Valley House Tour: A Case for New Floors

Some of you commented yesterday that you really liked the dark wood floors on the stairs and in the family room and that I should just replace the ceramic tiles with dark wood to match and call it a day. That was definitely my Plan B. My problem with this flooring is that it’s engineered…

Some of you commented yesterday that you really liked the dark wood floors on the stairs and in the family room and that I should just replace the ceramic tiles with dark wood to match and call it a day.

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That was definitely my Plan B. My problem with this flooring is that it’s engineered wood and for some reason it has that sort of swishy, sticky, hollow sound to it when you walk (drives me nuts). Also, it’s made to look hand-scraped, which can be really pretty when done subtly, but ends up being a bit too much texture I think in a large space.

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Also, I really, really dislike the way they did the stairs, where you can see the individual pieces of wood instead of cut-to-fit planks. Even if we were going to keep the dark wood floors, I’d pull those off the wood on the treads and risers and have new planks cut. This look is not my favorite.

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For the record, I still really like the look of dark stained floors. I think it’s classic and the contrast against light color walls is so pretty! My mom has really dark floors in her house and they’re lovely. The stain shade on the wood in this house is almost the same as my mom’s and I really like it.

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I actually spent a few days at the new house recently working on a pre-closing project (photos coming soon! Can’t wait to share.) and the dust on the floors ended up being a daily chore to tackle. The footprints!! They were everywhere. I was practically married to my swiffer when we lived at the loft with the white epoxy floors, and the idea of having endless years ahead of me wiping up the dark floors every time the kids come in from playing in the backyard sounded like a nightmare.

And while it would be less than half as expensive to replace the tile with the same dark engineered wood (assuming we could buy more of the same wood), I feel like it would be a little like throwing good money after bad. Since there’s a good chance we’ll live in this home for a long time, I’d rather put a bigger chunk of my renovating budget toward doing the floors right from the get go.

So what am I envisioning? A light golden gray. Basically the color of dust and kid smudges. :) This first photo here is my inspiration.

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I’m shooting for a more classic “Paris apartment” color on the stain, which I think might be a little more trend-resistant than the really light grays (which are so, so gorgeous).

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World of Interiors (I think? Dang Tumblr!)
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Arch Digest

We’re putting in an order for 3.5″ unfinished white oak. The bulk of the order will be sent in random lengths for all the straight-laying we’ll do in most of the house. But in the library (which I’ll show you next) I want to lay the wood in a herringbone pattern.

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above and below via
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The floor in the library is sunken about 8″, which is not my favorite look normally, but it works pretty well to define the three different spaces we have going on in the front part of the house. It was going to cost thousands and thousands to fill in the step-down and we would have had to wait for 60 days for the concrete to cure before laying flooring down on top of the fill. I was on the fence about filling it anyway, so problem solved!

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Doing a herringbone will make the step down look more intentional I think. And actually, it’s really a chevron pattern we’re doing, where the planks aren’t offset, but meet at an angle – just like in all the example photos above. I’m sort of getting ahead of myself though. More plans for the library and the parquetry in a bit.

What do you think of our stain choice? We need to test some more samples, but it’s looking like three parts golden oak to one part gray stain is just about right.

Join the Conversation

77 thoughts on “Valley House Tour: A Case for New Floors

  1. I love your choice of flooring and the chevron floor will look amazing! I can't wait to see it.

    I am with you on low maintenance floors. We have all windows at the front of our house and the light makes everything noticeable on too-light or too-dark floors. When we re-did our floors I had to walk in socks and bare feet on the samples to make sure no footprints were left. (we live in Canada, so no shoes in the house)We chose a really nice mid tone which works great with our kids, dogs and abundance of light.
    I am so excited to see what you do with your new home!

  2. I have that exact same floor in my bedroom and hallway, which I put in after my rabbits destroyed the carpet. It does show dust, and dust bunnies (but everything will with two white rabbits living under the bed). I live in a tiny rental, and bought the "wood" flooring off of craigslist for well under market value.

    I third the option of either selling the floor (I believe it is a click and lock, not a glue-in floor), or donating to Habitat for Humanity. I bet people would volunteer to come in a take up your floor for free if they got to keep it.

