. The small cost of an hour’s worth of consultation will help you avoid costly mistakes. And, you can ask the interior designer any number of questions during the consultation. Go prepared with your questions and you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.

  90. Tina on March 26, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Hi Bill….Can you help me. I have a small open concept duplex. My cabinets are Maple wood with heavy grain pattern. My kitchen is ceramic floor, and the front room currently is carpet. I want to lay laminante flooring in the front room, but I don’t know what wood i should use as I don’t want the front room to blend so much with my cabinets. Any suggestions what species of wood I could go with. Thank you!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 4, 2010 at 8:39 pm

      Tina – Since you say your cabinets are a heavy grain, I would suggest any smoother grained wood in a contrasting color. So if your cabinets are light colored, look for medium to dark colored flooring. If your cabinet wood is dark, look for wood that is lighter. The key is to create some contrast so the two woods don’t visually merge. Take a cabinet drawer or door with you while looking at wood flooring samples. this will help you see more easily what you’re getting.

  91. Reetika on March 27, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Dear Bill,
    This website is indeed very resourceful. My husband and I had a dilemma with our hardwood choice, and I felt your inputs on it would be extremely helpful, as we make our decision. We would like to get the flooring done for our family room and hallway. The other rooms on that level are the living room, which has golden oak flooring and the kitchen that has tiles and honey maple cabinets. We are not changing anything in the kitchen and the living room. The kitchen separates the living room from the family room. The kitchen cabinets are visible from the family room, so we need to account for that in our hardwood choice for the family room. Having looked through the samples at a couple of stores, we narrowed it down to 1) Tigerwood, 2) Brazilian redwood and 3) Brazilian cherry. Here are some of our thoughts about them, but please let us know what you think. The tigerwood and its sharp color variations are nice and we like it, but we saw a lot of disparity among the samples we saw — some samples had excessive black stripes than others and we are not sure if the wood that we end up with have too many stripes would go with the maple cabinets. The Brazilian redwood sample per se did not look very reddish but the picture of the room that went with it looked very reddish. We think that too reddish a wood wouldn’t go with the maple. The Brazilian cherry is supposed to get darker over time and since the room isn’t too lit we are concerned about it making the room too dark and whether it would go with the maple cabinets. The furniture in the family room is contemporary with one wall painted as reddish orange. Please let us know what you think and if you have a preference among the three or if you have any other suggestion. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 4, 2010 at 8:49 pm

      Reetika – If you really love the Tigerwood, but fear the striped pieces, you could buy a little extra and discard the heavily striped pieces. Or you could place the heavily striped pieces where they won’t be seen, such as in the middle of the room where an area rug would be covering them or under the sofa. I’m not familiar with Brazilian redwood. But if you feel it would be too red compared to the existing woods, then your instincts are probably right. What’s sold as Brazilian Cherry is actually and assortment of three species of wood. Jatoba is the primary one, but the other two species (whose names I don’t know) can be off-colored and even greenish. I think these are blended in to keep the cost down. If you want a more consistent looking floor of the Brazilian Cherry color, ask for all Jatoba. But Jatoba is a reddish wood and may give you the same problem as Brazilian Redwood.

      The Tigerwood would be a dramatic and interesting look in a contemporary room. I would suggest giving this a try and looking through the pieces they deliver before installing it. That way you could cull out any odd pieces before it’s too late.

  92. David on April 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are currently refinishing our oak floors and replacing our cabinets. The oak floors is currently stained to show off the grain and runs throughout the entire house, which is pretty open concept. We can go to any stain now. And we can go to any wood type and color. We are looking at more contemporary door styles and handles. Suggestions for stain color and cabinet color/wood?

    Heres the weblink for the colour cabinets we were thinking of using.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 4, 2010 at 8:58 pm

      David – For a contemporary look, I would suggest no stain on the oak flooring and simply finish it with a polyurethane finish. Oil based poly will yellow over time and water based poly will not. So consider this when choosing the type of polyurethane you want. I would also keep the cabinets light, but they should have a bit more color than the flooring to provide a little contrast. A smooth grained wood, such as maple, alder, or cherry, will work well with the oak flooring.

  93. Renee on April 25, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Bill, We have med oak cabinets, and oak hard wood floors in natural, but they have darkened up bit over time. The wood planks have contrast running through them. Our dishwasher leaked and when a restoration company came to dry it the black color from the moister barrier paper pulled up along the cracks of wood. We are having the floors refinished, but our guy said the dark may still show. He said staining will take care of that problem. We also have a beautiful 9 foot med oak table our son made us in shop class. The wood floor goes through the dinning room and hall to the bedrooms. Now my question. What color stain should we pick? We really love contrast and want to break it up. We hate woods that are all matched. Or should we try to keep it lighter? And, does darker stain show dust or bare foot prints more? We are going with a satin finish. We have granite counter tops in Mt green, but they don’t really read green. We are youngish and want to stay current. Please help.
    Thanks so much!! Renee

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm

      Renee – Good for your son. Making a large table is no easy task. I would consider giving it a finish similar to your cabinets and keeping your floor light colored. Maybe the table could have a little more color to provide contrast and help set it off from the floor. Test out a few colors of stain on the table until you find the match. Or unscrew one of your cabinet doors and take it to the paint store when you are shopping for stains.

      Light oak floors are a nice, up-to-date look. I have that in my house. If you use no stain and finish them with an oil based polyurethane, they will get yellower as the finish ages. This can be a good look or a bad look, depending on your taste. I like the oil based poly. Again, this is what I have in my house. Water based poly will not yellow. But sometimes it can leave the wood looking too lifeless.

      Regarding the black stains where the water damage occured, whoever told you this was the color of the black moisture barrier seeping up is dead wrong. Moisture barriers don’t bleed color. That black stain is from the water itself. It soaked into the edges of the wood and mildewed. It is doubtful you can sand it out. And the only way to hide it with a stain is to stain the floor very dark. A good flooring installer can remove those pieces, replace them without visible nails, and refinish the entire floor making it look brand new.

      Many years ago we bought a great old house that had been built in 1928. It had been poorly maintained and the oak flooring had numerous water spots, some probably from doggie accidents, I suppose. I thought I would have to rip out the entire floor. But a good wood floor man worked his magic and in the end, we had a floor that drew compliments. If your floor guy says he can’t do it, look for a better one. Find someone who can do the job right.

  94. Kathy on April 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm


    We are in middle of a major renovation. We, have put in new windows and ordered 1800 sq. ft of natural maple flooring and natural maple window trim and baseboard.

    We have not picked the kitchen cabinets, but we were thinking natural cherry. We have a open floor plan and our fireplace is terra cotta and browns and some black and some cream. The two story catherdal ceiling is fir with a pickeled stain and very dark brown beams. My furniture is dark cherry.

    Having said all that and having read your blog. I think I allready have made a mistake by purchasing the same color flooring and my woodwork and window trim. I think my cabinet and woodwork and windows should be the same.

    What would be the best thing to do now?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm

      Kathy – I think your idea of using natural cherry for the cabinets is a good one. With all that wood, you want to avoid wood with a busy grain. I don’t think you should necessarily match your cabinets to your flooring, windows, and trim. The medium color of the cherry will offer a nice counterpoint to the light colored, smooth grained flooring, trim, and windows. I also would not worry too much about the ceiling being a different wood with a pickled finish. It’s way up there in your two story room and it’s a separate element that is part of the roof structure. That gives you the latitude to make it unique.

      I’ll bet the cherry cabinets will look great. One thing to look out for is the sapwood in the cherry. It’s very light colored and if the cabinets come with too much of that, they will look streaky and busy. You may have to pay a bit more, but look for cherry cabinets without sapwood and only contain heartwood.

  95. Mario on May 4, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are building a new home and are in the process of choosing Hardwood floors. This is an open concept living space where kitchen , dining room and living room are all together….We have white wainscotting followed by a blue grey paint above with white crown moldings. Kitchen cabinets are a white country kitchen style with light grey mosaic backsplash( very thin and long) with carrara marble counters and an white island also with wainscotting and marble….We have a sectional baby blue fabric sofa.

    We have no idea if we should go light,dark,exotic,distressed,wide plank..etc..Please help us choose the perfect hardwood floor…There is no budget on the floor?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 8, 2010 at 10:25 am

      Mario – This sounds like a color combination that would be perfect for dark floors. A walnut, or other dark wood, will provide a perfect compliment to the whites and pale blue. Wide planks and distressed finishes would be great. Some of the prefinished wide planks and distressed woods may actually be another species, such as maple. But don’t worry. It’s the finished color that counts. You might also want to look at some of the reclaimed wood floors. They can give you a lot of character.

  96. diana on May 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Bill, im installing mocha natural hickory cabinets. with dark hard ware. id like to go with dark furniture. the kitchen is an open floor plan what color of furniture and wood floor would go good with this type or color of cabinet i would like dark wood flooring except black. and also i wouldnt like a light counter. Can you give me an idea?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 13, 2010 at 8:42 am

      Diana – It’s hard to make recommendations for you without seeing the color samples. I would suggest you find a local interior designer to help you out. I’m sure they can make some good suggestions in a short consulatation.

  97. margaret on May 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Hi Bill:

    We are currently redoing the floors in our family room and adjoining kitchen. It is an open floor plan, with an oak banister separating the kitchen and family room. The family room is 2 stairs down from the kitchen and on concrete. There is oak cabinetry everywhere, kitchen cabinets, banister, oak mantel and bookcases, I think the color is fruitwood or honey oak. It is an brown, orangish color with yellow undertones. We are looking at a Brazilian Teak Nautral engineered wood floor by Mohawk. The floor looks as if it will be darker than the cabinets, and appears to have brownish, gold tones. Would this be a good choice with the oak cabinets?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 13, 2010 at 8:41 am


      The Brazilian Teak sounds like a good choice. It is a fairly smooth grain wood and would not “fight” with the visually active grain of the oak. As as you note, it does not have an underlying red tone that would also clash with the golden colors of the oak.

  98. margaret on May 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Bill:

    So glad I found this site. We are currently redoing the floors in our family room and kitchen. We currently have carpeting in the family room and linoleum in the kitchen. The house was built in 1994 and has an open floor plan with the kitchen and family room separated by a oak railing. The family room is 2 stairs down from the kitchen, and the family room has concrete underneath, so we are looking at purchasing engineered wood flooring. The kitchen cabinetry, island, banister, mantel and book cases surrounding the fireplace in the family room are all Oak. I think the color is fruitwood. It is medium tone, with orange, yellow undertones and sounds quite similiar to what others on this site have described.
    In looking at flooring, I have to stay away from anything with red tones because it really fights with the cabinets. We are considering a Brazilain Teak Natural enginered floor. It seems to pick up some of the wood tones from the cabinets, but still provide some contrast, with the floor being darker. Would brazilian teak be a good choice with oak cabinets?

  99. Dan Oswald on May 14, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Hi, Bill. We are remodeling our kitchen, removing walls between kitchen and dining areas. We will extend our oak floors in the living and dining area into the kitchen. The existing floors are rustic grade red oak with some white oak mixed in, plenty of character with mineral stains, etc. The existing oak floors are natural finish, and we will finish the kitchen floors the same way to blend with the existing floors and keep the floors as light as possible. We are thinking about using cherry for our cabinets, natural finish. Should we consider staining the cherry instead, to get a light brownish tone?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      Dan – Natural Cherry will darken when exposed to light. So you may want to keep it natural. Cherry is a red wood, so if you want to dampen the red and make it look more brownish in tone, you”ll need to apply a bit of stain. But go lightly with the stain. I suggest experimenting with samples and choosing one that is a little lighter than you would like. Mother Nature will darken it the rest of the way for you.

  100. Patrick on May 19, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Hi there Bill,

    Our kitchen is looking tired after 15 years sterling service! It is lacquered ash units and a light grey countertop. The ash has yellowed over time, it now looks piney.

    Could it be brough back to it’s former light colour? If it cannot, any recommended course of action would be gratefully received.

    Thank You.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 24, 2010 at 3:44 pm

      Patrick – It’s likely that the yellowing you see is simply the lacquer/sealer/varnish/polyurethane finish that has aged and yellowed and not the wood itself. There are products available that will remove just the polyurethane and not affect the underlying wood. Take a look at Formsbys products for this finish removal. It’s critical that you try out whatever product you use in an inconspicuous place on the cabinets, like inside the cabinet doors. That way you can confirm the results you will get before committing yourself to the whole kitchen.

      After removing the old finish, you might want to use a water-based polyurethane on the cabinets. It is not prone to yellowing like oil-based polyurethane.

  101. Megan on May 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    We are currently building and planning on using Hickory for our floors and trim in the house. Do you have any ideas for wood doors? I’m afraid if we use Hickory for the doors as well, things will begin to look very busy.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 26, 2010 at 10:18 pm

      Megan – You’re right. The last thing you want is hickory on the doors. It’s a great looking floor, but like everything, overdoing it would be a mistake. Birch doors would have a very smooth grain. Pine can be stained to look like cherry. Either one of those might be a good choice that would not add to the busy look of the hickory.

  102. Susan on May 27, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Hi, we currently have the fruitwood oak cabinets and woodwork in our house which is about 19 years old. We are wanting to put hardwood floors in the kitchen, dining, living room and hallway. I am continually drawn to the hickory flooring, which is an oxford brown by Bruce. However, I have friend who says I should go way darker. Although, I do like some of the medium darker colors, I feel it really ages my cabinets more than they already are. Replacing the cabinets are just not in the budget right now. So my question is what do you think about the hickory for the floor, that perhaps would somewhat blend, and then maybe we could restain the cabinets next year – maybe the trim too. If this sounds good what color would you say for the cabinets, or do you have any better suggestions for us. Thanks for your help!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 30, 2010 at 9:19 am

      Susan – I think you should go with the hickory flooring since you like it so much. Many times people choose the dark floor because it’s a “safe” choice. But if you have pets, you will regret it. Every light colored speck, especially pet hair, will show up on a dark floor. Later, when you restain the cabinets, you can experiment with some lighter colors to enhance the contrast with the hickory. But you might also consider going a bit darker with the oak cabinets, maybe a medium dark color that picks up some of the darker shades in the hickory. That might be a richer and more interesting look.

  103. Selena on May 28, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We need your expert opinion. We picked out a maple with spiced fruitwood stain cabinets with Santa Cecilia granite counters and tile floors. Our kitchen opens up into a family room. The stair rails and hall way cabinets also have the same maple w/spiced fruitwood. We want to install hand-scraped/distressed engineer wood in the family room (as well as entry and dining room). We don’t like oak or anything too natural/yellow in tone. Would it be okay to go with a darker floor? What kind of wood and stain color would you recommend?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 30, 2010 at 9:28 am

      Selena – Dark floors could be very nice, but be aware that dark floors show dust and pet hair easily. Maybe something that is a shade darker than “medium” but not too dark would work well. Because you have maple cabinets that have a smooth grain pattern, you could select a wood flooring that has a more visually active grain, like hickory, pecan, or walnut. There are so many choices in hand-scraped pre-finished floors, it can be hard to reach a decision. I would suggest choosing two or three candidates at the flooring store and borrowing their samples to take home and set next to your cabinets. This will give you the best idea of what works or doesn’t work. Do this several times, if you need to. It’s worth the effort to help you make the best decision.

  104. Mary Kirk on June 1, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Hi Bill: We’re moving in to a house in August that has a 40 year old galley kitchen. What do you think of distressed black bottom cupboards and maple top cupboards. We plan on a light hardwood floor. We’re just in the talking stages of planning this kitchen.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      Mary – Using two different finishes on cabinets can look great and is becoming increasingly popular. The distressed black would look good with your light hardwood floors. The smooth-grained maple upper cabinets will give you freedom in the choice of wood species for the flooring since you won’t have to worry about a grain clash. It sounds like you’re on the right track.

  105. Alaina on June 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Bill, I’ve got this site bookmarked, I expect to be referencing it frequently! I am a first-time homeowner, never really cared about decorating much but now I need help.
    I’m looking for a wall unit/entertainment center for the living room. It’s painted a light hot chocolate/white trim, with medium oak-colored floor and I have three medium cherry bookcases on one wall. Can I mix the furniture colors, and if so, what would complement both the floor and bookcases? I am leaning towards sage green for the couch and loveseat and want a rug w/burgundy in it to pick up the cherry. Any suggestions on what I could do for the wall unit?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 7, 2010 at 4:43 pm

      Alaina – Your question is a little out of my expertise, so I consulted with my good friend, Agnes Preston Brame. She is a fabulous interior designer in Greensboro, NC. Agnes suggests that you should not use burgundy, especially if it has blue undertones. She thought the sage was a good idea, particularly if it is mixed with different shades of browns, creams, ivory, and possibly a deeper red accent. The sage could also have a couple of different shades, or depths, to it.

      I hope this helps. If you need more help, you can contact Agnes at I’m sure she would be available for a few hours of consultation.

  106. Suzanne on June 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Hi Bill – I have a 20 year old home with oak floors, railings, stairs and cabinets. Lots of cabinets. The oak is very yellow. What would be the best update to the kitchen cabinets if we assume we have to leave the floors (and stairs and railings) alone? I was considering staining the cabinets dark as the only option I could think of. But if I could resurface in another wood and get new doors, that might be great. The countertops are a light grey corian that I’d like to change, but probably can’t afford to. What wood and stain color compliments the yellowed oak? Can’t wait to hear from you!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

      Suzanne – What a nice setting for your home. In looking at the pictures of the kitchen, it seems that this is a case of the wood cabinets blending in too much with the wood floor. You could use some contrast. By the way, the flooring has not yellowed because the wood changed color. The polyurethane finish is what has turned yellow. If you wanted to change the floor to a less yellow color, a simple refinishing would do the trick.

      If you choose to keep the floors as-is, then you might want to consider darkening the cabinets. But I don’t think you have to go really dark. With the bright, airy feel of your house, a medium stain might be as dark as you should go. That would still provide an interesting contrast to the flooring. Look at stains that have a hint of red. That should be complimentary to the yellowish flooring. You can restain the cabinets without totally refinishing them. Take a look at the polyurethane stains that already have a color in them. You could simply make sure the cabinets are clean and smooth, then apply this tinted stain right on top of the old finish. But remember to do samples in inconspicuous spots to be sure of the outcome.

      If you need any help with anything else, I know a great architect in your area. His name is Leo Smith. If you contact him, be sure to tell him I sent you.

  107. Suzanne on June 14, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Part 2:
    Here is a link to my kitchen if it helps you to see it. Thanks.

  108. kathy on June 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Hi – I’m so glad i came across your blog. We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel and will be opening up our kitchen to our dining room. The kitchen will be a good size, with a large island with seating.

    We are planning on going with natural laquered cherry and we were originally going to continue our white oak floring from the dining room to the kitchen. Yesterday we discovered that there is fir floors in our existing kitchen so now we are torn.

    Will the fir be too close in color to the cherry cabinets? We will be going with a raven quartz countertop and some sort of blue on the walls ,and likely some sort of white subway tile. .

    thanks for any advise you can offer. .

