The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam

I get this question so much, it’s time to focus on it for a moment. A lot of people have this problem. Or should I say “problem”?

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam

{Yellow/orange floors. Anything wrong here?}

So here’s the question from a reader:

“Have you ever had to decorate around a maple floor? Yes, I have just moved into what was an elegant maple floors + maple wall-to-wall counters + dark granite countertop 1990s extravaganza. Since I don’t think I’m going to be able to stain maple darker [you can’t!], do you have any blogs that deal with flooring color – and what can and can’t be done when paired with this 1980s/90s yellowy wood obsession?”

Here’s my best advice: start decorating and shopping. You don’t need to match the floor unless you want to install a yellow/gold rug to blend in, and I probably wouldn’t recommend that, anyway. Having said that, you could still get away with a natural fiber rug in the same tones. Almost any colour will work on the walls.

Your floors are like denim. If you want to introduce greys, that’s fine. Nothing brings grey to life faster than yellow or orange.

And that’s it. Really. Replace yellow and orange maple floors with honey oak floors, and my answer is still the same.

If you have just moved into a new house and need to buy furniture, your flooring will not give you enough clues to help you.

I’m serious. Let me say it again so you’ll remember.

Your flooring is not your starting point.

It’s not friendly or chatty. It’s just hanging out and neutral for the most part. It will not help you choose your outfit for the day, never mind the colour of your sofa. ; ) ; )

No, it doesn’t feel current, and that’s because it’s not, but it doesn’t narrow down your options into a tiny box, either.

It’s a classic mistake to think your flooring will give you cues for colour. I did that as a new colour consultant. If you haven’t read that story, it’s at the bottom of this post I wrote ages ago.

Here are some lovely interiors with orange/yellow maple, honey oak, or fir floors.

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam{Lots of different colours here. Nothing clashes with the orange floors.}

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam {Notice the cool blue-grey walls. The floors warm up this kitchen nicely.}

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam{Almost white/greige walls}

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam{Williams & Sonoma}

Are the floors yellow or orange here? The focus is on the area rug and the beautifully decorated room. Here, the flooring colour doesn’t matter at all, and it certainly wasn’t used as the inspiration for this colour scheme.

And that’s the point. It’s why wood flooring is mostly like jeans. No one is looking to the wood flooring for a relationship to fabrics or paint colours.

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam{via Pinterest}

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam{Yellow walls with orange floors. Still looks great.}

The Problem with Your Orange/Yellow Floors | Maria Killam{Pink-beige sofa, colourful cushions, and green-grey walls. Yellow floors are still neutral.}

So stop worrying about your floors and focus on finding SOMETHING ELSE that inspires you, like a piece of art, a throw pillow, or an area rug to help you create a colour scheme.

I find throw pillows are the best place to start. If you’d like some inspiration, check out my consultations board on Pinterest. If you scroll down, you’ll see all the combinations of pillows I’ve helped my clients coordinate!

Are you loving your yellow/orange floors now? Good. There’s nothing wrong with them.

Related posts:

The New Timeless Hardwood Floor

How NOT to choose Paint Colours But Everybody Does it

Are you Waiting for your Paint Colours to Propose?

4 Ways to Work with Colour over Neutrals

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

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  1. Ok, so my awful yellowish vinyl flooring isn’t a color problem, just an “I want something else” problem. Maybe I’m just looking for excuses to get rid of what we have. I’d love wood flooring instead.

  2. geez I hate these floors, and I really don’t care for yellow/orange directly next to grey walls, trim helps transition the colors, more of a griege, warmer not cooler.

    really lovely pics Maria – I think your style continues to evolve and refine.

  3. I have seen an example of this recently when my sister purchased a house with very warm light golden wood floors.

    She painted the walls grey and some of the doors a dark teal and it looked fine! No one would think the floors clashed at all to look at the end result.

  4. Maria,
    I’ve inherited a oak floor that I’m not in love with on my first floor. I’m not in a position at this point to replace them, but when I do I will go with a special walnut stain with satin finish.
    I really think a lot of people don’t hand the funds (unless you care to go into debt) to replace everything in their house they don’t like. So, living with what you can change and embracing what you have is great advice.
    I love your blog! Always inspiring.

    Betsy Gordon

  5. What a great post!! We all learn so much!

    Instead of being the Martha Stewart of color, I think you are the Doctor Laura of design. (Did you ever get her program up there?)

  6. I don’t mind the natural honey gold color but it doesn’t work at all with gray walls unless it has a slight blue undertone. My living room is BM Gray Owl and it looks nice and fresh with my floors. My foyer is painted BM Revere Pewter and it looks horrible with the natural honey color. I don’t think you can ignore your floor color when choosing paint and fabrics.

  7. Why do we have to say “this is in and this is out”? Is it “dated” or is it still “ok”? We’re not doing ourselves a favor by doing this and are only making life harder than it should be by obsessing over what is in or out. Maple or lighter floors are classics. If you like a crisp modern look pair with white walls, or, throwing your worn and loved oriental rugs on it…concentrate on true style that is timeless. Dark floors will quickly become “oh yuck, dark floors from the mid 2000 era” Lets not always limit ourselves!

  8. What if all the woodwork around the doors, windows and baseboards (oh and the doors themselves), are all the same orangey-yellow? Is all of that still considered a neutral?