  3. Hi guys!! Thanks so much for your input on the floors!

    We definitely have plans to donate the salvageable wood planks (and even tiles – my contractor thinks we can keep a lot of them whole) to our Habitat for Humanity store. That's helping me feel a teeny tiny bit less guilty for ripping out perfectly good floors. Truly, if it weren't for the horrible sound these boards make when you walk on them, I would do everything in my power to make them work. I wish I cared less about this sort of thing!

    We do have a family goal to salvage and donate as much of the items we're removing from the house as possible. I hate the idea of being so wasteful, so any steps we can take to reduce our footprint while also getting the house of my dreams is worth it to me.


  4. Katy @ Eat, Drink & Decorate:

    The house is built on slab. You can either put down a plywood subfloor (which will raise your floors up almost an inch) or you can get glue-down grade wood (which is what we're doing. xo

  5. Emily – I'm all for continuity, but I don't mind mixing flooring types at all, especially when both are beautiful and compliment each other. I think how the floors transition into each other is a big part of the equation too.

    We have horrible brick pavers in our kitchen, laundry room and a couple of the bathrooms. We're not doing wood in the kitchen (at least right now) because we're planning a full kitchen reno in the next year or so. We'll be moving walls, so I thought it wouldn't make sense to pay for floors in there right now. Plus, I like tile in kitchens, so I might opt for something different in there anyway, after the reno.

    If you hate the tile in your entry though, I say go for the continuity! xo

  6. rcwillman: I think once the stairs are painted, I won't mind them. The proportion is not offensive in person, though I would love to do something a little different down the road!

  7. crobbins:

    They use the room currently like a more formal living room or a "front room". I'm posting more about this tomorrow, but we're building floor to ceiling bookshelves on the back wall. I totally hear you on the door idea – that would be so pretty, but I think we're going to leave it mostly open. Though eventually we'll probably change the shape of the walkways in and out of the room, which I think will help it feel more like a room of its own while still maintaining that open feel.


  8. Spend the money!! You'll never regret it and only be frustrated every time you are cleaning dark floors and wished you had changed. We have dark floors and I love them but I'm ALWAYS cleaning them and I don't have children at home!

  9. litebrite: I'm not sure who manufactures the wood (it's engineered) or the species. I asked the seller for the info though (so we could determine if we could just refinish these and also to see if the installation was lock-in or glue-down), so I'll update here when she sends it over.

  10. I think you're making such a smart choice to switch out the floors before you move in! We live in a 1915 bungalow. The previous owners ripped out the old floors and installed the new pre-fab floors. While they look lovely when perfectly clean :) I wish we had had the money and foresight to replace them with real wood before we moved in. We've been here almost 8 years…don't plan on leaving any time soon…but it sounds like a nightmare to move out to replace the floors even though I'm itching to do so. Oh well! I've learned my lesson and I'll know for next time.

    I'm excited to read about your new adventures in Arizona!

  11. I love it, 'dust and kid smudges' just like I loved your way to relax after tetnus-a three hour drive!! Great stuff and much happiness to everyone in your new home.

  12. Just out of curiosity, what don't you like about tile floors? Are there any types of tile that you like? Could you have an entirely tiled home? I'm a fellow AZ resident and just curious on your opinion since we see so much tile in our HOT Arizona homes. Thanks!

  13. Hi Nina! I love tile in kitchens, baths and laundry rooms especially. I recently did a post on encaustic tiles, which are completely gorgeous. As far as whole-house tile goes, I think if the architecture of the house supports the look, I'm all for it – like something Spanish style.

    I don't love the particular tile in my house. The color is very pink and the shade of brown in the sort of "veining" is not my favorite. Real travertine – in a really really light shade is not a bad choice I think. Real stone is always a good idea.


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  15. Welcome back to AZ, Jenny. We'll have to have a mini-HLS reunion. There's a few of us here now. When we bought our home a few years ago, we replaced the tile with engineered wood. At the time, we thought it was the best look for our buck. I don't regret doing it, but I do feel like we'll be replacing the floor sooner than later. It does not wear very well at all. It scratches very badly and looks poor after just a few years. Now, I sometimes wonder if it would have been a better idea to put the majority of our budget towards our floors rather than using funds for other projects.

    So, kudos to you for putting in the real stuff! Hope the transition back to AZ life goes smoothly. Its an adjustment:)

    Alyson Rogers

  16. As much as they can be a nightmare to keep clean, it seems like a huge waste of money and material (to put in the garbage) to rip them up! I hope they can either be reused or re sold!