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      Kathy – Fir is a white wood that can turn very red when exposed to light. I don’t know if the fir you uncovered has had enough exposure to have turned, yet. But the red tone of fir is quite different from the red tone of cherry. Cherry is a warm, tawny red. Fir can be a brighter, almost purplish red. My guess is the two will not be compatible. Fir floors might require a very light wood cabinet or painted cabinets to really work well. But as I often say, try out some large samples together to help visualize what the finished kitchen might look like.

  109. kathy on June 29, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Thanks. . this was helpful. . we are going to stick with our original plan of natural stained white oak!


  110. Kay Butkowski on July 11, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I am updating my kitchen/family room which is currently outdated golden oak cabinets and trim. We are painting the cabinets a warm white, replacing the hardware and putting in granite counter tops. As the trim is the same in our entire house, and our floor plan is fairly open, I hesitate to change it. I need ideas for wood flooring (species and tone) that will look updated, but not clash with the trim. I prefer darker tones to lighter ones. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thank you,

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 16, 2010 at 9:54 am

      Kay – I think the new flooring needs to have a smooth grain so it won’t clash with the busier grain of the oak trim. Take a look at maple. You can find some nice prefinished maple floors that have darker stains. You might also consider some of the wide plank, hand-scraped or “character oak” options. The “less refined” look of those floors might compliment the oak trim and set off the newly painted cabinets.

  111. Jessica on July 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I am struggling on choosing a kitchener floor. Our main floor is open concept and our dining room has a beautiful light maple floor with the kitchener right off that has tile with light dark granite countertop and light maple doors. We are removing the tile and hoping to put bamboo in the kitchener. What would you suggest that would compliment our beatiful maple floor in the dining room and still match with the maple doors?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 16, 2010 at 9:49 am

      Jessica – The bamboo should have some contrast to the color of the maple. Something just a bit darker, but not too much, might be nice. If you can get some samples of the bamboo, bring them home and lay them next to the exisitng floor to see what looks best.

  112. tiffany on July 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I am getting chocolate hard wood floors in my living room and great room. My cabinets in my kitchen are cherry wood and my dining room table is cherry which can both be seen from the living/great rooms. Is that too much of a contrast???

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 25, 2010 at 9:27 pm


      I don’t think it’s too much contrast, as long as the room is bright enough to handle the darker wood tones.

  113. Beth on July 19, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Hi Bill,
    What a fun idea!! You do a great job without seeing wood finish samples. My situation is unique – my kitchen measures 6′ x 10′, with two doors. My whole townhouse is 10′ wide!! I have a total of 5 cabinets. Existing wood floor throughout the house is oak stained in a medium brown, and we love it. Existing 25 year old cabinets are white laminate. We are considering wood replacement cabinets, but are concerned about a small kitchen feeling even smaller with darker cabinets up to the ceiling. White replacement feels too casual, and is too matchy with existing built-ins in the dining room. We are stumped. Thoughts? Thank you!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm

      Beth – You might want to look at some off-white, cream colored painted cabinets. They can offer an elegant look without getting too “sanitary” looking. The cream color can look great with medium oak floors.

  114. Karen on July 20, 2010 at 7:57 am

    We are doing major renovations in our home and are in the process or both ordering our new kitchen cabinets as well as installing our flooring. We have a very open concept and the dining room furniture (which is all oak – mission style) is right near the kitchen cabinets. The floor in the kitchen will be a lighter tile (mixed shades of beige), we were putting down engineered wood flooring down in the dining area. The kitchen cabinets we ordered are maple and there will be stainless steel appliances. We are currently trying to determine what stain to apply to the cabinets. Originally we have been trying to somewhat match the shade of the kitchen cabinets to the shade of our dining room furniture but after reading a number of posts here, not sure that is the right tactic. We also had already bought our wood flooring – a sunset sand hickory rustic flooring but when we brought the flooring home, it is alot darker than we thought – it actually almost matches the dining room furniture. Dilemna…do we place that wood flooring in our bedroom (which is a similar size so that is an option) and get a lighter flooring – if so, what wood and shade? Do we go with a lighter shade of stain on the cabinets but not too light since the tile floor in the kitchen is light or stick with trying to get a similar shade as our dining room furniture? Any suggestions would be most welcome. Thanks.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 25, 2010 at 9:37 pm

      Karen – Since the grain of the wood is an important element in mission style furniture, it would be best to not let your floor compete with it. I think a smooth grained wood like maple is a good choice. If the one you already bought looks too dark and does not offer enough contrast with the furniture, try out a few samples with a lighter stain. I don’t think you have to go too light, however. But a medium-light stain would give a subtle contrast witht he medium oak. Take full sized sample home to evaluate them in your rooms and against your furniture, just to be sure.

  115. Pam P on July 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Bill,
    Wonderful blog! It sounds like everyone has the same problem as me. We’re building a craftsman style house with a lot of wood work and have to pick out our stains now. The kitchen cabinets are select Alder and the floors are going to be white oak (though we have not bought the floor wood yet and can still change). My husband likes dark stains and I like light (I would have preferred to paint the kitchen cabinets white for a brighter look). Are there two medium stains you could recommend (one for floor and one for cabinets) that would still provide contrast? Perhaps something slightly darker for cabinets and lighter for floors? We have Yellow River granite in the kitchen with ivory travertine. One more tidbit..all our doors (to exit the house) are mahogany stained very dark. Your suggestions are appreciated!!
    Thanks, Pam

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 25, 2010 at 9:47 pm

      Pam – It’s really hard to make firm recommendations without seeing samples of everything. I am unfamiliar with Yellow River granite. Many granite companies choose their own names for the granites they sell so you can’t go find it elsewhere. One thing I can say is that alder is a smooth grained wood. It will be a nice companion with the grainier oak, even if the stain color is dark on both the cabinets and the flooring. I usually caution against staining oak too dark. I feel it hides the beauty of the wood. Dark colored floors also show all of the dust and are hard to keep clean. Try staying with a medium-dark stain on the floor and see how that looks. Your husband might be surprised to see that it does not have to be black to achieve the look he may have in mind. Then you could go ahead and let the cabinets be darker. The only way to make a good choice is to get large samples of the flooring and cabinets and bring them home to see how they look in your house. The lighting in the store can be deceiving.

  116. Pam P on July 23, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Hi Bill, just a quick correction on my post from July 22nd. We are using select alder cabinets with red oak floors. I didn’t realize the decision had been made! The stains you show in your example picture above are really nice, but I think too light for my husband. The floor stain might work though with a darker cabinet. Any suggestions you have from your own work would be greatly appreciated.

  117. Pamela on July 31, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Your site is very informative! My husband & I just bought our first home, we are planning on re-doing the flooring in the living/dining comination room and in the family room and bedrooms. Our kitchen will be left with ceramic tile for the moment. We are torn between a warm hazlenut and harvest oak flooring. I’m a bit worried the dark wood will give the wrong illusion in making the formal living space small since it is not very large and only has one large window for natural lighting. And we also haven’t decided on the wall paint, but most likely will go with a beige color scheme. (The color for our leather furniture sets are off white and peanut butter).
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 1, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      Pamela – Dark floors don’t automatically make a room look smaller. Actually, they can increase a room’s apparent size by helping the pieces of lighter colored furniture visually separate from one another. But dark floors do reduce the reflected light in the room. So if the floors are dark, be sure to provide ample additional artificial light. One other issue with dark floors is that they tend to show dust and dirt very easily. If you have pets, then definitely stay away from dark floors. You’ll see every bit of pet hair. I also think that wood should look like wood. Try to pick a wood with a warm, medium colr that is still light enough to allow the beauty of the wood and its grain to show through.

      For wall colors, in rooms with little natural daylight, you might want to pick a color with a bit of a yellow hue. This will make the room seem “sunnier.” It also will reflect light nicely. So if you go with beige, stay away from the grey versions of beige.

  118. Kristi on August 2, 2010 at 1:27 am

    Hi Bill,

    I am not the first to say this, and I know I will not be the last, but it was incredibly helpful to find your blog! We are building a new home, and it can be at once both exciting and frustrating to have so many wood and stain choices.

    Although we realize it will be difficult to keep clean in the kitchen, we are leaning towards a darker hardwood floor as it seems to have a more sophisticated look (not black, but dark brown). We want handscraped with the grain which I believe darkens it even more and helps it wear better over time. We decorate traditional tending towards Old World and I think this may work well. We are considering the white oak wood with an espresso stain, and I’m wondering if plain sawn will look too streaky or if the handscraping will help mitigate the streakiness while still allowing some of the natural wood grain to show through. Do you think quarter sawn would look nicer considering the dark espresso stain and handscraping?

    We’re also having trouble picking kitchen cabinet wood and stain. I want warmth and want to feel invited into the kitchen, but my fiancee does not like red type stains, and I am not crazy about yellow type stains or painted cabinets. I understand from your blog that dark maple wood is most likely a good choice to go against the dark brown oak floors, but I would appreciate hearing your take on stain colors for the dark maple wood. We have selected a granite countertop that is on the lighter side with nice touches of brown and black. I don’t want the kitchen to be too dark but I also don’t want light honey brown maple cabinets either. Something elegant and timeless would be best. Thank you very much in advance for your help!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 4, 2010 at 11:31 am

      Kristi – Nice name. That’s our daughter’s name and it’s spelled the same as yours! With very dark stains and the hand-scraping, the grain of the wood is not as important since it is not as visible. So you probably don’t need to spend the extra money on quarter-sawn oak. For the cabinets, you might take a look at a medium to medium dark stain with a sable (black) glaze. That would give you a bit of contrast and highlight the cabinets while the glaze would draw the tone of the cabinets toward the dark floors. It would also keep you away from the yellow and honey colored tones.

  119. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Denise on August 4, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Can you suggest a wood color for my kitchen floor? We have red cherry cabinets and grey paint on the walls with white crown molding and trim. What color wood floor would you suggest? Thanks

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 16, 2010 at 11:30 am

      Denise – White oak with a medium to light stain works nicely with cherry cabinets. Or you could go the other direction with a walnut or something fairly dark. But dark floors are hard to maintain in a kitchen.

  120. Patty K on August 5, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Hi Bill,

    We have oak cabinets in our kitchen and downstairs bath. Everything in our house is oak. We would like to put down wood flooring in our kitchen, bath, entry way and dining room. However we have contemplated using laminate flooring instead of real wood. Do you have any insight on what we should look at when looking for laminate flooring?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 16, 2010 at 11:49 am

      Patty K – Look for a pattern that has a smooth grain look to it. You don’t want the visually active grain of the oak to compete with the flooring. Before finalizing your decision about laminate, walk on a finished laminate floor to be sure you like how it sounds. Sometimes it can sound/feel a bit hollow. just be sure it is what you expect. One huge benefit to laminate is it is extremely easy to take care of.

  121. Columbus Homes on August 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Great information… We are thinking about switching to hardwood floors and are trying to figure out what matches our cabinets…

  122. Stacey on August 8, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Hi Bill. I’m having my hardwood floors refinished and, as your other writers, I’m having difficulty choosing a stain. Currently, I have oak floors, woodwork and cabinets all the same color, I’m told it appears to be Early American. I would like a subtle contrast stain for the floors. I’ve always been drawn to darker hues and thought a shade or two darker would be best, but my contractor recommended going a shade lighter – i.e, golden oak. I’d love your advice…ligher or darker??? If I go darker, what stain would you recommend? (I prefer a modern look over country or rustic.) Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

      Stacey – A darker floor can be more dramatic and can make the rest of the oak pop. But darker floors may tend to look more traditional than you want. I can’t really suggest stains by name without seeing your house. But I would suggest getting a few samples from the store and bringing them home to lay out next to your cabinets. That’s the true test. Try the light colors, too. Chances are the lighter colors may give a more modern look.

  123. Courtnie on August 14, 2010 at 8:27 pm


    I am so glad I found this site. I am helping my parents build a new home and we have fallen in love with solid natural hand scraped hickory floors. My sister just finished her home with these floors and selected natural hickory cabinets. The problem with this is that the home appears to be to busy. What are your suggestions for a lighter kitchen cabinet that would go well with these floors. My parents are more matchy people but are aware that they need at least some sort of contrast if you could please help us we would appreciate it!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

      Courtnie – Hickory has a fairly busy grain. It sounds like your sister’s home is an example of a bit too much of a good thing. For your parents, I would suggest one of the smoother grained woods, like cherry, maple, or alder. Cherry is best with little or no added color to the stain. Maple and alder come in all sorts of color options. You might even consider some of the “stain with glaze” finishes to pick up some of the hickory color variations and tie them to the cabinets. This might help your parents feel they are matching things a little more. Don’t be afraid to ask the store for large samples, even full doors and bigger pieces of the flooring, to take and ponder for a day or two. Sometimes the store lighting can be a lot different than the lighting at home. This will help you make a good choice.

  124. Kathy on August 16, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Hi Bill,
    This is just a wonderful website.
    I have natural maple floors,woodwork and trim in my kitchen. Southern exposure with a 10 ft window (countertop to ceiling) on the outside wall ( no upper cabinets on that wall – galley kitchen) so I get much natural light, however, I live in northern Minnesota with lots of cloudy days and months of snow.
    My question is do you think white painted cabinets and white island or white painted cabinets with natural cherry island would be to cold or sterile looking. Or should I just use all natural cherry?
    On granite countertops, light or dark with the above questions.
    Thank you in advance for you expert advice.

  125. Dylan on August 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We have ordered cherry stained maple slab style door front cabinets. We will intall them on a refinished 60 year old oak floor which spans our whole main level. Our style is contemporary, but not ultra contemporary.

    I’m having a very difficult time choosing a stain as I do not want medium oak. It’s very prevalent where we live (Grosse Pointe, Michigan) and just doesn’t seem to lend itself to contemporary for me.

    I was thinking to go dark, as in mocha or coffee, but thought that it may be harsh for the rest of the whole main level. Then you talk about natural but I worry about yellowing.

    By the way I have been blogging, writing, and speaking for years and this post is the most impressive I’ve ever seen from a non celebrity. Amazing following.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 19, 2010 at 9:53 am

      Dylan – Thanks for the compliment on the blog post. It’s been amazing how many people have questions and need answers on this topic.

      Light oak floors will look more contemporary than dark oak floors. Dark oak tends to feel Early American. The flooring, itself, does not yellow. It’s the oil-based polyurethane that yellows. If you refinish your floors with a natural, water-based poly, they will stay whiter looking and not turn yellow. Water-based polyurethane is also a tougher finish than oil-based and will wear longer. Keep in mind that water-based poly can look a bit flatter (less shiny) than oil-based. So you might want to consider a glossier finish to give the floor a clean, bright look.

  126. Sue on August 20, 2010 at 12:37 am

    We have the typical 90’s golden oak cabinets, railings and trim in our home. We are going to replace the flooring in our dining room and kitchen and are considering carbonized strand bamboo, but I’m afraid that it will be too big of a color difference, especially since our current flooring is very light. What do you think

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 20, 2010 at 11:46 am

      Sue – Carbonized bamboo comes in several shades. It’s likely there is one that will offer a pleasant amount of contrast to your golden oak cabinets tand will work out nicely. Take some good-sized samples from the store to test out in your home to make the best choice. Also, check out what kind of grain the bamboo has. The way the strips of bamboo are laid, either on the vertical edge or on the horizontal side, can affect how the floor looks. Whichever one looks the smoothest will likely look best with your oak.

  127. Kathy on September 3, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Hi Bill,
    What a great thing you do with this blog. Thank you so much. We have lots of medium/golden oak in our late 80’s house. There are oak hardwood floors in the foyer and living/dining room. Then our kitchen has porcelain tile with the golden oak cabs and our family room which is open to the kitchen (divided by an oak railing) has an oak fireplace wall. I would like to put a darker hardwood floor in the family room but am having a hard time deciding on the width I should go with. The floors in the LR are 2 & 1/4 inch oak and I found some nice prefinished beech in the same width. Should I stick with the same width or does it matter? What is your opinion on beech and do you think it would look ok with the oak baseboards.
    Thank you

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm

      Kathy – Beechs should work well since it’s a relatively smooth grain pattern. The width of the boards does not have to match the living room floor width. A color that’s somewhat darker than your oak would be nice. But keep in mind that very dark floors are hard to keep clean. All of the light specks and dust will show on it.

  128. margaret on September 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Bill:

    Can you give advice on the best installation of an engineered wood floor over a concrete slab. The floor we have picked out is a Brazilian Teak Engineered Wood Floor, has a micro bevel, is 3/8 thick and 3 inches wide. We will have it installed in our family room, which is on the main level. The flooring specifies it should be nailed or glued down. Are there problems that will be encountered by glueing an engineered wood floor down directly to concrete? Doesn’t it need a moisture barrier? Or would it have been best to install a floating floor? I really like the look of the flooring that we have picked out, but want to be sure we have made a good choice and will be happy with the results for a long time to come. Any advice you can offer is appreciated. Thanks

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 10, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Margaret – I think I might have overlooked your question and not answered it, yet. Sorry. Yes, engineered wood flooring can be installed over concrete. And there does need to be a vapor barrier. This can be a brushed on waterproofing that the wood can later be glued to. I don’ t know the exact specifications for this off the top of my head, but a reputable wood floor installer can help you with that. Of course, the engineered wood flooring can also be installed as a floating floor where each piece is glued to the next forming a unified slab. But usually the glued down floor will feel and sound more solid.

  129. Vicky Hughes on September 8, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    We are remodeling and would like to go with natural hickory floors. Our existing trim for windows and doors is oak stained fruitwood. Our delima is what type of wood for kitchen cabinets do we use. It is a split entery home all open to the upstairs where this is all taking place with alot of natural light. The stairs will be changed out from carpet to the hickory. We want to stay light in color, and like the look of grain in the wood. Will we have to change out all of our trim as well and if so, what type of wood trim would you suggest. Thank you for your suggestions.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

      Vicky – I’ll bet you would prefer to avoid changing all of your trim. That can be a big expense. Try out some sizeable sample of the hickory flooring next to your baseboards and see how it looks. You might get lucky and find that the coloration is compatible. I would consider a smoother grained wood for the cabinets. Maple is a light wood that is available in many colors of stain. There might be a nice compatible, light color that will bring everything together for you.

  130. Courtnie on September 14, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Hi Bill,

    What do you think about white cabinets with a handscraped natural hickory floor? I have been to multiple cabinet shops having samples made of alder, maple, and cherry, but are just not getting that classic country look that we are aiming for. Your thoughts?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 14, 2010 at 2:41 pm

      Courtnie – White or slightly off-white cabinets always look good with natural wood floors. So I think this is a good option.

  131. Steven on October 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    I am trying to do two things – First, repair a lot of screw holes that were put down on my hard floor when carpet was put in. The floor is very nice except for all the screw holes. I believe the right way to do this is with stainable wood filler???
    Second – I want to stain the floor darker, maybe even a red mahogany color but am not sure if I should go that dark. Most of the trim, doors, windows are pretty much the same color as the floor. The floor right now is a oak color.
    Any suggestions?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      Steven – Wood fillers are the usual remedy for holes in wood floors. However, fillers can sometimes work loose and can be difficult to stain to match the floor. You should experiment with the stain before attempting to do the whole floor. If the holes are rather large, a more labor intensive, but better way to fix them might be to install wood plugs. As far as color goes, dark floors are nice looking, but keep in mind that the darker the floor, the more it will show dust, pet hair, and light colored debris. Dark floors that have just been swept can look dirty quickly since a dark floor is so unforgiving and reveals every speck. A mahogany color that is not extremely dark can work and stays in the natural mahogany range of colors can still work nicely, however. But the color of older mahogany furniture may be too dark.