    Honestly, I don’t see how… Visually, all that woodwork takes up a great deal of real estate…

    From your other posts, I’d maybe have to categorize the color of the wood as a medium dirty. (I’m just lucky however that whoever owned this house before me did a stupendously awesome job of getting the saturation right. But I do want to paint three rooms of it…)

    Anyway, LOVE this blog and SO HAPPY that I found you!!

    • No, as soon as that wood goes vertical you MUST coordinate colours with it. It becomes much more visual without an area rug on top of it for sure!

  9. Maria –
    We just bought a gorgeous 100+ year old craftsman/Tudor house where the red-orange wood floors, trim, millwork and beams are the star of the show. I’d love to brighten things up with some whites, creams or grays but am afraid it will come out looking too high contrast. Is such a combo workable?

  10. Maria, we just bought a farmhouse built in 1751 that’s full of beautiful wide plank original pine floors, but also very bossy orangy pine baseboards,, window trim, molding, doors….throughout the house. Surely that trim is not original and would have been painted way back in the day anyway(being simple, flat pieces of pine, it wouldn’t have been highlighted as a feature back then). I’m pretty much ready for some one on one color consultations! I want to paint it all white, but is that sacrilege in an old house? Please say no!

  11. Thank you for this post Maria. I have a question. We just bought a house with very dark (almost black) hardwood floors on the first floor. Carpet on stairs and second floors. My kid has allergy so we’re planning to put hardwood on 2nd floor. The hardwood downstairs is still in good condition, should we just do 2nd floor with different color hardwood or should we just change the whole house floor to one color of hardwood floor? Our kitchen cabinets are white and countertop color is brownish black (almost black). Thanks for your advise.

    • Well in a perfect world, it should all look like it was installed at the same time so yes it should all be replaced but if I could only do the upstairs I would still install a medium brown because you want to be moving forward inside of getting all your colours classic and timeless.

  12. A good hardwood guy who cares can stain maple floors dark. Mine are beautiful. That being said, one portion took the stain differently than the rest and looked splotchy. My builder called In a guy who refinishes pianos and he told the wood guy to apply heat when he restrained that area. Turned out great

    • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
      I see a many homes for sale with really dark wood floors and cabinets…they are immediately placed in the no go file.

  13. Hi Maria, I moved into a colonial style townhouse with natural red oak floors. They are a very bossy amber orange color. I am having a really hard time picking wall colors. It seems to pull any pink or purple undertones very strongly. Actually, it seems to pull out undertones in general but my biggest issue is I’m having a hard time picking a counter top. I have the same hardwood in the kitchen. I have soft white shaker style cabinets and am considering either a honed dark gray quartz (pental quartz coastal gray honed) or a quartz marble look a like with some beige movement as well (quartz master organic white). It’s not a large kitchen. I just can’t seem to decide to save my life because of the floor. Any suggestions?

  14. Do you think kitchen cabinets have to match the floor in undertones? I’m choosing those now. I have teak parqet which are orangy now but the older ones still in the box are more brown. Since I’m going to refinish them and I’m not sure if they will stay orange or turn brown, I’m wondering that will affect the cabinet color.

    Currently the cabinets are white, which we liked, but we are in Hawaii and thinking of going with a tropical look like bamboo (golden tone) or sapelle (red toned), along with some white cabinets.

  15. I have 15-20 year old maple floors and cabinets in my kitchen that I inherited but I like and don’t want to paint. They are more yellow than orange. The previous owners painted the small amount of wall and the ceiling yellow, so the effect was box-like (I didn’t realize why until a designer told me the maple was also yellow. The room was truly a yellow box).
    We are just completing a facelift. The first paint colour I sampled, Stonington Grey, does have a blue undertone (Maria mentions this somewhere and she is right!). I saw that the blue brought out the yellow of the cabinets in an unflattering way – they are old and imperfect after all, I’d rather they recede as much as possible. We then tried Collingwood, which has a slight purple undertone in other rooms but in the kitchen seems neutral and works well with our maple, white subway tile backsplash with grey grout, and grey counters.
    Moral of the story: watch out for blue undertones with yellow maple, if you don’t want it to stand out more.

  16. I just bought a home with a kitchen that is just too much yellow for me. The floors are a yellowed red oak, I think. The cabinets are a yellowed maple, I think, with oil rubbed pulls. The granite is a yellow with dark brown, gray, and black in it. And the walls…are yellow with the dark brown stain rub on it…kind of a Mediterranean look…wish I could show you a picture. The walls were my favorite at first and I thought what I needed to do was have the floors restained to a chocolate brown. But that is too costly for me right now and I haven’t been sure that would be the best place to start….so needless to say, I loved your post about not starting with the floors. Although I have yellow cabinetry AND yellow floors AND a yellow granite, none of those are cheap fixes, so I think maybe painting the walls should be first. I am thinking a gray, but am terrified of making a mistake by covering up theses Mediterranean-esc walls that are quite cool…but it’s too much yellow. Is there a way to send you a picture? I’m looking for the biggest bang for my buck, as I need this room to feel lighter and brighter, but can’t afford to change the big things. Do you have any paint examples with yellow cabinetry and yellow floors?

  17. I have busy orange floors. What color do I paint the walls to take the focus off of them?
    I do not care for beiges or neutrals. My furniture is reddish brown mahogany

    • You need to choose an area rug first or a sofa, then you can choose a wall colour, there are many different colours you could choose I would simply avoid orange or pink. Hope that helps, Maria

  18. This post regarding the honey oak is so helpful!! Thank you!
    It doesn’t work on for the emerald green carpet though!! haha One day I will get that fixed!!