  17. I totally agree with you, hands down! I've had a dark walnut floor the past 8 years with 3 little boys, and while its beautiful, it shows everything. My top pick for our next home is similar to yours. Herringbone floors are gorgeous…are you laying it yourself?!

  18. The floors in your inspiration photos are lovely! And doing the chevron in the step-down library is perfect. (Also, my hubby LOVES step-downs! It is on his list of "would love to have" for our future someday home.) With that being said, are you going to try to salvage and sell or donate the engineered floors you are removing? One of my least favorite things about home renovations is when people throw away perfectly good and usable materials just because they aren't their style. Please salvage and sell or donate as much as you can!

  19. I love your inspiration floors, they are perfection! I have dark tile floors in my kitchen and they are such a pain. I totally agree with you. I think its a huge waste of time to clean dark floors constantly. I'm sure the others could be donated. I think you are very environmentally minded in how much vintage furniture you use btw :).

    Love the house so far, can't wait to see more!

  20. i couldn't agree with you more! we have engineered dark floors, but ours are not at all textured. they are sleek, which is beautiful for about 5 minutes after you clean! without any variance, they show every footprint and crumb, although you can't see our black lab's hair…the only positive. i love your floor color choice. oak, but not too warm with that grey in there. thanks for sharing!

  21. Dark floors are beautiful, but they are like all down filled sofas, they are for people with servants and no children or guests…

    Like the stain recipe you chose; it will fill the house with light and that is important, since you will find yourself covering windows to block the scorching Arizona sun. Definitely keep the step down; it defines the space and kids LOVE steps.

  22. BTW, if you are ripping out the old flooring, why not contact Habitat for Humanity? They may send someone to remove it all properly and you will get a tax deduction and be helping others.

  23. The hodge lodge on the stairs was my favorite part, actually. Looks old. But I'm glad to hear you're lightening the floors. I've lived with honey oak and super dark Brazilian, and that Brazillian is as pointless as white carpet. Not practical. (Not that I'm crazy about 90s honey oak, but it did always look clean.)

  24. I really love the chevron floors idea and the stain color choice.

    I am wondering though how they might work with the interior gingerbread trim. Seems like it is two very contrasting styles, the ornate fretwork, with the geometric floor pattern.

    Another thing to consider is the temperature changes in your area with genuine wood flooring. Might want to ask about that so you don't end up with a lot of gaps from expanding and shrinking that often occurs with genuine wood flooring.

  25. Yep, sorry, still think you're nuts ;) (said in a totally friendly tone, exactly the way I'd say it to a dear friend if she were doing the same thing). Now that you've shown close-ups, I think those floors are even better. . .I actually love the texture that "hand-scraped" on a large scale adds, and you'd be surprised at how much dust/smudges are camouflaged just by that texture alone, even with the dark color. I can totally get behind wanting cut-to-fit planks on a stairway, if I were doing it from the start. . .but to take out perfectly good flooring for a detail that small? Yep, still seems crazy. I am a design-aholic (hey, I asked for my first subscription to Architectural Digest when I was 14) but I don't think I would ever notice that! And since you asked for opinions on your color choice (which you may decide was a big mistake–asking for opinions that is), I have nothing against those gorgeous Parisian apartments with that color of flooring. But I think in anything other than a Parisian apartment where there is antique boiserie and plaster walls, that color of floor will fail to say "PARIS" and it will instead say "1980's honey-colored oak in houses with ivy wallpaper borders"! I just have a hard time thinking of anything else when I see that color of oak.

  26. As a devoted reader of yours, and feeling like I understand your style a bit, leaving those floors just does not seem like an option. Also, they are run of the mill and one of the reasons that I follow this blog so closely is because you are anything but "run of the mill".

    I cannot wait to see the color and the chevron pattern in the library makes my heart go pitter patter!

    Although, this talk of floors and different styles does make me wonder. Does it matter, in your opinion, if the style of the finishings goes with the time period/era of the house or aethestic of the neighborhood? Is it an outdated design rule that the decor and finishings should remain true to the time period the house was built or the design aesthitic of the location? I honestly don't have an opinion on this, just wondering what your thoughts are.

    Thanks for being a consistant and continual design inspiration for me!

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  28. of course dark wood floors are beautiful, but living in AZ and having anything dark, is a dust nightmare!! Seems like the moment I'm done dusting I need to do it again. Good choice with the color change

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