  132. What Direction Should Hardwood Flooring Run? on October 23, 2010 at 10:05 am

    […] course, selecting the right wood for your floor is very important. Consider the grain and color of the wood and how it will look with other wood items in the room, like kitchen cabinets and wood […]

  133. ANNA on October 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm


    MY whole house is Oak, I’m not very fond of Oak. I have Oak flooring throught the whole first floor and it is very open. I would like to change the color or change my kitchen cabinets completely. I have dark granite counters. I like Cherry and Maple. Could I do this in the kitchen? What would make my kitchen stand out. Im trying to make my kitchen Tuscan style.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      Anna – Cherry or maple would work well with the dark countertops and oak flooring. You might want to try something with a distressed and glazed finish to capture some of that “Old World” feel of the Tuscan style. If you current oak cabinets are in good condition, you might want to experiment with refinishing them before accepting the cost of replacing them. Oak is hard to paint since the texture of the wood grain will always show through. But you might consider pickling them and distressing them and then appying a glaze to draw attention to the moulding shapes and away from the oak grain. You might save a lot of money and discover that you have something special when completed.

  134. Eva on November 2, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Please help!

    I have a post and beam house with oak frame and oak flooring (honey color).
    My kitchen has tile at the moment but I want to change the floor to wood. I am very attracted to the fossilized bamboo (natural from Cali bamboo). This floor is several shades lighter than the oak. The kitchen opens to the rest of the house with a 4 ft entry – no door. My cabinets are champagne finish maple and counters are deer isle granite. I have radiant heat and the bamboo seems to be a good choice but I am afraid that it might look out of place.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 5, 2010 at 4:03 pm

      Eva – If you choose to use the bamboo flooring, you should probably install a flush wood threshold at the four foot wide entry to the room. This will create a nice transition from your existing oak to the new bamboo. The bamboo kitchen floor could be a nice accent to your cabinets and countertops. It’s pretty hard for me to say yes or no without seeing the actual samples. I would suggest that you get a sizeable sample of the bamboo flooring and bring it home to place next to your cabinets and countertops. That’s the only good way to be sure of your decision. You should know right away if it works or not.

  135. Eva on November 6, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Thank you Bill,

    I got the floor today and although it varies in tone (natural finish) it is a lot closer to the existing floor than I thought. I tested it for scratch and dent resistance and it seems much stronger than the oak that I have in the rest of the house. The color will play nicely with the overall feel of the house which is light and informal.
    About the flash wood threshold. I ordered a transition piece from Cali Bamboo, but it is not flush – it curves and is relatively narrow. Would you suggest using a piece of the actual floor board to create the flush transition? The boards are 3 and3/4 wide.
    Maybe you have a better suggestion?
    Thank you so much.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 6, 2010 at 11:07 am

      Eva – It will look more elegant if the threshold is flush. The curved piece you ordered is used to lap over the edges of the adjoining flooring and works for joining to carpet. But I think the flush look is better and it should be as wide as the walls the “doorway” opening is in. Yes, you can use pieces of the flooring itself to create the threshold. Try to select pieces that match in color as much as possible. That way it will look more like a single, solid piece. Your flooring installer should know how to install it properly.

  136. Michele on November 18, 2010 at 12:14 pm


    I am in the process of redoing the floors on my first floor. We are getting beige carpet for the living room, which bumps up to the kitchen. I have honey oak cabinets and plan on getting a dark counter top (right now it’s gray laminate). I am thinking I need to go lighter on the flooring due to my 3 children and dog. What type of wood and what color would you recommend?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      Michele – Any species of wood that has a smoother grain, like Maple, Santos Mahogany, American Cherry, Brazilian Cherry, or Brazilian Walnut, will work well. Just be sure to select a final color finish that is not exactly the same as the cabinet color so there will be a nice contrast. If you do decide on darker countertops, you may want to select a wood flooring that is a bit lighter than you cabinets. And as you imply in your comment, a lighter floor will look cleaner longer than a darker floor that will show every little speck and dog ahir. And with three children and a dog, you should check the hardness rating of the flooring. Here’s a link to the Janka Hardness Scale you can refer to. The harder the wood, the fewer dings and dents you will have.

      All that being said, that probably leads you to Maple or Santos Mahogany. Santos Mahogany is one of the few woods that actually lightens over time when exposed to light.

  137. Jennifer on November 30, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Bill – My husband and I are FINALLY ripping out our 80’s style, white Formica cabinets and counter tops. We have a dog and 2 cats so we decided to install natural Brazilian cherry hardwood throughout our home. We are trying to decide between Birch or Maple cabinets. We are also debating over the stains. I really like the look of the natural stain with a toffee glaze but my husband is worried that this would be too light. He likes a toffee stain, but I worry that this is too dark. Any suggestions?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 30, 2010 at 11:31 pm

      Jennifer – Another component to consider are your countertops. If they are going to be dark, you probably want to keep the cabinets a little lighter. That would mean the natural stain with the toffee glaze would be best. But if you are choosing lighter countertops, the darker toffee stain cabinets might offer a nicer contrast. Put samples of all of the parts together before making your final selections. That’s the best way to envision the final result. Good Luck.

  138. Scotty on December 2, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Bill–We are looking at building a new home. The designer kitchen we are wanting to do has maple cabinets stained “espresso” (black with a tinge of purple to it) with stainless steel appliances. Some of the cabinets have glass doors/shelves and are lit. There is a maple/espresso center island as well. The counter tops will be Silestone. I am torn between two hardwood floors. One floor is a 4″ wide plank in walnut (darker). The other is a 4″ wide plank in hickory (natural). I absolutely LOVE the grain of the natural hickory, but I am wondering if it will be too light in color when used with the espresso maple cabinets? Or, would the darker walnut be the way to go (the walnut is not as dark as the espresso, but still quite a bit darker than the hickory). One last thing, the trim in the home will be white enamel. The pantry door in the corner of the kitchen will be white enamel. Any help would be appreciated!

  139. Scotty on December 2, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Bill—forgot to add…we are also considering a maple “butterscotch” center island which is kind of an off white aged look to it. We were thinking that if we went with the natural hickory flooring that this might tie in a bit better in the center of the room. Or, would the three different colors be too much? Decisions decisions decisions…

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 2, 2010 at 11:47 pm

      Scotty – I think the hickory sounds great. The maple/espresso cabinets will be a very muted grain pattern so they will not fight with the hickory flooring. And the lightness (relatively speaking) of the floor will work very well with the darker cabinets. I would be concerned about using the walnut floor with the espresso cabinets. So I agree that the hickory is the way to go.

      Regarding your follow up question about having the center island cabinetry be a different finish form the other cabinets and thus introducing a third finish, this is a nice way to add even more interest to a kitchen. The lighter color for the island with the aged look should work well with the hickory floors. It sounds like you’re on the right track. Good luck with everything.

  140. Scotty on December 3, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Bill—Thanks for the quick reply and advice. Nice website by the way!

  141. Virginia on December 5, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Bill – We are remodeling our kitchen. The cabinets are natural maple with inset shaker-style doors. The counter tops are Spectrus granite which is predominately black with gray, gold, and faint blue swirls. My husband is looking at Patagonian Rosewood Ruby for the flooring. The sample that we are looking at has beautiful figure. Do you think this would be too red or dark?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm

      Virginia – Patagonian Rosewood is a beautiful wood. We are planning on using it on one of my current projects. Although it’s a dark wood, there is enough variety in the coloration to keep it from being hard to maintain and it should not show light colored specks too much. Plus it is incredibly hard and will resist dents. Its redness should not be a problem with maple cabinets and the dark, almost black streaks in the Patagonian rosewood will compliment the black countertops. It should look terrific.

  142. Virginia on December 6, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Bill – Thank you so much for the quick response. Would you have any concerns over using engineered Patagonian Rosewood versus solid? We noticed that the surface finish of the samples by Johnson Hardwood seemed to scratch easily and the scratches are very visible against the dark color. They have a new product called ForeverTuff with a resin coating which promises to be more scratch-resistant but it’s only available in engineered.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm

      Virginia – That sounds like the way to go. I am told that factory applied finishes are tougher than any “field applied” finish there is. This new finish sounds even better. Engineered wood floors have a distinct advantage over solid in that they are more dimensionally stable. They won’t expand and shrink wiht the season nearly as much. That will mean the wintertime gaps will be much smaller.

  143. GK on December 22, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Bill, one of the best blogs I have seen. Plenty of good information and great ideas on this site. We have golden oak cabinets and vinyl flooring in our kitchen. We are looking at replacing the vinyl floor in the kitchen and carpet in living room, dining room and family rooms with Solid hardwood floor. We were debating between Brazilian Cherry and Tigerwood Natural (available at Can you please help us? Which floor would look better with our oak cabinets. Thanks.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 24, 2010 at 10:11 am

      GK – I think the Brazillian cherry would be better. The tigerwood has a very distinct and “active” grain. it will fight with the distinct grain of the oak in your cabinets. You should take a look at several pieces of the actual Brazilian cherry your flooring supplier will be giving you. What is sold as Brazilian cherry is often an assortment of three species of wood. The primary species is Jatoba. This is the redish wood yu see in the samples. Incidentally, it is not an actual cherry tree, at all. But it is called that when marketed. Some of the other species that might be a part of the assortment are not cherries, either. And sometimes they can even look a bit green in tone. So preview what will be supplied to ensure you’ll have some color consistency. Actually, this is a good idea for buying any species of wood you choose.

  144. Janice on December 29, 2010 at 1:04 am

    Hi Bill,
    Can you tell me what you think about a “select grade”, Brazilian Redwood floor to contrast with honey oak cabinets?…the grain seems to be fairly fine, reddish/brown tones.

    Also, if you think that floor might work…what do you recommend for countertops? Contrast or match floors/cabinets?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm

      Janice – Brazilian Redwood would be a good choice. The smooth grain would work well with the oak and there would be a nice color contrast. For the countertops, you would haved a lot of choices. A nice contrast, either going lighter or darker will work. With the darker floors, I think I would look at the lighter color countertops first.

  145. Kristy on January 7, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Bill! I’ve been looking for advice on my kitchen remodel and I’m so glad I found your site!
    I have a very small u shaped kitchen and the floor we chose are bamboo jacobean which is a very dark color. We are extending that from our kitchen into our living room for better flow. I wanted natural maple cabinets and we have black appliances and we are going w/ a darker counter top w/ natural hues (not sure on back splash yet). Do you think the dark floors (depends on the lighting looks almost black at times) is too much of a contrast w/ the maple cabinets?
    Heres the site w/ the floors

    Thank you for your advice!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Kristy – I think the black appliances give you a lot of freedom in what countertop color you choose. The dark top will visually connect with the appliances. The contrast with the lighter colored maple cabinets will be dramatic, but nice. You might look into natural maple with a sable or dark brown glaze to help emphasize the detail in the cabinet doors. For your backsplashes, consider a lighter color tile that draws out the natural hues in the countertop. That will ease the transition from the tops to the upper cabinets and give the kitchen some additional unity.

  146. Christina Crescenzi on January 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Hello — our house burned down TWO years ago and we are in the final stages of finishing…. We have one huge room that is kitchen, dining room and living room — about 1200 square feet. We have the Sapele cabinets in the kitchen and dining areas and now need to decide NOW on what hardwood. I love Cumuru (Brazilian Teak) but it seems to be too much of a match with the Sapele as does the Tigerwood (virtually identical) and Brazilian cherry. Am I wrong? Could the Cumuru go with the Sapele and not blend in and beome a sea of wood?

    I grew up in Brazil and always liked Ipe but I am not sure that is a good choice either. I know enough to not want a strong grain wood since the Sapele is so grainy. Please help. My contractor says I have brought the project to a standstill. I know what woods I like — just not what will work with the Sapele.

    Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 22, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Christina – I have used Cumaru flooring with Sapele paneling in the past with great success. Both woods do have a lot of grain, but the sapele is at least not a curving, swirling grain so it looks more refined and “cabinet-like” than the Cumaru. I have also used quarter sawn oak with sapele. Unlike plain sawn oak, quarter sawn or rift sawn oak has a very straight grain and won’t compete with the sapele. You can also leave the oak a medium to light color to gain some additional contrast.

      So either choice works, but if you go with the Cumaru, you probably need to choose a lighter countertop to provide some brightness and contrast. Let us know what you choose and how it turns out.

  147. Deb Weeks on January 26, 2011 at 11:51 am

    We live in a 1935 larger cape cod which has been updated eclectically. We have a barn board dining room, hardwood floors, pine paneling in several places. Our galley kitchen is in need of renovation and because of so much wood in the house I wanted to lighten up this room. It has a dark pine paneled ceiling and hand painted blue/white Mexican tiles at one end. I would like to keep the tiles if possible but I need that area for more counter space and possibly open shelving. I wanted to have a white kitchen but have learned that painted cabinets often crack at the seams. If we go with stained cabinets instead of white, what color cabinets would look good with the dark ceiling and blue/white tiles? And what type of flooring would go well? Thanks for your (much needed) advice.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      Deb – Well-built painted cabinets should not crack at the seams unless your indoor relative humidity gets very low in the wintertime. A humidifier on your heating system should keep the humidity up. With all that wood, painted cabinets, or painted cabinets with a glaze, would be a nice contrast and give you a lighter feel to the rooms. But if you do choose to go with a wood finish cabinets, try maple with a stain that is on the light side. Maple has a smooth grain that will go well with the other wood elements. A natural finish with a light colored glaze could be a good choice, too. A white glaze would let the cabinets complement the white in your blue and white tiles in a subtle way.

  148. Blair on February 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Bill, we are currently building a new home would like to have American Walnut flooring. What kitchen cabinet color would you suggest to great with this floor?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm

      Blair – Walnut is a beautiful wood for a kitchen floor. Because it is dark, you have a lot of options for your cabinet wood. I would suggest staying away from woods that have red tones in them like cherry. They would “fight” with the blackish brown hue of the flooring. Alder or Maple would be good choices. You might want to look at these woods with a medium to medium-light stain, possibly with a sable colored glaze to work with the brown tones of the walnut. If you’re not dead-set on natural wood cabinets, one very nice cabinet color choice with walnut flooring is a painted cabinet in a creamy color.

  149. Adeline on February 25, 2011 at 12:21 am

    Hi Bill,
    We recently bought a house that has a beautiful wooden medium-brown railing that leads from the basement stairs, along the first floor hallway, up the stairs to the second floor and along the upper level hallway. The color of the railings and the stairs are perfect. The problem exists with the upper level where the floor is all parquet. We get a lot of sunlight through the upper floor windows and especially when the light hits the parquet floors, they become very orangey. Quality of the floor is nice but the orangey parquet pattern is really outdated (almost tacky) and is the first thing I want to change. We have come across two options: 1. re-stain the parquet to a dark walnut (will it look good and does that mean we have to change the railing? — the railing is very long with over 40 spindles), or 2. put in laminate (heard it is economical, easy DIY, looks good and is durable — but again, do we have to pull out the long railing?). What are some options to modernize outdated parquet floors keeping in mind there is beautiful railing involved? Thanks in advance.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 26, 2011 at 11:16 am

      Adeline – If the parquet flooring is made of solid wood, it can be refinished like any other wood floor. It can be sanded to remove the existing finish and stain. The stain does not penetrate the wood ver much. So the sanding will not need to go deeply into the wood. Once sanded, you can finish the parquet floor in any color you want.

      If the floor is in good shape you may only need to have the floor lightly sanded and then resealed with a sealer that contains a stain. A good flooring installer can give you guidance on what method is best.

      I would suggest that if your parquet floor is in good condition you should not put a laminate floor over it. The laminate floor would be a step down in your home’s value. The real wood is seen as a higher level material than the laminate.

      Keep your nice railing and enjoy a freshly refinished floor.

  150. vicki on February 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I have real mexican tile in my kitchen and living room am having trouble deciding what color wood to use for my kitchen cabinets. I saw a maple with a coffee glaze that was nice. the gentleman that is building them for me does not have this to choose from. Can I go darker and be ok?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 1, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Vicki – Yes, you can certainly go darker with the cabinets. Just be sure to compare some decent sized samples with the flooring to make sure they are compatible. Tiny samples can be deceiving.

  151. Kayla on March 6, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Bill – I am having major anxiety over choosing a hardwood floor for my home. My kitchen cabinets are a very light oak(I think) and my bedroom furniture is a very dark contrast. So what color floor do I go with? My husband has picked out a brazilian cherry which I love, I’m just not sure how it will look with my cabinets….please help!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm

      Kayle – Brazilian cherry is a relatively smooth grained wood so it should work well with your oak cabinets. I owuld suggest bringing home a sizeable sample of the wood flooring to place nest to your oak cabinets to get a good feel for how they will look together. That’s the only true way to determine if they will work well. Don’t try to make the decision from small sample. If you can’t get a big piece of the flooring as a sample, unscrew one of your cabinet doors and take it to the wood flooring showroom and check it next tot he actual floor you will be getting.

  152. Ricci on March 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    We are renovating a 1920’s Mission Style house. The whole house has oak floors and we have custom oak Shaker Style cabinets being made. We know the Cabinets and the floors should contrast each other but what about the trim? There is a lot of trim in this house and we arent sure what color it should be. The stair case which is also oak is kind of a medium stain typical of the older houses so we were going to make the floors match the staircase and the Cabinets were going to be a darker stain. Please help!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 15, 2011 at 8:57 am

      Ricci – Mission style houses are one of the cases where you would expect all of the wood items to be oak. Although you did not say specifically that your trim was oak, I will assume that to be the case. I would suggest that the trim should not match the cabinet color. It should match or be close to the color of the staircase.

  153. Jan Gunn on March 21, 2011 at 10:37 am

    We are in the process of re-doing a bungalow condo that we will be moving in to. We have purchased it from my mother in law and will want to put our own touches on it of course.

    We are needing to incorporate teak furniture into whatever decisions we make. Currently, the layout is kitchen at one end, separated from the dining living room by a wall. When opened up (which we are doing) it will be one long open living space. Our intention is to re do the cabinetry with a peninsula between kitchen and dining room (no uppers) but more of a space for gathering around with our dinner group. The dining room furniture is teak, as is the coffee/end tables for the living area.

    My original thought was to put in a medium to dark hardwood flooring with a contrasting or lighter grain that would incorporate the teak tones, with a darker cabinet in the kitchen as well…..white marble or granite countertops and a white couch for added contrast and balance the white at each end of the room.

    The biggest question is, dark floor and med / dark cabinets…will that help the teak to stand out. And will the white modern couch and countertop work ok with the teak furniture as well. The wall color is still a complete mystery to me…but thinking something fairly light and neutral. Area rugs for the living area would also be on the white/off white side to work with the couch and break up the darker floor.

    I am however open to any suggestions or thoughts. I have not been able to find anything online that has pictures with teak furniture etc. I struggle with visualizing how it will all come together and would like input before such a huge investment.

    Thanks for any ideas you may have.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm

      Jan – It’s a little hard to say without seeing the furniture and house in person. But conceptually, if your teak is naturally finished and not stained, a darker floor should offer a pleasant contrast and help show off the teak. I would not worry about matching the grain in the teak. Let it stand alone. But do make sure the floor has a pure brown tone and is not reddish. Teak is a yellowish-brown and the red would clash with it. I don’t know if you are considering wood species other than oak, but I would suggest looking at Ipe or Cumaru. They might look good with everything else. If you still find yourself undecided, it might be worth getting an opinion from a good interior designer.

      On another note, you mentioned marble as a possible countertop material. I would strongly urge you to avoid marble. It is soft, scratches easily, and porous, so it soaks up stains. Very mild acids, like vinegar and orange juice will etch the surface and dull the shine. Limestone has the same problems. I refer to both stones as “hard chalk.” If you want like colors, look at some of the granites. There are many light colored choices.

  154. Audrey on April 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Here goes: My home is a 1991 track suburbia home with medium golden/amber pine baseboards, doors & trim. Kitchen cabinets will be cherry wood, chestnut, chocolate glaze stain. The doors and trim will remain the original. The baseboards will be 5-1/4″, stained similar to the doors & trim….or should they? The main floor will be wood flooring and I chose Tigerwood. However, there is a problem with delivery and I might be able to change floors. What do you suggest and would Tigerwood work? Thank you so much for your input.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      Audrey – Tigerwood is an interesting and attractive wood. I think the darker features in the tigerwood will work with the dark glaze in your cabinets. And the smooth grain of the cherry in the cabinets will not “fight” with the more visually “active” grain of the tigerwood. It sounds like this combination will give some interest to your “tract” house where most houses in the neighborhood are so similar. I’m not sure I understand your question about the baseboards, though. If you are planning on matching the baseboards to the door trim and the doors themselves, then I think you’re on the right track.

  155. Amy G on April 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Bill. Fantastic site! I am int he process of putting in new floors and kitchen cabinets. We are going with a Mahogany floor….and cannt decide what color cabinets. Do you suggest a wood or a white/cream/glazed?
    Amy G

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 15, 2011 at 8:38 am

      Amy G – Mahogany is a smooth grained wood. So that will allow you lots of options for the cabinets. Many types of wood will be compatible. I would suggest a wood that gives a nice, but not pronounced, color contrast. Don’t match the floor color. You don’t want to end up with the cabinets appearing to “grow out” of the floor. If you prefer painted or glazed cabinets, almost any color would work well. Just test out sizeable samples to help you see the end result before finalizing your selection.

  156. donovan s. on April 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Bill. I am in the process of renovating my small 120 y.o. home and deciding on the type of floor to install.. about 600 sq.ft through the main floor. I am building my kitchen cabinetry of quartersawn white oak in mission style.. and worried about the color match of a prefinished maple or birch floor.. options seem limited..the samples look too yellow.. my vision is a darker stain on the quarter sawn and as light a floor as possible.. cabinets will be surrounded by black and stainless appliances.. also have a nice stash of red oak I would like to use for my stairs and baseboards.. probably stained.. what do you think? I could use some direction.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Donovan – The prefinished samples of flooring may be yellowish because they are finished with an oil based polyurethane. In your case, with your desire for a mission style kitchen, you may need to install unfinished flooring and finish it on-site to get the color you really want. Then you could use a water based polyurethane which will not yellow. One other comment, quarter sawn oak flooring could be used with quarter sawn cabinetry. I know I usually advise against too much oak. But quarter sawn oak, especially in a mission style, can be the exception to the rule since quarter sawn oak presents a much straighter grain than plain sawn oak.

  157. Debbie on April 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    .I am getting a new kitchen this summer. I pick toffee oak cabinets and Verde Maritaka granite countertop and gray carpet. The walls will be a off white color. Do you think the colors I picked out will look nice together?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      Debbie – It’s hard to say without the physical samples in front of me. But it sounds promising, if I am imagining the colors correctly. Get some good sized samples of each material and place them side by side before making your final decision. That is so much better than trying to decide based on postage stamp sized samples.

  158. Chip on April 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm


    Very informative site. We are completely renovating our kitchen to a contemporary design and working with existing oak flooring of a natural to honey finish. In attempting to select a wood for our cabinetry I believe we would like a darker brown toned smooth grained wood to contrast with the floors. I am having a bit of trouble coming up with a with a wood that would not require too much staining to acheive a darker color with more brown than red tones. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      Chip – Walnut would be a “less red” option. be sure to get walnut that has been steamed. normal walnut can have many white sapwood streaks that you may not like. the steaming takes some of the pigment in the dark, heartwood sections and deposits it into the sapwood areas to make the color mor uniform. One other choice would be cherry with a sable or walnut glaze. The glaze will mute the redness of the cherry nicely.

  159. Kathy on April 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Hi there,
    I have a similar question to most people on your Blog. We have light red oak flooring throughout the main level and are replacing our cabinets. We know there has to be contrast but are confused with making a choice. We will go with birch rather than oak but what stain? There is a mahogany with reddish tones and a chocolate cherry finish which is mainly brown with mild reddish tones which I seem to be drawn to. Also how many different types of wood…stains etc should there be in a room?
    Thanks so much…This site is great!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Kathy – The most important thing is to choose a wood with a smooth grain for cabinets sitting on an “active” grain wood like oak. The color contrast can be relatively subtle. Birch is a nice, smooth grained wood and will stain nicely. So it will do well with the oak. It sounds like your favorite, the chocolate cherry finish, would be a good choice. Although it does sound like dessert and may be high in calories! On your other question of how many wood/stain types can you have in a room, I don’t think there is a definitive answer. Some great rooms have many woods, textures, and colors. My suggestion is to trust your instincts on this. If it feels like too many, then it probably is too many.

  160. Lisa on April 28, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Bill;

    I’m so glad I found your website! We are currently nearing the end of our kitchen renovation, which involved taking down all the walls to create an open floor plan in our 1965 bi-level…apparently we are the first to renovate! We added large windows on all walls, and chose Jameston Maple cabinets, with a light tumbled marble backsplash. We also installed a fireplace in the living room, and our contractor built a mantel which we have yet to stain. I am at a complete loss as how to stain the floors; as the hardwood (oak) runs throughout the entire house. Our style tends to be more “Pottery Barn Classic” as opposed to country, and I absolutely despise the yelloworangy floor that is currently there. We had the “floor guy” throw down several samples on the unfinished new flooring, and hated them all!!! Nutmeg was orange, and I don’t seem to be a fan of Golden Oak…. Please help! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Also, would you recommend staining the mantle the same as the cabinets, because it does all appear to be just one great room. Thanks again!!!!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 30, 2011 at 9:49 am

      Lisa – I’ll start with the easy question about the mantel. If the mantel is meant to be a part of the entire kitchen arrangement, then matching the cabinets is a good idea. But it would be just as appropriate to stain the mantel something else. After all, it is not actually “kitchen cabinetry.” If you choose to stain it something else, consider your furniture that will be in the living room and select a stain that works with it.

      For the floors, you might want to visit the paint store and look at the various stains that are available. Don’t just depend on what the flooring installer brings you. Something with a browner hue might be good. You can mix stains and you can even dilute stains to make them lighter. A diluted walnut stain might be a candidate that won’t make the floor orange or too dark. But one important factor in the final color of the floor is the type of polyurethane you put on over the stain. Oil based poly will yellow as it ages and make any stain look more orange. Consider water based polyurethane. It will not yellow and actually gives you a more durable finish than oil based. But water based poly tends to be duller in it’s finish. You may want to choose a glossier version of it than you would with oil based. And remember, it is always a good idea to do sizeable test sample before making your final decision. These samples can be done right on your floor and easily sanded off once you decide on the final choice.

      And I’m glad you liked my website. Tell your friends!

  161. Divya on May 22, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Hi Bill, My kitchen closets are orange maple wood..we have very neutral off white-beige tiles in the kitchen. We are now planning on doing hardwood flooring in the family room which is open concept with the kitchen. My mind is to get a med dark walnut shade with distressed look to compliment a limestone fireplace. Please advise on the hardwood flooring colour to go as a good flow keeping the kitchen cabinet colour in mind.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on May 25, 2011 at 8:31 am

      Divya – A medium dark walnut sounds like a good option. Any color finish that is not too orange and provides a pleasant contrast to your kitchen cabinets will work. The tone of walnut will work well with the limestone fireplace, as you mentioned. I would suggest not going too dark on the flooring color. Dark floors are hard to keep looking clean since any light colored specks and pet hair will show easily.

  162. Rob on May 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    We are installing stained wood trim and baseboards thoughout the house. The stain is Early American on spruce and the doors will be Early American on knotty pine. We need to put a new vanity in a bathroom and like one that is a dark espresso wood finish. Will that be OK?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      Rob – The espresso stained wood on the cabinet should work nicely. That is a dark stain that will suppress the grain of whatever wood the vanity is made of. But chances are it will be a relatively smooth grain wood, anyway. So as long as the hue of the various stain colors you have are compatible, your only pronounced grain will be the knots in the knotty pine. That will keep you from having the wood grain conflicts I’ve discussed.

  163. Manali on June 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Bill,
    So glad I came across your blog! We are making choices for our new home, in which our cabinets are going to be Maple with sable stain, and the counter top will be tan brown. What might be the good combination for the hardwood floor? We are thinking about oak amber. Will it look too busy? Especially because it will extend to the whole floor including family room. Your input is much appreciated.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 6, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      Manali – I don’t think the oak will be too busy. And it won’t compete with the cabinets since maple is a smooth garined wood. But if you are concerned about the grain in the oak being too visible. you might ask for prices for quarter-sawn oak, instead. Because of the way quarter-sawn oak is cut, you will not have those curving grains you see in plain-sawn oak. Once you have the actual price difference to consider, you can decide if it is worth it to you or not.

  164. sherryl on July 2, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Bill,
    is it okay to have different wood color for floor and stairs/handrailing.
    I want to have a light floor (birch trinity) because I want to create a contemporary theme inside my house but my house has existing cherry handrails and customized landing. I am afraid it might not look good with my choice of flooring. Any advice?
    If I have to redo my stairs, what color should I stain/paint them with?

    Thank you so much.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 15, 2011 at 9:00 am

      Sherryl – The treads on the stairs should match the wood on the floors. The handrail can be a different color. I like darker handrails. They look good and they won’t show dirt and wear as much as a light colored handrail.

  165. VeroLa on July 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Bill, I’m so glad I found your blog, because my husband and I are having a hard time deciding on what color laminate wood floors to get for our home. We chose laminate over real wood, because we have 3 children, and we were told laminate wood floors are more resistant to chips, dents, and scratches. We have dark cabinets. All I know is that on our notes we have Beech-Manta Ray for the wood type/style and color. It looks like an espresso color. Our granite countertops tropical brown, which is light, and we will be painting the walls a light-med tan color. Our kitchen, dining, and living room flow together and we will be having brown couches, espresso dining table, and espresso tv stand. I want to use warm
    med-dark earthtone colors for area rug and decors like the tan, red-
    orange, army green, etc. What color of laminate wood would you recommend? By reading your comments, we know that there should be a contrast, but we don’t want to over do it. We chose a couple of samples: colors are Nirvan- French Oak, Canary Island Pine, Vienna Red Oak, and Toasted Chicory. Which one would you recommend? Or If you have any other suggestion? We really appreciate your help with this. Blessings, Veronica

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 15, 2011 at 9:07 am

      VeroLa – I don’t know exactly what those colors are by their names. But as a general rule, you could choose anything that is lighter than the dark color of your cabinets and some of the furniture. I would suggest choosing something in the medium range. A light color might be too much contrast since you are attracted tot he warmer, earthy tones.

      Laminate floors are very tough and a good choice in locations where the floor will take a lot of traffic. But be sure to get a good quality laminate floor, like Pergo. The cheaper laminate floors are rone to delaminating and generally falling apart. The extra money for a good product will be worth the money in the long run.

  166. Nancy V on July 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Hey Bill,
    Your blog has really educated us on many aspects of kitchen remodeling.
    We have honey oak cabinets around the perimeter of our kitchen. We will be installing a latte glazed island. The granite we selected is imperial coffee which will be used throughout the kitchen.
    Our stair railing matches the honey oak cabinets, and our trim work is painted off-white.
    We are having trouble selecting a hardwood floor. The Cumaru wood seems to have some matching colors with the cabinets, but also some darker shades for contrast.
    One of your themes on this blog is to not mix strong grain woods. Do you feel the Cumaru is too strong to mix with the oak cabinets? Do you have any other suggestions? The new island, granite, and flooring have not been ordered until we decide on the floor.
    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on July 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

      Nancy – Cumaru is a fairly strong grained wood. The only time I’ve used cumaru floors with oak cabinets is when the oak cabinets were built with quarter sawn oak. This worked nicely since the oak grain was straight. We no longer had the “cathedral” grain shapes that appear in plain sawn oak. I would suggest placing several pieces of the cumaru next to the cabinets and make an assessment of whether you feel the grains of the wood would compete. If they do, you might want to try ipe. It is a brown (not red) wood that is straight grained. It is often sold under the name of Brazilian walnut. Another nice wood species is Santos mahogany. But it is red and may not suit your color tastes.

  167. Connie on August 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm


    I hope you can help?! I have a galley kitchen and am starting from scratch. I LOVE wood, but the people helping me with the project think that wood cabinets and wood floors for my small galley kitchen are too much.

    I have not picked the cabinets or floor yet. I am putting wood floors throughout the house. The kitchen has little natural light. My Island is connected to the wall and is 11 ft long and has a sink. The opposite wall is where the fridge, range and overhead microwave is…there is about 3 ft between the island and the cabinets.

    I can go with white cabinets, but have always thought wood looked richer and warmer.

    I don’t know what to do! Today I picked out a cream based granite that has light brown and rust and “sparkles” in it. They have demolished my kitchen and I HAVE to decide. I’m sooooo torn.

    Any input would be appreciated.



    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      Connie – I think people get stuck on the idea that small kitchens with few windows will always be dark. That’s what the electric light bulb was invented for. There is no reason why wood cabinets cannot be very attractive in your small kitchen. Your choice of the light cream granite with “sparkles” is a great start. I’ll assume your wood floors are oak. With oak floors, I would suggest a smooth grained wood, like cherry. And a wood that is the color of cherry or lighter would probably be best. But stay away from more oak in the cabinets. The grain will be simply too much. If you have any places where an upper cabinet can have glass doors, consider adding that. Glass doors add a window-like sensation in a kitchen, especially if you have it lit from within.

      And speaking of lighting, every kitchen needs good lighting. Undercabinet lights really brighten up a kitchen and fill in the dark spots that often occur beneath wall cabinets. I like to place recessed lights in the ceiling centered over the front edge of the countertop. This lets light hit the upper cabinets but keeps your head from casting a shadow on the spot where you’re working. Center ceiling lights in kitchens are not good. Think about the direction the light is coming from. When you are facing either of the countertops, the light will always be coming from your back. It makes no sense. And be sure to put a light above the sink.

      Hope that helps.

  168. Tresa on August 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    We are laying 3/4” Brazilian Cherry Wood Floors in our entire house.
    Our Kitchen cabinets are Oak, with a natural ‘flat’ finish. Should we paint them? We prefer natural wood, but also would like to keep the house appealing to others and ‘marketable’. We had decided to do the Bathrooms with large Tile, because of the potential for getting wet, should we instead do them in the same wood flooring?
    Thanks in advance for your help! Tresa

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 10, 2011 at 11:17 pm

      Tresa – Wood flooring is fine in powder rooms (1/2 baths with no tub or shower). There is little risk of getting significant amounts of water on the floor. But I would recommend tile in bathrooms with showers or bath tubs.

      Regarding the oak cabinets, oak does not paint well because the grain is not smooth and will show through the paint. Some people like this look, but I do not. I feel it looks fake and cheap. I think the natural oak will work with the Brazilian cherry floors. Try bringing home a large sample of the flooring to place next to the cabinets to make sure you like the look. If you still feel you might like the look of the oak to be changed, you might try a wipe-off glaze instead of paint. This will color the cabinets slightly while not hiding the wood look.

  169. Kathy on August 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Bill —

    Our house has an open, great room concept on the first floor. The entry, family room, living room, kitchen and dining room all flow throughout one big space divided by some walls and a fireplace in the middle of the space. The floors, kitchen cabinets and stair rails were originally golden or honey oak. We recently had our floors sanded and re-stained. We went a bit darker on the floors to warm up the space as we really don’t like the golden or honey oak color. The grain of the new wood floor color is like a dark walnut, with the rest of the floor a lighter color that has a slight red hue to it instead of yellow.

    We now want to refinish the kitchen cabinets and put white river granite for the counter top. We would like a more modern and dramatic look, so we are thinking to re-stain the cabinets a dark walnut to pick up the darker color in the wood floor to offset the beautiful white river granite counter top. Our kitchen is very open, has a large island counter where the stove top is located and has a lot of natural light. From your perspective, would that wood color combination for the floor and cabinets work?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 20, 2011 at 5:29 pm

      Kathy – I think that color combination will work, but I would suggest making sure the cabinet stain color is dark enough to disguise the grain of the wood in the cabinets. Make it look like wenge and i think you’ll have a winner.

  170. Sharon Montesi on August 13, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Bill!
    What a wealth of great info here! We are doing a major renovation of our first floor, that includes our kitchen, dining room, bath/laundry room and family room. Our house is a colonial. The kitchen will be quite large, with a peninsula dividing the working kitchen area from another area that has cabinets and a mahogany counter top with a work/computer desk incorporated into it.

    We are putting in white shaker cabinets (and lots of them) and granite countertops, but have yet to decide on the color. We are at a point where we need to be more conservative with our spending, so we are looking to the lower priced granites and can’t decide on light or darker. I like some contrast, but need to be careful with blues and greens because of some of the other accent colors I want to use. I also don’t want to go the gold or yellow route. We have a large bay window over the sink, and the granite countertop will run back into the bay window projection. The walls in the kitchen will be “Eagle Rock” which is very nice grey with lots of body. The family room will be a buttery beige color, and the dining room, pumpkin or butterscotch. I hope to use teal and brown accent colors in the family room. We also have a brick fireplace in the family room.

    With the exception of our foyer and bathroom/laundry room, which have a light, neutral colored porcelain tile, the floors are white oak. We really think we want to go light with the hard wood floors this time – possibly just natural, water based polyurethane. With white cabinets and natural oak, what would you suggest for a countertop color that ties it all together?

    One other question: the stairs to the second floor are currently a medium colored wood tread with white risers and the spindles and railings are also wood. Is it wrong to have the kitchen/dining room/family room natural oak and the stairs darker? We weren’t really planning on refinishing the stairs, just freshening them up, and possibly painting the spindles and rails white.

    I feel like I rambled at you. Apologies. I hope you are able to make some sense out of it all!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Sharon – That’s a lot of information for me to try to imagine. But I’ll give it a try. For the countertops, you might look at some of the whiter granites that have some distinct color accents in them. Those colors could be neutral tones and possibly even some quartz inclusions. There are some nice granite options that are truly white and not beige. The inclusions will add lots of interest and keep the top from looking sterile. Look hard for the right granite and go pick out the slabs yourself from the wholesaler. Another option might be some of the new styles in the quartz composite countertops offered by Cambria. They are pretty impressive.

      For the stairs, it is usually best to have the stair treads match the floor. It would be risky to leave them as is and hope they work with your newly finished wood floors. And one tip on the floor finish. You might want the first coats of the finish to be oil based polyurethane to enhance the color and visual texture of the wood. Then the final coat can be water based to prevent the usual yellowing of the finish. Oil based poly is not yellow. It yellows over time. Ask you floor finisher to do test samples for you before having the entire floor done. That way you’ll know exactly what you will be getting.

  171. Lisa on August 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm


    I am building a house. I am drawn to natural maple flooring because of the contemporary feel but like the idea of dark maple shaker style kitchen cabinets. I would then use a light creamy granite counter. I would also like to put in a dark wood staircase? Do you think the contrast will be too much? I plan to intermix other dark woods and furniture throughout the house. I’m interested to know what you think.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 29, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      Lisa – I don’t think the mixture of wood colors will be a problem, at all. The maple is a smooth grained wood and it should look nice for both the floors and the cabinets. Usually, I would suggest that the treads of the stairs should match the flooring. You do want the walking surface of the stairs to appear to be an extension of the floor, itself. But the other parts of the stairs, such as the hand rail, could be, and should be, a darker, complimentary color wood.

  172. Sarah on September 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Just the website and insight I was looking for! Thanks! Our kitchen cabinets are natural maple and floors are (red?) oak, finished naturally with just a clear water-based finished. They match each other perfectly–which we now know is a faux pas. We are planning on refinishing our oak floors to a dark finish (but not too espresso) and extending them into our great-room area. Our kitchen furniture is dark espresso colored.

    We need help with the countertops and backsplash. We are thinking granite countertops and a glass tile backsplash. What colors would work well for these, to help tie the darker floors and lighter cabinets together? We’d like to stay with a modern look.

    Thanks for your thoughts!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 11, 2011 at 10:09 am

      Sarah – It’s pretty hard to suggest exact colors without seeing your cabinets and floor. But as a general guideline, I would say you should look for a nice contrast with the cabinets. For a modern look, you might want to consider a dark granite that is fairly even in color. Modern means clean and not fussy. So the more swirly looking granites would not be the choice. Absolute black, ubatuba, or similar stones would give you a striking contrast to the light cabinets with a monolithic appearance. And if the dark colors feel too dark for you, you might even consider some of the light solid surface quartz materials. Cambria has a nice new collection of good looking choices.

  173. Cindy on September 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I’m glad I found your blog. Hope you can help me. I have 2 problems actually. First is I have an open floor plan. The foyer/hallway leads to the kitchen(no doors/arches) which opens up to the family room. Currently, we have natural-stained oak hardwood floors in the foyer/hallway(which have turned yellowish) but the kitchen has beige vinyl flooring and the adjoining family room is carpeted in beige. It looks awful right now because as you walk through the hallway, you will see the kitchen flooring with vinyl on it. So we’re now thinking of replacing our kitchen and family room flooring to give it a continuous flow. We’re thinking of installing laminate flooring in the kitchen/family rooms. Myfirst question would be, would it look odd/silly to have the kitchen in laminate and still keep the hardwood floors in the foyer/hallway? We couldn’t find the original hardwood floors that were placed originally by the builders of our house. If laminates are okay, should we go with a ligher or darker color, and should we use the same type of oak grain. Our kitchen dabinets, are all in medium oak (Orangee tone) and our furniture in the family room are all oak as well and same color tone as the kitchen cabinets? Should we go with maple like a maple cinnamon color or a natural maple to achieve a contrast as you have advised the others? our stairway handrails are oak and have a natural stain. So pretty much in the house you’ll see oak. Please advise and thank you very much in advance.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

      Cindy – Placing laminate flooring next to real wood flooring will make the laminate look artificial. if your budget can handle it, I would suggest installing real wood in the kitchen. With a good polyurethane finish on it, wood is easy to care for. The only thing that would hurt it would be a flood of water sitting on the wood for a period of time. The normal drips and spills should be no problem. It seems unusual that you cannot find the same wood that was installed in the rest of the house. Oak should match oak. But the finish on the original flooring has probably yellowed with age. If you want to make it all match perfectly, have the old floors refinished along with the new floors. The yellowed finish will sand right off and the wood underneath will look brand new. And if you use a water based polyurethane, the finish will not yellow in the future.

  174. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Karen Barron on September 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    I have a 30 year old red oak hardwood floor that was factory stained in black walnut. I just sanded it down and it is so pretty I’m thinking I will just put varathane on it and not any stain. There are pinkish boards, beige boards and some darker regular looking oak boards some have some darker veins in them I am sure from the dark stain. It is beautiful. My delima is the trim, fireplace mantel and stairs are golden oak all open to the floor. I am getting new cabinets in the kitchen and thinking hickory because I like counrty and a little shabby chic. Around the stove and fridge, as an accent, I want to put a geen surround and beadboard doors the rest just hickory. The floor is in the dinning room seperated from the kitchen with a bar. Am I getting too busy with my different woods?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 11, 2011 at 10:25 am

      Karen – Your description of your assortment of finishes reminds me of a kitchen one of my client’s designed for her new house. It seemed to have a bit of everything in it. I thought it would never work. But she pulled it off. It was as if there was enough variety, in the end it all looks great together. The trick will be making sure everything is compatible, even though everything is different. I know this is a bit different than what I usually advise, but if you have the eye for it, you can create something that will be uniquely wonderful. You might look for some common threads, such as a repeating color, to weave through the spaces. Just trust your instincts.

  175. Misty E on September 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I have really enjoyed all the info on this website. I am building a new home and found an incredible deal on walnut lumber. I am having custom black walnut cabinets made and need help on the floor. I would like natural finished maple but do not think the budget will allow for it. Do you think white oak with no stain would look ok? I plan to finish the walnut cabinets naturally too(I think). Please let me know what you think.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 11, 2011 at 10:27 am

      Misty – White oak should work well. Use a water based polyurethane as the final coat of your floor finish to make sure the finish does not yellow with age. The white oak will look great with the walnut. A yellowed white oak floor will tend to make the room look a bit drab.

  176. Lakshmi on September 13, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are redoing our kitchen. We have alderwood for cabinets with reddish cherry stain, naccarado granite has different colors mostly warm colors with a cranberry lines which match the cabinets very well. The flooring is Red oak and I was wondering what kind of stain would go well with the cabinets and granite. I really have learned from your suggestions and answers!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm

      Lakshni – I would suggest a lighter color floor so that its color will not “compete” with the red tones in your cabinets and countertops. Try a natural finish on the red oak with the final coat of finish being a water-based polyurethane so it won’t yellow over time.

  177. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Maggie on September 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Hello Bill,

    Is it possible to email you a photo of the kitchen in order to get some advice? Not sure if I can explain it all on here…lol

  178. Cindy on September 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your reply. I think you’re right, a wood laminate next to a hardwood flooring would look silly. I think it’s too much for our budget to refinish the hallway/foyer at this time. We’re either thinking of placing a dupont tile laminate or maple cinnamon color hardwood floors (laid perpendicularly/opposite direction?) for the kitchen/family room. Which of the two options would look nice next to the existing hardwood oak floor that’s a natural color? Thank you very much. I appreciate your response.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      Cindy – I can’t really answer your question without having the physical samples in fromt of me. You might ask a local interior designer for help. An hour of consulation time with a color expert may save you from making any mistakes. Or if you feel like your eye is pretty good, get some decent sized samples of your options and lay them next to your existing floor. Make sure you have good light. Chances are, you will eliminate one of them quickly and be left with the best answer.

  179. saili on September 23, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Hi Bill,

    Is it necessary that the hand rails and the wooden floor should be the same color and texture? We have light maple color handrails and currently planning on a darker wooden floor, can you please suggest


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Saili – No, your handrails and flooring do not have to match. In fact, they will look best if they do not match.

  180. Jen on September 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Bill,
    so glad i found this site! we are currently building a house and we are going for the modern/contemporary theme. we are doing custom parallam wood cabinets and a concrete countertop but are stuck on flooring! we definitely don’t want to go dark, but the cabinets will be natural and we’re not sure a natural hardwood would be good! But i’m also worried that a medium stain would be too ‘busy’. what are your thoughts? we’re actually doing some sort of tile in the kitchen, but it is open concept and there will be hardwood everywhere else.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Jen – A medium stain will not be too busy if it is on the lighter side of medium. I’m assuming you are using plain-sawn oak. What you should avoid is a stain that makes the grain darken too much. Darker stains have suspended solids in them and those solid particles stick in the grain and make it darker than the rest of the floor. Light-medium stains will have less of those solids. Other options would be to select a wood floor species that has a less prominent grain or use quarter sawn oak. Quarter sawn oak has a much more vertical grain ans does not look swirly like plain sawn oak.

  181. Denise on October 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Bill, I am going crazy trying to decide on the wood floor. My cabinets are a maple with moch glaze and I was thinking about yorkshire oak floor in auburn. Do you think that will go well together and also be enough contrast?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Denise – I think that will work well. you don’t need lots of color contrast if the grains of the wood do not compete. Maple is a smooth grained wood and oak is an “active” grained wood. That is perfect.

  182. Janet on October 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Dear Bill, Help!!
    We are in the middle of a Kitchen remodel and in need of your expert option!
    We have Honey Oak flooring and trim and are installing New Off White cabinets. We want to refinish the flooring in a different color stain, but for the time being the Honey oak color in the staircase, doors and windows will have to remain. What color stain would you recommend that works best with the Honey oak color?
    Thanks J

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

      Janet – It is impossible for me to say whether the colors work together without actually seeing the finish. And chances are the finish on the stairs has yellowed over time and is not the same color it was when it was new. Here’s my suggestion. Have your floor guy brush out samples of the stain or stains you think might work. He can do this right on the bare wood of the existing floor. Do this at the base of the stairs so you can see how the new floor will look next to the stairs. He simply needs to quickly sand off the old finish. Look the sample over in both daytime and night time light. You can depend on your personal opinion for the right answer. It will either look right or it won’t. Once you make your final selection, it will be a simple matter for the floor finisher to sand out the sample and finish the entire floor. The stain does not actually penetrate the wood very much, so his sanding will be very light to get the sample removed.

  183. Denise on October 10, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Hi Bill, I am trying to decide on the wood floor. My cabinets are a maple with moch glaze and I was thinking about yorkshire oak floor in auburn. Do you think that will go well together and also be enough contrast?

  184. shirley hetherington on October 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm


    I have oak cabinets and woodwork stained dark walnut. I would like to install a wooden floor but don’t have any idea what kind of wood and what color stain I should use.


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2011 at 11:24 am

      Shirley – I would suggest you consider a smooth grained wood, like maple. The grain will not compete with the grain of your cabinets or trim. You can then stain the maple a color you like. I owuld suggest keeping the maple floor from getting too dark. A medium tone without red overtones might be best. Fruitwood, Special Walnut, or Driftwood might work.

  185. Sue on October 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Hi Bill–

    I’m going crazy over choosing new wood flooring and cabinets for the kitchen and bathroom! We have a quasi-rustic style California Gold Rush ranch home where I brought in native quartz (rust-brown-cream) rock in the fireplace area. The carpet there is a pale soft cinnamon gold (more neutral and subdued than peach). The new entry tile we are buying looks a lot like the native quartz but with lots of black smearing similar to the boulders outside (black wrought iron staircase there). We have some dark mission elements in the house; cream trim with dark green walls. Overall a very autumnal feel to the house with gorgeous mountain views.

    Want a medium-tone floor to have high grain variability to coordinate with the darker cabinets of whatever wood. Was favoring traditional woods gven the ranch architecture and region. So far the oaks have not worked out: too light if unfinished, way too yellow or bright orangy red for me (feels aggressive). Hickories are better but hard to find lightly-stained ones and unfinished is too light. Thinking the flat brown unstained walnuts might blend nicely with the carpet and the nearby blackened quartz-like entry tile but not sure what cabinets would go well with unstained, natural walnut. Your ideas?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

      Sue – The walnut sounds like a good choice considering the black accents you have in some of the other materials. Ask for steamed walnut. Regular walnut will have streaks of sapwood that is nearly white. It can be problematic in most people’s eyes. When they steam the wood, some of the color of the dark, heart wood bleeds into the light sapwood and makes it much darker, thus eliminating the harsh contrast. Then I would suggest using a water based polyurethane finish, not oil based, so the finish will not yellow over time.

  186. Darcy on October 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I finally found a website that might help! What a wealth of information. You must get tired of answering the same questions over and over… Here is another one for your blog! My husband and I are building a house for the first time, at 55! Because of budget constraints and lack of knowledge, we have encountered some surprises! We have flat beech cabinets stained a dark walnut gel which I had expected to have very little grain. Ironically the cabinets are grainy (lots of that cathedral-style grain). We were planning to go with Buckingham Cambria quartz (lots of waves) on the island and a plain steel-look laminate on the countertops. Our floor was to be a natural clear rustic maple with lots of color variation and character. Now I am worried that we have way too much visual noise! Our cabinets were just installed yesterday, so I don’t know if it is too late to change or not… Would greatly appreciate your comments.
    We are going for a rustic, contemporary look :^)


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2011 at 11:37 am

      Darcy – It takes some time to go through and answer the questions, and some do repeat. But I enjoy helping people out and hopefully avoid problems that never needed to happen. I’m having a bit of trouble visualizing all of your finishes. Have you tried putting all of your material samples together to see how things look? You should use fairly large samples and not just the postage stamp size chips. You just might be able to pull off the complex combination of colors and textures. There are no rules are hard and fast in home design. There are merely suggestions and general guidelines. But if you wanted to consider another wood flooring that might give you the rustic, contemporary look without having an assortment of colors and textures, I would suggest quarter-sawn oak. This might cost a bit more, but when oak is quarter-sawn, the grain ends up very straight, but it still retains a lot of character.

  187. Alex on October 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I recently purchased a condo with birch coloured kitchen cabinets and wood floors. I am looking to redo the floor but not sure what colour to go with. I was thinking something dark perhaps onyx coloured. what colour would you recommend would match well with birch?

    Thank you

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Alex – Birch will go with lots of colors and textures since it is light colored and the wood grain is benign. A very dark floor would be dramatic. It would look great. Keep in mind that dark floors are harder to keep looking clean since the dark finish will show every speck of dust and pet hair. I’m not saying that is a reason to avoid a dark floor, I’m simply saying that is one consideration.

  188. Tammy on October 23, 2011 at 11:36 am

    We are building a new home with a large open kitchen, living room and morning room (dining room). What is the correct way to use the dark/light idea for flooring and cabinets. Darker cabinets/lighter floors or lighter cabinets/darker floors? Thank you

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 27, 2011 at 11:45 am

      Tammy – The light/dark contrast could go either way and work well. One is not “more right” than the other. You might want to consider the other components of your kitchen, such as the countertop and backsplash, before deciding. A light countertop with darker cabinets and a medium light floor would work. A dark countertop with light cabinets and a darker floor would work, as well. Don’t be afraid to let your personal preferences lead you. If you do what you like, it will work out great.

  189. Kate on October 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Hi Bill,
    You’ve got a lot of really great advice on here. It’s hard for me to make design decisions with wood and I’d love your input. Our 1994 traditional suburban home has a hodgepodge of woods from previous owners. Golden oak trim, oak balusters, 6 panel solid oak doors and oak kitchen cabinets. Maple kitchen floor (new but showing a lot of wear) and old oak foyer. We want to install highly durable wood floors throughout the entire first level instead of the carpet and woods we currently have. In this area (MN) it is common to overdo it on the oak. What species of wood would be good for the foyer, dining/formal LR (1 big room), kitchen and family room? With kids, pets, etc we need something very durable. I am pretty disappointed in how the blonde maple has held up in the kitchen. It is showing the abuse. Would a very hard wood like Rosewood be best?

    Thanks much!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 30, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Kate – I love Rosewood. I installed in my own house. We live on a lake and with wet and sandy grandchildren, the floor can take some abuse. But the Rosewood is so hard, it has yet to show any wear. Rosewood is beautiful, too. It is a red toned wood. Both Patagonian Rosewood and Tiete Rosewood are quite hard. Some other Rosewoods are not quite as hard, but I don’t know if those are sold as flooring. If you want a browner wood that is just as durable, take a look at Ipe (pronounced epay). Other choices might be Santos Mahogany or Cumaru. These tropical woods are more expensive than standard oak, but they will “live” better and save you money and distress in the long run. You can check a wood species’ hardness by referring to the Janka Hardness Scale.

  190. Kathy on October 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Bill, I’m desperate. I have been struggling over what color flooring to use and need to make a decision before the holidays. I live in South Florida, so have decided to go with laminate. I have honey oak cabinets, that I will not be changing at this time. What color flooring do you recommend? I like the warmth of cherry, but wasn’t sure if this would be too much of a contrast. I look forward to your assistance.

    Thank you

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on October 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Kathy – Cherry would be a good wood grain for going with the honey oak cabinets. Get a sample of it to take home and place next to your cabinets. Or unscrew a cabinet door and take it into the store. You’ll need to see reasonably sized samples to make this decision. Small color chips are not enough. If the cherry looks too red compared tot he oak, try something like birch or maple. Those are other woods with smooth grains.

  191. Sue on November 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Bill–

    Thanks for the info on the walnut flooring (to go with the black accents). Looked at more walnut and decided it seemed a bit too “cold” and formal looking for my taste. But I think I finally found a good combination and just wanted to double-check with you before plunking down the big dollars.

    After searching high and low found a medium-toned hickory engineered plank floor that isn’t too yellow or red so fairly neutral brown (not a huge amt of variation) — love the graining. Want to put it with a ebony-glazed cashew stained knotty alder. The cashew stain is fairly light with golden (very subtle peachy) tones that go with my native rusty quartz in the house. I’m working with a local cabinet maker to use a relatively simple raised panel design on the doors so that it still catches the ebony glazing but doesn’t have lots of layers/detailing to make it overwhelming. I know you generally like clear alder with a busy floor but what do you think of this combination? Thanks again, Sue

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 4, 2011 at 9:31 am

      Sue – I think the knotty alder still works with the hickory floor. Although the alder will have knots, the grain of the wood is still benign and won’t compete with the hickory grain too much.

  192. Angie on November 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm


    I would like to know what flooring would you suggest to put with my toffee coloured kitchen cabinets and tenby cream counter top. I was thinking of a hickory or a black walunt. The only drawback to the walnut is that it is a softer wood where hickory is more dense. I was leaning towards a natural colour but I wanted it to be a warm feel. I want a medium to light colour no dark colours for the floor.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 4, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Angie – Either of these wood species will give you a warm look. I consider walnut to be a fairly dark floor. It will start out fairly dark and it will get darker over time since light will draw more pigment to the surface of the wood. So if you want a medium to light color, the hickory might be the better choice.

  193. Mark on November 8, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Hi Bill,

    We are building a new home with a very open contemporary look and feel. We have decided on a very light natural maple cabinet with grainy black and white marble countertops. We are perplexed in our selection of the hardwood for the kitchen, dining and great rooms floor. We need it to match/contrast with the cabinets, but also align with the entry foyer and the mud room entrance from the garage. For the foyer we have selected a pineapple onyx marble tile that has a lot of veins in it and for the mud room entry we will use a plain light gray 12 X 24 ceramic tile. Someone suggested a engineered black wood floor which seemed like a great suggestion until I read your blog here. We have two dogs who shed a great deal which is not optimal for the dark floor. Any other suggestions for hardwood?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

      Mark – A black floor would be dramatic. But I think it would drive you nuts with the dogs. You might want to consider a medium toned floor. It would contrast enough with your onyx as well as your cabinets. With maple cabinets that have a smooth appearance, most hardwood floor species would work well. I would stay away from wood with a red hue. That might not work well with the onyx. If your budget can handle it, take a look at quarter-sawn white oak. The quarter-sawn oak does not look “colonial” or “country” as you might usually think of oak. It has a straight, sophisticated grain pattern. And white oak stains well. So you could get the exact color you want. Remember my suggestion of using large samples to try out different combinations. Don’t just rely on those postage stamp sized color chips.

  194. Lisa on November 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    We have always wanted wood floors in our kitchen and dining areas, but are having a hard time selecting now when we are finally ready to do it. I love hickory for the color variation and the hardness. We have beautiful oak cabinets – sort of Honey Oak, or Natural Red Oak. Now as we are looking at them together, it doesn’t seem to work. Is hickory a no-no with oak?
    Some one advised us to stay in the same species, but I don’t feel like Oak is the right choice as all the graining seems really “busy” to me.

    We found a maple that is very nice, but too close to the cabinet color and I think my house would get too “gold”. Between grain & color, I am having a difficult time figuring out what we should do. We also found a natural maple that seems to complement our cabinets but not sure if we should go lighter or darker than our cabinets. I’m a little afraid to go darker, while I think the look is warm & rich, I wonder if our rooms will seem smaller and darker? Help? Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Lisa – Hickory and oak probably look too “busy” together. And oak floors with oak cabinets is more of the same problem. You need to select a wood with a smoother or straighter grain pattern. Maple would be a good choice. It is available in many colors. Don’t feel restricted to what one company offers. There are lots of companies that offer prefinished maple floors. Keep looking. The color of the maple could be either lighter of darker than the cabinets, depending on your personal tastes. Darker floors will look more traditional and lighter floors will look a bit more contemporary. If you have enough wall surface showing and use a white or near-white paint on the walls, you can use a darker floor without darkening the room too much. But that depends on other factors, like windows and the size of the room, of course. So I can’t answer you specifically without seeing the actual room. Maybe a floor that is only a slight bit darker than the cabinets would work best. The different wood grains will enhance the contrast between the floors and the cabinets.

  195. Lily on November 14, 2011 at 1:09 am

    Hi, Bill,

    We have a cherry color maple cabinets and ceramic floor in kitchen. Our railing in kitchen and family room area are cherry color oak. We want to install hard wood floor in living room, family room area. Should the floor color match the railing color? If the floor color can be different from the railing color, is natural red oak or Auburn maple a better choic? Our furnitures are in espresso color.

    Thanks for your advice.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

      Lily – Railings and floors do not need to match. In fact, it is usually better to consider the railing as an independent entity, like a piece of furniture. As far as the color for the floor, it is hard to say without samples. Have your floor finisher brush out reasonably sized samples for you to consider. If it’s a prefinished floor, get large samples from the dealer to take home so you can see how they look within the context of your rooms.

  196. Donna on November 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I am planning to have clear hickory cabinets in my house. I need to find a wood species for the doors and trim to compliment the hickory cabinets. I am considering using knotty alder. I have color matched a lighter umber stain to use on both woods. The stain should even out the stripes in the hickory and blend well with the alder. Is this a good idea or am I trying to be too matchy? I am also having aspen wood paneling with a clear varnish, on my vaulted ceilings,wainscot in the kitchen, living room, and on two walls in the living room. The reddish tones in the aspen match well with the stain. But with all the knots and stripes, do these three woods look well together? I am also considering using reclaimed wood for the floor in the kitchen and living room in a weathered antique douglas fir or a rustic roughsawn douglas fir. Both floors have alot of character and flaws. I could stain the wood floor a different color than the other woods. What would you do to make it all come together? The reason I am looking at reclaimed wood for my floor is that I have a pool table in the living room and I am concerned about damaging other types of floors with a pool ball falling off the table. My house heats with a radiant heating system of electric panels in the cement floor. Reclaimed wood, engineered wood or tile would respond well to that type of heating system. Engineered wood and tile would not respond well to pool balls! I do not want to put down carpet because of heavy traffic in that area. Occasionally pool ball dings would only add to the character to the wood floor I hope! I could use tile in the kitchen and use the wood only in the living room area. I have a warm tuscan tones,slate look, tile picked out for that. Tile color blends well with my wood stain. Do you think adding another wood for the floor would be too much?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

      Donna – That’s a lot to visualize! It sounds like you could use a little advice from a good local interior designer. But in general, it sounds like you have given this lots of thought and consideration. You certainly could use wood floors. The trick will be finding the best combination. An interior designer can bring some experience that might be helpful. And he/she would be the person who could find the thread to weave everything together. I always advise getting large samples to look at before making the final decision. Even if you need to pay for them, large samples will give you a more accurate representation of the materials and how they interact. You might want to look up the Janka Hardness Scale to see the ranking of the woods you are considering. Some of the tropical woods are very hard and resist denting well. If you chose an engineered wood that has a thick top layer (called a flitch), you might be able to avoid the problem engineered wood presents. That problem being that the core of the engineered floor is a much softer wood than the top layer. Use your large samples to drop some pool balls on to see how they hold up.

  197. Donna on November 20, 2011 at 12:23 am

    I decided the douglas fir will be too soft of a wood for my use. I will choose a hardwood instead. Any suggestions?

  198. Diane on November 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Bill,
    Love all your suggestions and I hope you may have a suggestion for me. We are putting down carbonized bamboo floors in the family room, dining room and kitchen. I am having a hard time deciding which cabinets would look the best, cherry or maple and what type of color tone. The floors are a natural color but have a yellowish tone I think. This is not a large area (800 square feet total). Doors and baseboards are painted white.
    Thanks for any suggestions!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 24, 2011 at 10:33 am

      Diane – Either cherry or maple will work well since both woods are smooth grained. You can decide the color tone by comparing samples. I can’t really suggest anything without seeing your other materials. An interior design could help with that. They often work on an hourly basis. One hour of their time might be well worthwhile.

  199. Sandra on November 21, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are building a house in the country on 50 acres and have decided on walnut hardwood throughout the house including the kitchen. The cabinets are maple but we are struggling a bit with the type of stain to use. Initially we were looking at a very light natural color with a white wash but it turned out too yellow on the sample. We have just done a second sample with a darker honey/oak colour stain but it just doesn’t seem to look right with the walnut flooring. We are planning to have black granite on the back wall of cabinets with a slightly different black patterned granite (black beauty leather) with a bit of red in it on the large island. If you can provide a recommendation on the stain for the cabinets it would be greatly appreciated or if a different wood for the cabinets would be better?

    Thanks so much for your advice.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Sandra – You might want to try a sable (black) glaze over a natural finish. The black would be subtle since it only hangs up in the grooves of the cabinet details. It also would tint the natural finish just a bit without making it yellow. The sable color might visually “tie” the cabinets to your other materials. Remember, get large samples to review.

  200. Bonnie Summers on November 26, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    In our ensuite we will be having a double sink granite counter. Should we go with one mirror or two and one light fixture over each sink or one light fixture. Thanks for your help

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 27, 2011 at 10:20 am

      Bonnie – There is no right or wrong answer to your question. Both approaches can be successful. My suggestion is to do it the way you like best. The choice of the light fixture depends on the fixture itself. Just make sure it throws enough light.

  201. Bonnie Summers on November 28, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Thanks so much Bill!

  202. Kate on November 28, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Hi Bill-
    We are really struggling with a difficult combination. We are remodeling/building a mid century model/pacific northwest contemporary style house. The ceiling is clear vertical grain Doug fir tongue and groove and fir Glulams. We really want to use these beautiful quartersawn walnut cabinets from SPD cabinets but can not find a wood floor that works with both. We don’t want to do Porcelain either. I thought Iroko might work but wonder if it is too close in color to the walnut. The grain is very visually striking in the cabinets (quartersawn and bookmatched). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      Kate – The cabinets sound wonderful. I would be a little worried that the Iroko would be too red with the Walnut. You might want to look at light Cumaru or even Ipe. Those woods tend to be a neutral or “blackish” brown rather than a reddish brown. But don’t completely reject the Iroko until you get a large sample of the Iroko to place next to the cabinets and review. It just might work. I would not be too worried about the color being too close to the cabinets if you use a relatively smooth grained wood for the floor. That would provide the contrast with the distinctive grain of the quarter-sawn walnut.

  203. Jude Brinkman on December 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Dear Bill;

    Your blog is a prayer answered! I have not read through all of your posts, so please forgive me if you’ve seen/answered this question before (though I’m kinda thinking this will be uncharted territory for you).

    Here is my predicament:

    I bought my house last year, just 2 months before I was laid off from my job of 10 years (timing has always been my specialty). As of today, I’m still unemployed. I’m providing this background so you will better understand why I find myself in these special circumstances. The home I purchased was a foreclosure property that was in woeful condition prior to being “rehabbed” by the investor and, truthfully, wasn’t in much better condition after they slapped some lipstick on it. One of the improvements made was the installation of wall-to-wall frieze carpeting both up and downstairs. In a recent frenzy of olfactory disgust I ripped up all of the carpeting/padding in the living room and hallway, and took up the laminate covering the dining room to reveal hardwood flooring under MOST of those areas: the dining room, the entire length of the hallway, and a small section (abutting and extending the hallway) of the LR, which are all open (L-shaped living and dining with open views of kitchen-tile flooring therein) and covered with 2.5 inch red oak. Even in the current state it’s a vast, vast improvement over the carpeting, which was destroyed by a neurotic male cat’s recurrent spraying/urinating. I lacked approximately 180 sq ft to finish the room-and because my money is extremely tight, I ended up buying unfinished Brazilian walnut because I got a great price on it (1.99 a sq ft). I need to sand and refinish the oak as it is a mess-covered with spackle, paint, staple marks, etc., and then I want to stain all to achieve as nearly a homogenous look as possible. My question for you (really putting your skills to the test here!) is: what color stain(s) should I use to turn my hodge-podged, patchwork wood floors into something that doesn’t scream “bad acid trip”? I am in deep, head-over-heels love with the Brazilian walnut just as it is-I would love to be able to simply finish it with a water-based (or would you recommend the oil based?) polyurethane as I want to avoid yellowing, and try to find some sort of stain for the oak that’ll make it as “matchy” as possible. I’m not going for perfection ( I WOULD, but I’m afraid it’s out of reach). The oak isn’t of the highest grade and there are a few areas in the DR that look as if they’ve been filled in with other types of wood. I have a small home and much of the floor space will be covered with furnishings and a couple of beautiful area rugs. In any case, I plan to thoroughly enjoy the final results whether or not I can achieve a perfect match.
    I look forward to your advice-even (especially?) if it’s the number of a good therapist. : )
    Thank you sooooo much.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm

      Jude – Here’s a box of tissues you might need while you lie down on my couch and let me psychoanalyze your situation. I do believe this situation can be saved. I’ll break it down in parts. The Brazilian Walnut, often called Ipe (pronounced “e-pay”) is a great wood. It is very hard and not reddish, like many of the other wood species. I would recommend finishing it, and the entire floor, with two coats of either oil based polyurethane or tung oil. This will bring out the beauty of the wood. Then apply a final coat of water based polyurethane, like Bona Traffic. This will shield the oil based polyurethane from the ultraviolet light and keep it from yellowing. Also, the water based poly is tougher than the oil based so it will wear better. As far as coloring the existing floor goes, you will probably need to experiment with some stains to get your best match. Test various choices right on the floor. When the floor is sanded to prepare for finishing, the samples will sand out easily. The spackle, staple marks and other blemishes will come out, too. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results. I would suggest trying Special Walnut and see how that looks. Fruitwood and Provincial may work, too. If it looks like your perfect (or nearly perfect) match might be somewhere between two colors, you can mix them together to get a custom stain. Chances are there are color variations within the Brazilian Walnut. Hopefully your odd pieces in the rest of the floor might look less obvious than you fear.

      I hope this works out for you. Send me “before and after” photos, if you can. If it turns out well, I’ll post them on my blog. If it’s a total failure, I’ll pretend I never heard about this! Good luck. Thanks for visiting my website. Tell your friends. You can get up off of the couch now.

  204. Michelle on December 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We are remodeling a 1973 1000 sq. ft. octagon lake cabin. The ceiling is tongue & groove cedar with dark beams. We want to keep those intact but are willing to paint them. My question to you: What type of flooring, cabinets and trim would be best? I don’t want to get too “woody” and want to minimize the number of different textures. A friend suggested birch flooring and antique glazed cabinets but I’m not sure. Also any suggestions on what to do with the ceiling? You have such great suggestions, I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      Michelle – I agree that you should keep the ceiling intact. You might just leave it alone or possible finish it with a satin sealer that will make it look more finished, but not glossy. But I don’t think it would be necessary to paint it. I don’t think the wood on the ceiling will compete with a wood floor. Since the two surfaces never touch each other, you don’t even have to worry about competing or clashing grains. Birch is a very soft wood, so I would not recommend it for flooring. If you want a very light wood, Maple is a better choice. But Maple may be too white for your cabin and look too contemporary. I say that not knowing anything about your decor, though. You might want contemporary or modern, in which case Maple would be a good choice. Take a look at some of the tropical wood species, like Rosewood or Santos Mahogany. They have an elegance about them that will avoid the overly rustic, all wood look you may be afraid of. Using painted or glazed cabinets might be just the ticket for preserving the separation between the wood floor and the wood ceiling. The smooth finish of painted cabinets would “live” happily with the other wood surfaces. If painted cabinets are not your thing and you want to have a wood finish on them, here you might consider birch or maple, possibly with a glaze. Birch would be fine for cabinets, but too soft for floors. I hope that helps.

  205. melissa on December 19, 2011 at 1:23 am

    Hi Bill, I don’t think this has been asked by a previous writer, but it is quite an extensive blog so forgive me if this is a repeat.
    Our new home (new to us) has a huge kitchen as part of the great room. It has dark espresso Diamond cabinets (many). Though this part of the house is all windows, it is facing N so we do not get a ton of direct light. The house came with a medium color laminate. Being it is a contemporary home, it doesn’t come with a lot of natural warmth and the laminate is a big part of why. We are thinking of strand woven bamboo in a natural color, (which is slightly darker and more grainy looking than regular bamboo flooring) but i don’t know if this is a faux pas with the dark cabinets. What is your opinion? We were thinking bamboo for eco reasons.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      Melissa – I think the bamboo is a good choice. The linear “grain” pattern in the bamboo flooring should not conflict with your cabinets. I understand you desire to choose something that is renewable and friendly to the environment. That is a good reason to make this choice. But I should add that most hardwood flooring, even the tropical wood species, come from sustainable sources. Just be sure the supplier complieas with the Forest Stewardship Council Certification.

  206. Michelle on December 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Bill,
    We are having a difficult time trying to decide a wood color and species for our kitchen update project. Currently we have golden oak perimeter cabinets with a black island and black canyon stone countertops. We are leaning towards a tigerwood brazilian floor. I want to pick up the medium color tones of the oak grain to bring to the floor. Do you think this is a good choice or too busy? The tigerwood looks fantastic with the black island but I am not confident about how the overall look will be with the oak cabinets. I understand that this floor starts out sort of red-orange and darkens to a more medium brown. What advise can you give?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on December 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      Michelle – I don’t think the color would be a problem, but I would be worried about the grain clashing. Tigerwood has a very distinct and “active” grain, much like the oak. I’m guessing it looks great with theblack island because the island brings out the black grain in the tigerwood. But that may be too much grain when combined with the oak cabinets. I would suggest you look for a flooring with a straighter grain. But all of these opinions are subjective. If you’re madly in love with tigerwood, get a decent sized sample and put it next to your existing cabinets to see how they look together. If it doesn’t work, another option would be to refinish the cabinets so as to subdue the oak’s grain.

  207. Steve on December 26, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Hi Bill:

    We are building a “semi-rustic” home in Western North Carolina and I am befuddled by the contrast between the floors, ceilings, doors and cabinets, which are all wood.

    The floorplan is very open and the floors will be wood throughout. The ceiling is 6″ T & G white pine. The wood ceilings in most of the house are 10′ – 18′ high. The kitchen ceiling is 9′ high and could either be covered in wood or drywall, if the adjacency of the wood floor, cabinets and ceiling would be overwhelming. All of the interior doors are yet to be finished knotty alder. The walls will be painted drywall.

    While we have not made the final wood species decision for the floor or cabinets, we have been thinking about rift and quarter sawn (mixed) white oak (with a light to medium stain) for the floor and knotty alder cabinets (I have noted that you do not like knotty alder) stained with Minwax Special Walnut. We are looking for medium intesity, warm tan/brown colors and would like to avoid “golden”, orange or red tones.

    Sorry that this post is so open-ended, but I am really struggling with what to do and my contractor wants me to make these decisions yesterday. I would really appreciate your advice.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Steve – The knotty alder cabinets and doors aren’t my favorite, but they should look good in your “wooden” home. Remember, a lot of this is purely personal preference. I would choose the painted drywall for the kitchen ceiling. Like the walls, it will provide some needed relief from the wood. It will add some light reflectance, which is also good. Because rift-sawn and quarter-sawn white oak is a very straight grained cut of wood, it will work with the knotty alder. to keep it from becoming yellow, finish it with two coats of oil based polyurethane (to bring out the beauty of the wood) and then a top coat of water based poly to keep the finish from yellowing over time. Test out a sample of the flooring with no stain as well as some samples with light colored stains to be sure your get what you want. Put the polyurethane over the stained samples before choosing so you can see what it will actually look like when finished.

  208. Renee on December 29, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Bill! I am so happy to find this blog!! I have spent days, weeks, months, online sifting through pictures of flooring and cabinetry only to be even more confused than when I started. My husband and I are in the process of building our home and are down to the wire on what kind of hardwood we want. We have an open floor plan so we will have a LOT of hardwood throughout. I thought I had it all together when I took a picture of what I wanted my kitchen to look like to our cabinet consults. Only now that our cabinets are in were we informed that the picture we were basing our decisions off of also included a black glaze (which we do not have) so it has changed the color quite a bit. The cabinets are cherry with a chariot stain and really are gorgeous but the flooring that we originally picked out are too brown in contrast to the cabinets. We don’t have it in our budget to go back and add the black glaze so I am forced to change the flooring. Everyone has suggested that we use a more natural finished floor to go with the cabinets but we feel the natural finish is nice but its just not us. I really like the Santos Mahogany but I am concered that it may not provide enough contrast to the cabinet color and grain. The other concern is that some of our existing furniture may not mesh with the Mahogany since they have very dark brown tones to them. What do you think? I am also open to any suggestions, I am hoping you may have just the answer to take my stress away!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Renee – Santos Mahogany is one of the few wood species that will actually lighten and not darken over time and light exposure. So if it is close to the color of your cabinets, it won’t be in a year or two. It is a very attractive wood and its grain should work well with the cherry cabinet wood. I would expect that the finished cherry cabinets are also consistent in color from cabinet to cabinet. The flooring will have a lot more color variation from piece to piece. plus the flooring will lie horizontally and the cabinets will be vertical, thus enhancing the contrast. All in all, I think the mahogany floor will work with the cherry cabinets. I don’t know what your original wood selection was, but light cumaru with no stain or quarter-sawn or rift-sawn white oak with a stain of your choosing would also be possible candidates. Get some good sized samples of the flooring to help you see what you’ll end up with.

  209. Carmen on December 30, 2011 at 1:22 am

    Hi Bill,

    I painted my wood floors white and just applied a Bona Traffic because it was supposed to be clear and wouldn’t make the floors yellowish with time. I have yellowish streaks on my floor now! It has been 24 hours since I applied so I have been waiting for it to dry well but to be honest I just don’t see it changing. Was I wrong when I chose Bona Traffic as my finisher. What should I do now? Please help!!!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      Carmen – I have never used Bona over painted floors. I suspect that there was some sort of reation between the paint and the Bona polyurethane. your only remedy may be to sand it all off and start over. If you want to paint your floors, you should check with a reliable paint store to select the proper clear topcoat for painted surfaces. If you want to use Bona, then you should not paint the floors, but choose a stain (or no stain to leave the wood as light as possible) and then top that with the Bona.

  210. Shirley Haley on January 2, 2012 at 3:24 am

    We installed a dark brown plank-style laminate with sparse oak-colored grain running through it. The grain is not dominant when looking at the floor as a whole. Now we are putting in cabinets and am wondering what color would be best. Wished I had found your website sooner as I think we would have put in lighter colored floors.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Shirley – You could choose any color you feel complements the flooring. The amount of contrast could be either dramatic of subtle. I would tend to use a medium tone for the cabinets so the contrast is not too strong. If the flooring has a “curvy” or strong grain, look for cabinets that have a smoother and more subdued grain.

  211. Erica on January 4, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Hi Bill, I have a small open floor plan condo that is being repaired after water damage. The cabinets will be a solid wood oak, probably a light stain, because I have dark counter tops. The laminate floor also needs to be replaced, in the living room, and the cabinets are close. I do not want so much oak, and I do not want it too dark because it is a fairly small space. Would a cherry or beech be reasonable? Thank you!


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 8, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      Erica – Cherry or beech sould like good choices. Test out your possible choices with large samples. Don’t try to decide with postage stamp sized of photo samples.

  212. Emily on January 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Bill, We need to replace the flooring in our kitchen due to water damage at the back door. Once leak source is fixed and old linoleum is removed I am faced with a dilemma. I am not a fan of tile for many reasons, including dangers of slipping for two young kids and seniors. I have off white cabinets and have blue glass decor with yellow walls and would love to have lighter wood floors, perhaps a hickory. The problem is that I have a butler’s pantry leading from the kitchen to the hall/dining area with no door and the dining area/hall/foyer/living room are a medium brown hardwood color. I do not want that dark of a wood floor in my kitchen. Is this going to look bad? My current linoleum is white with black diamond pattern and it is OK, as linoleum goes, with the rest of the colors white cabinets, white trim, yellow walls, unfortunate grey countertops…but that’s a project for another year’s budget!!! I can’t find pictures on the web of this type of flooring plan. I thought that the hickory would have the light overall effect, but the darker marbling would help to blend the two woods, especially if we keep the planks the same width and have a threshold between.

    Don’t want to make an error that would effect resale value should we ever leave here. Your input is welcomed. I know I shared many details, but basically want advising on combining the two different color wood at a doorless doorway.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      Emily – If you have a doorway, even with no actual door, you could install a contrasting piece of wood flooring at the doorway, flush with the floor surface. This would create the transition you need to change wood species. Even if you don’t have a doorway, there still might be a logical place to install a “flush threshold” like this to allow the transition. The key here is to have a purposeful stopping point for one flooring and a purposeful starting point for the other. By the way, not all floor tiles are slippery. Many offer very good traction. You can learn more by googling “tile slip resistance ratings” aand reading some of the articles.

  213. Lyn on January 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm


    We have a home with plain light-medium oak trim and doors. What color wide-plank wood flooring and cabinets and large island would you suggest for the kitchen? We do like a medium hickory stain for cabinets and sage green for the island. Also, what color countertops? We do like granite, soapstone, and quartz and like a traditional look.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      Lyn – That’s a lot to choose without seeing the choices together. It sounds like you could use the advice of a good local interior designer. But I’ll try to give you some help. I think the grain of the wood is more important than the color of the wood when picking wood floors and wood cabinets. As I suggest in my article, don’t combine two strong grains. One or both of the choices should be a smooth grained wood like cherry, maple, or others.With your oak trim and doors, oak might be best for the flooring. Here I would consider quarter-sawn or rift-sawn oak since it is a straight grain and does not ahve all those curving lines that plain-sawn oak does. But you may be limited in width of the planks. If you want solid wood and not engineered wood flooring, Heart pine is a good choice. It would support your “traditional” look, too. If you want a prefinished engineered wood flooring, you will find lots of choices that are usually maple. Granite is the best countertop choice of the tree you mentioned. Soapstone will show lots of marks. Cooking oil, grease, and even handprints will show marks. Soapstone is usually too “messy” looking for most people’s tastes. The quartz materials “live” well, but they often look to contemporary or too commercial. If you don’t want the shine of the polished granite, take a look at the honed and leathered finishes. A hones absolute granite can give you a lot of the look of soapstone without the marking problems.

  214. Elisha on January 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We recently bought a house and removed all the old flooring. I put in a dark plank style laminate with a lighter brown grain running thru it. We currently have orangey-oak cabinets in the kitchen and were recently offered light honey alder cabinets at a cheap price. I was wondering if I should stick with what I have or if the light cabinets would look alright? Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      Elisha – It’s really hard for me to give good color advice so far away and without seeing physical samples. My best advice is to get large samples of the cabinets, like an entire door, and put it with your flooring. You’ll know right away if it looks good or not.

  215. JR on January 9, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Hello Bill, I have a lot of respect of your opinion. Could you please offer a suggestion for my dilemma, I’m starting to lose sleep over it.

    I have a small 2 story home, open concept main floor is about 450 sq. ft., I was remodelling to my taste, but due to unforeseen circumstance I may need to sell my home soon.

    What’s been done so far is- all new kitchen cabinetry in maple hardwood with a very dark almost ebony stain. Also a new staircase installed (leading upstairs) The treads are stained ebony with risers painted white.

    My original plan was to install white stained oak floors, hoping to tie in with the white risers and also give contrast to the kitchen cabinets.

    Now I’m worried the white floors will be too much for many potential buyers.
    Do you have any suggestions-Is there a floor color that will save the day? Or paint the new cabinets white, seems like a shame (I’m will if need be)? Sand and restain the stairs? Or just stick with my original plan and hope it all works out?
    Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      JR – My suggestion would be to use a natural or light-medium stain on white oak for the flooring. The white flooring would be a resale issue. I don’t see any reason why your stair treads cannot be a “feature” and match you cabinets. The contrast with the lighter wood flooring would be attractive.

  216. JR on January 9, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I forgot to mention that my counter tops are white cashmere granite and my backsplash is a mosaic of small rectangle stone and glass with all differnt colors in it.

  217. Lyn on January 13, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Thank you so much for all your ideas for us. It really helps a lot with our decisions.
    We like your idea of smooth-grained woods and will probably do medium hickory-stained maple cabinets and oak, maple or heart pine for the wood floors in a color to match our light-medium oak trim and doors.
    The long side of the 19’ x 13’ kitchen is open to the living room and will have cabinets on two walls (L-shaped).
    Do you think a sage green island would look good in the room, then? We would really like to do a stacked stone backsplash in a light, neutral color. Would a light, neutral-colored polished granite countertop look best, and can you suggest some names of granite colors/patterns?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Lyn – The sage green island sounds great. I can’t help you with exact names of granites from “long distance,” but you should be able to find some good candidates that are light-neutral. Just try out some large samples against your cabinets to see what works.

  218. Adina on January 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Hello Bill,

    I would really appreciate your help today.
    My question is what color and finish should choose for the cabinets and countertop in my new apartment kitchen which I am renovating it more remotely, from a distance, by giving instructions to the contractor. The choice for the dark grey floor tiles with some brownish, redish reflections is already made and is being applied. I cannot go back to change it. The walls will be in white-creamy color. However I have to decide and give directions for the cabinets and coutertop and I am in a total lack of inspiration. The kitchen is open concept and the wood floor from the living room is a light oak. I would like to go with a modern look but I feel that the dark floor is a big constraint. Could you please advise? Many thanks in advance.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      Adina – Any smooth grained wood will work with your flooring. The only one I would avoid is an oak that matches your cabinets. You want a bit of contrast and you don’t want them to match.

  219. Rand on January 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Hello Bill –

    We are remodeling our home and decided to move toward contemporary. We purchased cherry cabinets with a dark toffee stain (i.e., they look more brown then red). Now we are trying to select wood flooring that is more “formal” contemporary. We have been reviewing natural walnut floors but they either appear casual or dark. We are also trying to avoid hand scraped since we prefer the smooth wood. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Rand – It’s really hard for me to give good color advice so far away and without seeing physical samples. My best advice is to get large samples of the flooring choices and put them with your cabinets. You’ll know right away if it looks good or not. As far as a contemporary look goes, maple is always a good choice. It’s naturally very light in color, but you can add a bit of color in the stain depending on your taste.

  220. Mary Caliguire on January 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    We have built a cabin/retirement home & now I need help deciding which wood species to use for cabinets, floors, doors & trim. We have already put in an oak staircase but I can’t decide what other types of wood will match with this. I had my heart set on hickory kitchen cabinets but have looked at so much other wood that it’s mind boggling. what are your thoughts on what we could use for wood flooring, doors & trim?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Mary – Take a look at alder. It has a smooth grain and it takes a stain well. Hickory has a very prominent grain and color varioations so it might be too overpowering for all of that wood.

  221. Carolyn on January 22, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Bill, Here is my question. I am remodeling my kitchen.
    The cabinets are going to be Oak with a Toffee stain.
    I want to put hardwood floors in the kitchen and dining room, hall,
    and entry way. I have no idea what type of wood or color hardwood
    I should go with. I know there should be a contrast between cabinets and
    Any suggestions?
    Thank you.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      Carolyn – It’s really hard for me to give good color advice so far away and without seeing physical samples. My best advice is to get large samples of the flooring and put it with your cabinets. You’ll know right away if it looks good or not. I would encourage you to look at smooth grained woods to go with yout oak cabinets. And the contrast can be subtle. Don’t feel you need to have a significant contrast in color.

  222. Glenn on January 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    one floor apartment kitchen remodel, need to keep existing think strip natural finish oak flooring in living room. Issue is my kitchen transitions straight into my living room awkwardly with no wall. I’m doing wenge cabinets and a white island. I’m struggling with floor transition. New floor will be wider plank and opposite direction, but should I cut existing floor transition on a radius, or straight, do I need a inlay or even both. For flooring thinking either tigerwood or koa with a dark inlay. So it’s either embrace contrast or hide.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      Glenn – You could install a flush transition board of a contrasting wood to make the transition from one flooring to the other. Wenge might be a nice choice since it will echo your cabinets.

  223. Jill on January 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Hi Bill,

    We’re just starting to shop for materials to redesign the kitchen in our home. We’ve pretty much decided on white or cream smooth grained cabinetry and I have fallen in love with Mascarello granite for the counters, but am open to other options. My husband loves the Tiger Strand Bamboo flooring, but I’m afraid it may compete with the countertops and be too busy. What do you think? Thanks for your help.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      Jill – It’s really hard for me to give good color advice so far away and without seeing physical samples. My best advice is to get large samples of everything, like an entire cabinet door, and put them together as a mock up. You’ll know right away if it looks good or not. If you’re still stumped, a good local interior designer might be helpful.

  224. Jim on January 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Bill, after reading your blog Ive learned you stance on espresso stained floors. I understand how the dust will accumulate and the floors will show every last dog hair, but you have to admit…..the contrast with white trim looks beautiful! So with that being said I was wondering if you could recommend the best kind of flooring to use in this circumstance. I don’t want to use oak because I don’t like the grain, maple doesn’t really hold a dark stain too well, and I’m not sure what to think about bamboo. Any imput would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 18, 2012 at 10:00 am

      Jim – I encourage my clients to look at the tropical woods like cumaru, jatoba, Santos mahogany, and others. These woods are expensive, but they are much harder than oak and maple, so they will wear exceptionally well for a long time. The bamboo floors are a good, lower cost option. they come in many tones. As you may know, they do not look like bamboo. They are made of strands of crushed bamboo bonded together in a resin. They have a leg u on other woods if you worry about the renewal time of the source. Bamboo will grow much faster than any tree, so they can get more of it sooner.

  225. Lisa on February 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    We have decided to remodel our kitchen. I LOVE maple cabinets and really like the toffee or coffee colors with the glazes. But we had already chosen an darker hickory wood in a cider color for the floor. We choose the floor because we had golden oak cabinets and were not going to change them, but now we have decided to. I am not sure that they will go now with maple. I would rather have the cabinets that I love, sicne it is more of a cost.
    Thank you for your help

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 18, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Lisa – Since the maple cabinets have a smooth grain and the hickory flooring has a “busy” grain, they will not “fight” with each other. If there is any color contrast at all between them, they should work well together.

  226. TommyO on February 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for the pointer. I’m heading to B&N to look for your book as “thanks”. I was thinking of doing Mahogany cabinets and possibly a Walnut island with our natural red oak flooring, and at least the Mahogany part is feeling like it’s the right path!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 18, 2012 at 10:09 am

      TommyO – Thanks for buying my book. If you like it, please post a review on Amazon. It helps others decide which books are worthwhile to buy. And if you can’t find it at Barnes and Noble, they can order it in or you can buy an author signed copy at

  227. Sherry Williams on February 8, 2012 at 12:16 am

    We are considering putting Santos Mahogany in our kitchen. We are looking at Kraft Maid maple or cherry burnished ginger cabinets. Would they complement one another? And what do you know about the durability of this mahogany floor?
    Thank you for your help.
    Sherry Williams

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 18, 2012 at 10:16 am

      Sherry – That sonds like a very good combination. Santos mahogany is a great wood. It is very hard, harder than oak or maple, so it will wear well. It won’t be prone to dents and nicks, like oak. It is also beautiful. I use it a lot on my projects. One thing to note about Santos mahogany is it will actually lighten a bit (but not too much) with exposure to light, unlike most woods that darken.

  228. Curt on February 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    We are thinkinking of putting down a Strand Viper bamboo floor in our kitchen and living room areas, and wanted to know if you think there will be to much of a contrast with our natural oak cabinets and trim?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

      Curt – That might be a little busy, but with a little color in the bamboo and the fact that the “grain” of the bamboo is fairly straight, it might work. Remember to get large samples before deciding.

  229. Ellen on February 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    We are about to replace our 12 year old vinyl kitchen floor, which has torn from kids leaning in their chairs. We have very high traffic with teenagers and a dog. The kitchen has a doorway to the dinning room, which has a golden oak floor, and the foyer which is ceramic tile, and the family room which is carpeted. My kitchen cabinets are a golden oak, and my appliances are white. We would like to put hardwood in the kitchen, but we are concerned about it scratching and denting. We are also at a complete loss as to what shade the floor should be, and what plank size. Do we try to match the dinning room, or since it is only a four foot doorway, not worry about it? And our biggest question, what color stain should we choose? HELP!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 27, 2012 at 12:04 am

      Ellen – You could easily change the flooring species at the four foot wide doorway. Most of us think of oak as a hard wood. It is compared to pine, but it is nowhere near as hard as many of the tropical woods like jatoba, ipe, cunaru, rosewood, and Santos mahogany. These will be more costly, but they are twice as resistant to denting than oak is. So you may want to look at them and see if any of the colors work for you and yoour budget can stand the extra cost. Oak can be dented simply by walking across it in high heels, even if you only weigh a hundred pounds. and dog claws are murder on it. So in the long run, the added cost of a truly hard wood will be worth it. Incidentally, I’ve used cumaru and ipe with oak cabinets. They can look great. Just strive for a wood with a smoother grain so it won’t compete with the oak.

  230. Matthew on March 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    We have a Brazillian Koa floor in our kitchen with white cabinets. We have our old dark cherry table but we feel its adding too many colors. The granite has some green to it and the walls are a faint yellow. Any ideas on what kind of kitchen table would go well with everything?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 16, 2012 at 9:40 am

      Matthew – Thanks for commenting, but this sounds like a question a good local interior designer can help you with better than I can.

  231. vinodha on March 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Hi Bill,

    We have decided to put in wood flooring in our kitchen and dining/living area.The living/dining area is right next to the kitchen. We have light maple cabinets in the kitchen. The kitchen receives a lot of natural light all through the day (huge windows facing west) but the living/dining does not receive as much. So my question is do we have to have the same wood in both kitchen and living/dining? In which case I will have to go with a lighter wood like natural birch or maple which we think will work great in our living/dining but may not be much of a contrast with our kitchen cabinets. On the other hand, if we go with a darker wood then the living/dining area may appear too dark. Any thoughts on successfully transitioning two different wood colors between adjacent rooms?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 16, 2012 at 9:43 am

      Vinodha – You can successfully transition from one wood to another by intalling a flush threshold board between the two rooms. If there is a doorway between the rooms, it will make it easier. Just put the threshold at the doorway and make it as wide as the wall is thick. It could be either species of wood or even a contrasting accent wood.

  232. Scott on March 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Bill, we are putting in Hickory cabinets and cannot decide on the floor. We want to put in a solid wood floor. The floor would span between the kitchen and the dining room. In the dining room, we have solid oak walls, floor to ceiling with a satin polyurethane. If the hickory cabinets have a clear coat satin finish as well, what would you suggest for the floor? And, if we decided on a darker stain for the hickory cabinets, would a natural hickory work on the floor, or would that be too busy?

    Your advice above has been excellent. Thanks.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Scott – More hickory will probably be too busy. You might look at cherry or another smoother grained wood. I try to pick a wood that is the right color naturally and simply apply a sealer with no stain. But if the cherry is not appealing, you might look at maple (another smooth grained wood). Maple is very light colored, so you might want to apply a stain to get the color you like.

  233. Carla on March 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Looks like I am in the same dillema as many others. Just got new cherry cabinets stained a medium reddish mahogany. Would love to have wood floors, but don’t know which way to turn. I want to paint the walls copper and the countertops are quartz with splashes of gray, black, brown and beige. Any suggestion?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 16, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Carla – Cherry is a smooth grained wood so you could use almost any species of wood for the floors. Don’t be shy about asking for large samples of the flooring with various stains to help you make your choice. Oak would be your best priced option. For a small additional cost, quarter-sawn oak will give you a distinctive look and a straighter grain. Then pick the color stain that you like best.

  234. " class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Sue on March 18, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Hi Bill,

    I was so pleased to come across your website. We have just had a new kitchen fitted with traditional oak cupboards and chocolate quartz worktops which look great! The dilemna is my husband wants wood flooring, we have tried several samples which have either been similar with not much contrast or too dark. Can you suggest a good contrast to go with cupboards and worktops?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Sue – You might take a look at maple floors. Maple is very light in color and a nice, smooth grain. You can stain it to a tone you like.

  235. Jill on April 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I have medium oak cabinets in my kitchen with vinyl flooring. My hallway is an oak parquet (I think a mixture of natural and white oak). The hallway flows into the kitchen and I would like to replace both flooring with the same engineered wood product. Two samples I have are a rustic hickory and a natural red oak (both are lighter than the cabinets). Do you have any other suggestions? I don’t want to go darker than the cabinets.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on April 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      Jill – I would caution against a wood species that has a busy grain like your cabinets. Hickory is a lot like oak. Both have swirling, busy grain structure. i would suggest you look for something smoother, like maple or birch. As far as the color goes, pick what you like best and strive for at least a little contrast from the cabinets.

  236. Margaret Ferguson on May 16, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I have ginger maple cabinets kitchen cabinets in my great room and wanted a rich looking tropical floor and some contrast as I have medium to dark furniture in the room as well. What do you suggest please?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

      Margaret – You might look at Santos Mahogany for your flooring. Another possible choice is Tiete Rosewood. Both are a rich reddish brown look. And they are very hard so they will look good for a long time.

  237. Donna on May 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I am having a hard time picking out my flooring. We have chosen a raised panel cherry cabinet in a mandarin bronze stain. I was looking at a cinnamon maple and maple latte floor. I am worried the cinnamon maple may be too similar a color. Should I stay away from maple flooring altogether with my cherry cabinets and look at oak flooring? Thanks

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 16, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Donna – There is no reason to stay away from Maple. Natural maple is a very light colored wood. What you are looking at is maple with a stain on it. There are many different “maples” to choose from since the stain could be almost any color. I would suggest you look at other pre-finished flooring brands and see if you can find a color you prefer.

  238. Jolie on June 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Not sure if you are still taking questions but like others am struggling with a decision about colors for flooring and cabinetry. I am doing a natural white oak floor. I was thinking of doing the t and g ceiling, trim and doors all the same natural color and then a darker cabinet color. I am putting absolute black granite in the kitchen. I like lighter colors and the cabs are clear alder. Any suggestions for a stain?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on June 16, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Jolie – It’s hard for me to recommend a stain without seeing everything. Maybe a local interior designer can help you out with that. It sounds like you are going for a more modern look witht hte light wood and black countertops. i would suggest you use a water based polyurethane for the floor finish so it will not yellow over time. That will keep you wood “white,” just as it is when it is first finished.

  239. Kim on June 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm


    We have Ikea slab black-brown cabinets (oak veneer). We just had white oak hardwoods installed. We have hardwoods running throughout most of the house, including the kitchen. Are we crazy to keep the white oak natural?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      Kim – Not crazy at all. I think the contrast will be striking.

  240. Amanda on June 23, 2012 at 3:55 pm


    I recently moved into an older condominium which is out of date. We are in the process of taking wallpaper down and painting. We want to put in hardwood floors in the kitchen, dining and living room, but are lost when it comes to what color of flooring to choose. We love the darker woods but the kitchen cabinets are a light oak and we are worried that it will be too much of a contrast. Should we go with a color more similar to the oak cabinets or is it safe to go darker?
    Any input would be very much appreciated thank you!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 16, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      Amanda – I think it is better to create contrast and avoid letting your floor and cabinets look too similar.

  241. Shellie on July 12, 2012 at 8:56 am

    We ar remodeling our kitchen and have chosen hickory cabinets stained rumberry. I’m having a very hard time choosing hardwood flooring. I initially thought I wanted an oak floor, but feel the grains of oak and hickory would be too much. I prefer a more medium/light floor colored floor. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 16, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      Shellie – I agree that the oak and hickory grain will be too much alike and get too “busy.” Take a look at cherry or some color of maple to get a smoother grain wood. Or if your budget can handle it, look at some of the tropical woods, like Santos Mahogany.

  242. Dave on November 5, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Hey Bill, looking for a little insight. Doing a reno job on our cottage, everything in the kitchen will be new. The flooring has been purchased which is a Hickory cayenne laminate, plank style, appliances will be black and stainless, thinking the countertops will be black with silver specks. Just wondering what colour and wood choice is best suited for the cabinets.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on November 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Dave – With the hickory floors being an “active” grain, I would suggest a smoother grained wood for the cabinets, such as maple or alder. The color should be something that complements the hickory, but still provides a bit of contrast.

  243. Carol Ann on January 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    We are building a new house and I was thinking of birch Hazelnut cabinets and nutmeg hardwood flooring. Do you think that the colors will look to much alike?
    thank you

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Carol Ann – I can’t visualize those colors from just their names. But if they contrast in a pleasant way and are not too similar in color, they should work well. The key is to have color harmony. With the cabinets being birch, I would expect they would have a smooth, calm grain. If so, they will work nicely with most any flooring wood, even a wood that has a busy and prominent grain pattern.

  244. Pat Fraer on January 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Hi Bill
    I am remodelling my kitchen. I would like to use wooden floors but I am getting different answers to my question do the floor go under the cabinets?

    thanks Pat

  245. Pat Fraer on January 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    are wooden floor installed before cabinets go in or after? I was told they would buckle if installed before are they would not be able to moved because of the weight of the cabinets.
    Please advise.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on January 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Pat – If the floor is a “floating” floor where each piece of wood is glued to the next one and none of the planks are nailed down to the subfloor, then you do need to allow space for the entire floor to expand and contract. But with most wood floors the planks are each nailed (stapled) down to the subfloor. So the entire floor does not move as one large unit. Only the individual boards expand and contract. That is why you see small gaps between planks in the winter when the air is dry.

      You can install the cabinets before or after the wood floor. Usually the flooring goes in first. Sometimes a layer of plywood that is the same thickness as the wood flooring is installed where the cabinets will go to save flooring material. The plywood “lifts” the cabinets so they end up at the level of the wood floor. If you have a floating wood floor, you can still install the cabinets on a layer of plywood and leave a gap between the plywood and the wood floor that’s hidden beneath the front edge of the cabinets to allow for expansion and contraction.

  246. Annette on February 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm


    I am so nervous about picking out hardwood for my kitchen. My kitchen cabinets are natural maple shaker style. They are 12 years old so they have yellowed a bit. Do you think cumaru/brazilian teak will be okay? Trying to find a wood that won’t be yellow or too red.

    Thanks. Hoping you can provide me some reassurance.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Annette – The wood is not the thing that yellows. It is the finish. Oil based polyurethane yellows over time. Use a water based polyurethane and you won’t have to worry about yellowing. And i love cumaru. It should look great with the maple since the maple is a smooth grained wood. The two wood species won’t “fight” with each other.

  247. Diane on February 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Bill-
    I am remodeling my kitchen and am trying to choose cabinets, but am having trouble with the wood color. We have a small ranch house with a living room, dining area and kitchen with all natural red oak floors, which have a orangey tone. I also have a bay window with a darker stain in the dining area. Right now we have oak cabinets the same color as the floor and I hate it. For a change I was thinking of going with a cream color painted cabinet with a cocoa glaze, but I have never had painted cabinets before and am a little nervous about how they wear. I a also considering a light maple stained cabinet, but I’m not sure which color would work with the floors. I would appreciate your opinion.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on February 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      Diane – I think the painted cabinets with the cocoa glaze would be great. I would suggest using a self leveling, alkyd (oil based) satin enamel paint. It will cure to be quite hard and it won’t remain “sticky” like latex enamels do. Even better would be to take the doors and drawer fronts to a shop where they can paint them in a spray booth. They could then top the paint with a catalyzed varnish (clear) that would give you the same durable finish as you would get with new cabinets. The rest of the cabinet, the boxes, could be painted “in place”. That should give you a final result that will be durable and good looking.

  248. Melanie on September 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    We have medium dark stained cherry wood cabinets. Would red or white oak floor be best with the cherry cabinets?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on September 12, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Melanie – The difference between red oak and white oak is actually very subtle. Red oak has the slightest hint of red in it. It is so slight that you would have trouble telling which was which, in most cases. If you plan on putting any kind of stain on the floor, then choosing between red oak and white oak is probably unnecessary since you can adjust the stain color to compensate for the slight tint in the natural wood color. And right now, red oak is a lot better priced than white oak.

  249. Sharon on February 13, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Bill, thank you for such an informative site. My husband and I are redecorating our downstairs on a slim budget. I’m stuck on the kitchen and family room which run together. My husband insists on leaving our 1990s ash cabinets and breakfast bar stained in red oak along with our brown leather furniture. We want to install wood floors, but I’m at a loss as to what use. Based on what you wrote here, I’m guessing we should go with something smooth and that it should be a different color than the cabinets. I just don’t know where to begin. Help?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on February 24, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Sharon – You are correct. The wood should have a smooth grain so it does not “compete” with The “active” grain of the ash cabinets. Consider a prefinished maple floor. These are available in many colors and finishes. Assuming your ash cabinets are fairly light in tone, you might want to consider a medium color for the floors. I would suggest staying away from the really dark colors. They tend to show dust and animal fur. You might want to take one of your Cabinet doors with you to the flooring store to make sure of how they look together.

      By the way, if your ash cabinets have yellowed, it is actually the polyurethane finish that has yellowed. If you were to strip off the old poly, you could refinish them with a a coat of oil-based poly to bring out the beauty of the wood, and then a coat of water-based poly as the final coat. The water-based poly will not yellow over time.

      • Sharon on March 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

        Thank you for taking the time to help those of us who are novices at remodeling. This is a tremendously helpful site and your input is greatly appreciated.

  250. Jim on March 1, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Hi Bill,

    What do you think of chocolate maple cabinets with American natural cherry hardwood floors? If those work together what color granite/quartz would look good on the counters, white?

    Thanks for your time


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on March 21, 2014 at 10:57 am


      Maple and cherry are two wood species that work well together because their grain patterns won’t clash. It’s hard for me to give color advice without being there. But you’re instincts are correct that something light colored for the countertop would probably be a nice contrast with the dark cabinets.

  251. Linda Marshall on April 8, 2015 at 7:08 am

    I am looking to replace our 2 1/2 ” gunstock oak floors on my entire first floor and am struggling with the options. i have creme kitchen cabinets with a brown glaze accent and a natural cherry island and hutch. My granite is mostly black/brown. My foyer banister is “gunstock oak” and the furnishings in the other rooms are mostly dark woods. I am trying to coordinate with all of this. Any advice on floor options? I currently like a hickory 5″ hand scraped in a dark brown (estate collection jackson hole) but I am wondering if that is too rustic of a look. I would say my home is transitional in decor.thank you!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on April 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Linda – It is pretty hard for me to give specific color and wood species advice through my blog. My general advice would be to select a fairly smooth “passive” grained wood for the flooring because the oak cabinets have a visible, “active” grain. You do not want them to compete with each other.

  252. Nicci on April 12, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Hello Bill,

    We are planning a kitchen reno and have found a natural acacia hardwood flooring that we would like to use. Originally we were planning to go with cherry cabinets, but now we are questioning whether or not these two would go together. Do you have any advice for us?


    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on April 17, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      Nicci – As long as the patterns of the grain of the wood in the cabinets and in the floor do not compete with each other, you will be okay. Acacia is very busy, with lots of color variations. so a wood like cherry, maple, or alder would be good with it. You will also need to select stain colors that are compatible. There should be some contrast. Do not try to match the color of the cabinets with the color of the floor.

  253. Adam on June 15, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    We are buying a house with maple cabinets in a light red/cider color. The baseboards and casing throughout the house is a golden oak with a slight red tint to it. We are planning on replacing all of the flooring in the kitchen, dining, and living room area. Any suggestions on wood type and color? Thank you very much!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 23, 2015 at 7:23 am

      Adam – Because maple is a smooth grained wood, you have the freedom to choose almost any wood to go with it. You do not have the worry of getting the wood grains looking too busy. As to the color, you will want some contrast, either lighter or darker, for the flooring so the cabinets do not look like a “continuation” of the flooring. Use your instincts to choose the hue of the flooring. If it looks good to you, then it is good.

  254. Rae on June 22, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Building a house and are putting in hickory floors with a light-medium brown stain. What wood species cabinets would you put with that? Would quarter sawn white oak cabinets go or should we go with Cherry or Birch?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on June 23, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Rae – The quarter sawn oak is a great wood. That is the wood of choice for Stickley furniture and the Craftsman style. With the busy grain of the hickory, it would be a very “woody” look, but it just might work. The safer choice would be the smooth grain of the cherry or birch.

  255. Vanna on June 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I’m building my home, and we have selected autumn maple cabinets as shown on this website: We are having difficulty selecting a wood tile that would best go with the cabinets. Essentially we are deciding between golden pecan: or natural wood: We’re afraid the golden pecan might not provide enough contrast, but if we choose natural wood, we fear that it might not go well with our cabinet choice. Not sure if there’s too much grain that it’s overbearing? Please help! I’m also debating whether to keep the standard Avalon door style:{BE75667A-337A-407F-8375-8CA07E34C729} or upgrade to the Radford style:{EFA4AB61-95A8-4118-BE8B-6671AF5EEB5E}. What do you think and would either door style go well with the wood tiles? Thanks in advance!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on July 8, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Vanna – Thanks for your note, but it is really impossible for me to advise on specific color selections or cabinet door styles without being there. I would suggest you consult with a local interior designer for help with this.

  256. Kanupriya Singhal on July 24, 2015 at 4:26 am

    Hi Bill,

    I was going through the discussion threads posted here;it seems you can help me. We have golden oak cabinets in the kitchen , with red oak floor. We are changing the floor to Lauzon santos mahogany . Will they look good or I need to stain my cabinets. Further we have white handrails and white baseboards. I think white handrails should look good as it will open up the space but not sure with the baseboards. Can you pls suggest what should I do for the cabinets and handrails?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on August 23, 2015 at 8:39 am

      Kanupriya – The santos mahogany should look good with the golden oak cabinets. I would suggest not doing white handrails, though. Handrails tend to get dirty where people place their hands. The white will show the dirt. I prefer natural wood for handrails.

  257. Sarah on December 17, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I have medium golden oak cabinets and trim in my house which is about 13 years old. So the color of the oak has changed a bit since it was initially installed. I currently have white tile in my kitchen which is a very cool look next to my cabinets. I would like to get wood floors in my kitchen and dinning room but I am at a loss for selecting a color. Their is quite a bit of grain in the oak which I am not a big fan of the grain or the color quite frankly but I am not in a position to stain the wood or replace it; so, I am trying to work with what I have. I love tiger wood flooring but I am sure that would be way too busy look. I like the two toned effect that the flooring provides. Wondering if you might have suggestions.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on December 18, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      Sarah – The color change in your oak cabinets is actually just the polyurethane finish yellowing over time. The wood underneath is probably still white. With oak cabinets, I usually suggest a smoother grained wood for the floors. Cherry or maple work well. If you are using pre-finished flooring, there are many to choose from that are maple with medium to dark coloring. Take off one of your cabinet doors and take it with you to the flooring store and see how it looks next to some of the floors you like. It will be easy to see which wood works and which wood doesn’t that way.

  258. Lynda on September 11, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Hi! We built a new house an chose hickory cabinets (with knots) for kitchen, all trim an doors in the house are plain pine! (Not knotty pine) my floor is brown porcelain with some white an black swirls. My dining table and hutch are medium oak, will this look ok? I thought it would bring the brown out in the knotty hickory cabinets..? I need an opinion. Can u email me back. Thanks!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on September 19, 2016 at 8:56 pm

      Lynda – It’s really tough for me to make color recommendations through the website. I would suggest getting an opinion from a qualified interior designer locally.

  259. jeff meahl on October 17, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    My wife and I have a long, narrow kitchen. Roughly 8 ft wide by 20 ft long. It doesn’t get much natural light with a small casement window above the kitchen sink. We put in 4″ hickory flooring 4 years ago that has a lightish gunstock finish. Then we probably did something stupid. We put in very lightish granite countertops with lots of white, brown, and a little red before we did anything with cabinets. The kitchen has one bank of cabinets that runs from the floor to the ceiling, about 8 feet long, and kitchen cabinets under the granite and above the countertops in the cooking and cleaning portion of the kitchen. Now we want to replace the cabinetry while salvaging the granite and backsplash (light colored brick backsplash). We are wondering if good quality painted cabinets would be better than a darker stained birch. Any input is appreciated!

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on October 25, 2016 at 11:51 am

      Jeff – Painted cabinets would be a good idea. They would let you accent the wood floors and help visually separate the wood floor from the countertops. Just choose your paint color carefully so the cabinets are harmonious with the countertop colors. It should be a handsome look.

  260. Shannon on February 10, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    We have gunstocks oak flooring in living room, dinning room open to kitchen area kitchen will have tile, looking for a wood cabinets to complement?? Wood type and colour?

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect William Hirsch on February 15, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Shannon – I would suggest something with a smoother grain and in a color that is a pleasant contrast, yet is compatible with the oak.

  261. Kaylee Coleman on January 11, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks for all the details. All types of hardwood floors have unmatched natural beauty and go with any decor modern, traditional, country, you name it. Hardwood flooring goes in any room, although kitchens and basements warrant special considerations.

  262. Geneva on February 28, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Oh thank goodness…I will be so grateful for any help you can provide. I bought cumaru flooring for the 1985 kitchen I am remodeling because I think it is fabulous. I am, unbelievably, drawn to quarter-sawn oak. Unbelievable because for 20 years I have been dreaming of replacing my zebra-striped honey oak cabinets! They sure look different from the quarter-sawn oak cabinets. As you say, country vs elegant. The problem is color. I want to go dark, but no so dark that it makes my kitchen look like a cave. It gets morning light, but none in the evening. I have seen cumaru floors that have a red tint – mine definitely have a brown tint, with far more light pieces than dark. I couldn’t see the picture you referenced.

    • Bill on March 21, 2018 at 10:28 pm

      Geneva – That photo is in my book, Designing Your Perfect House. You could buy a copy, either the Kindle ebook or a hardcover copy. But I will also try to repost it. Unfortunately, i won’t be ablt to do that until April.

  263. Suzanne on July 1, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Hi ,
    I am remodeling a galley kitchen with gunstock color hardwood floors and was wondering what color kitchen cabinets would be best? My husband thinks light I think dark. Please help.

    • Bill on July 3, 2018 at 7:55 am

      Suzanne – I think that either light or dark would work so long as there is a pleasing contrast of tone from the flooring. What you are trying to avoid is too close a match to the flooring. If the cabinets are too similar, they will seem to dissolve into the flooring. Contrast is good. It lets us see the world more clearly.

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