All the Inspiration and Thought Process for choosing a stain for the white oak floors in our NC Home.

June 7, 2021

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We have really loved the lighter wood flooring in our house (we used Ingrid from Stuga) and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about if we’re going to install the same flooring in our house in North Carolina. Well the short answer is no, and not because we’ve been unhappy with it. It’s just a different house and in our area, stain-in-place flooring is what is expected. I’m a big advocate of listening to your house and leaning into its style, so we’re going to try and stay true to that. However we would love to use Stuga flooring in the guest house (some fun plans are in the works with that!).

Longer answer: Next Friday Chris and I are actually zipping to Raleigh just to select the perfect stain color (because let’s be honest, selecting a stain through photos or FaceTime could be disastrous). We plan to mix a custom stain color to get it just right and we will keep you updated on what we decide! And the whole process, too.

In our current home, we have 8.5″ wide planks, and we decided on 5″ wide, white oak flooring in our NC home. The slightly thinner boards felt a little more traditional to me. We also decided on a feature, herringbone pattern in the entry. As for color, I’m envisioning something a little more rich in color. No grayish undertones. Something ranging from a warm, mid-tone to a medium-dark tone.

Want to see what I’m thinking? Truthfully, I’ve been saving images right and left to get my cogs turning, and I’m placing them here for your pleasure. The range is vast! Ha!

via J. H. Interior Design

(Above) Okay, actually everything about this room, but those herringbone floors really have my heart. I especially love the border around the edges. This flooring is a great, warm, medium tone with some yellow undertones. Maybe a little too yellow than I’m thinking for our house–but it looks beautiful here.

(Below) These planks are probably 8″ and I’d describe the color as a rich medium-dark tone. I love how much character darker floors add to a space, but I am definitely mindful of the crumb upkeep they can bring.

via Heidi Caillier Design

via Coco Lapine Design

(Above and below) These floors are similar in color. A rich warm medium brown with a slight red (very slight) undertone. The ones below are a little more rustic in its knotting.

via Cozy & Kin

via Styling By Denice

(Above) Is this my ideal floor color? I think it is! It feels like it has a story to tell. A great, rich, medium brown with neutral undertones. Would love something like this!

(Below) I am not above taking screenshots of wood tones that I love even when they only show up briefly in stories. And even if they are on a wall and ceiling instead of a floor! This wood is virtually without grain or knots (aka $$$$$), but the tone is sure pretty.

via Amber Interiors

via Simply Grove

(Above) I really appreciated this detail shot because I can tell there is no filter and how gorgeous is that parquet wood design? I love the warmth next to the stone.

(Below) Another beautiful medium wood tone with neutral undertones. These planks look to be around 7″. I also really like seeing grain and some knots but not enough to make it too rustic.

via Heidi Caillier Design

Our contractors are starting to lay the floors this week so when we get there on Friday, we’ll be ready to choose a stain color (quickly–ahhhh!!!). But having a really good idea of what we want helps expedite the decision process. We’re not starting from zero because we’ve spent the last few weeks honing in on what we feel would look best in that house. Can’t wait to share where we land!

What do you think?

  1. Kimber says:

    The great thing about the stain in place floors is your stair treads will match. Can you share what you did on your old stairs with the Stuga floor? It is always an issue with prefinished wood. Thanks

  2. Stephanie says:

    I will add my support to Minwax Special Walnut ; )

  3. Julie S says:

    These all look light to me except the darkest one near the top in the Heidi C room. I would call that a typical medium brown floor! Ours are basically identical to those and while they don’t hide every single thing, they aren’t showing every speck or crumb at all. I’m a lazy floor cleaner fwiw.

  4. RC says:

    Highly recommend the eco friendly stains from Bona. Low or no fumes from what I remember and we are 10 years in with our refinished floors. Very durable.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Most of these inspiration pics look unstained to me. I think if you want to achieve this look, you’ll want to focus on your poly/top coat choice and just leave the wood natural.

  6. Sarah says:

    I have medium-dark wood floors in my house in Virginia and they’re extremely forgiving (I think the stain is special walnut by minwax). Dog nail scratches, hair, crumbs, etc aren’t very noticeable unless the sun is shining right on them at a certain angle.

    Stain-in-place flooring does seem to be a very mid-Atlantic thing. Most renovations I work on use finish-in place floors. There are many advantages, not the least of which is relatively easy repair. They can also be easier to coordinate with stair treads and railings if those are stained.

  7. Nicki says:

    To my eye, all of the photos have medium-light stains with the exception of the third, fifth and sixth photos, which are medium in tone. None are medium dark. At least that is how it is showing up on my screen. In any event, they are all beautiful. I do think medium stain, while a little harder to keep clean, is classic and timeless.

  8. Greetings from The Carolinas-Greenville, SC to be more specific. Wood floors can be so tricky. Especially when it comes to oak. Is it red oak….or is it white oak? Most of the older style is done with red oak. White is certainly a growing trend. Good choice on the finish in place type flooring. You’ll get a longer life from the floors with better ease of refinishing cause it real, solid wood. I’m the client of my own home right now with doing some updating in my own home instead of clients’ homes. We have red oak and so I am determined to have an end result that doesn’t look orange at all…and I don’t want to go overly dark. That’s trickier with red oak.

    Good luck with everything. It’s a huge undertaking moving to another state. But people are friendly down here.

  9. Donna says:

    Having lived in a NC Georgian home, I too had the quarter-sawn oak floors stripped of a too dark stain and went with a warm brown color. The results were perfect for any color furniture and gave the tone you might expect in a traditional home. I think you’re doing it again…this house will be gorgeous!! Best of luck with the move and safe travels!!

  10. Katherine says:

    You likely know this already, but oil based and water based poly will change the tone of your final product after you pick a stain color. In our area, stain in place is the norm and we’ve done a number of homes with it. Oil based is what most contractors use here and you have to factor in the eventual orange tint it will have. That tint takes about a year to show and then progressively deepens. Just a thought!

  11. Anne says:

    Saw another comment above but we used Rubio Monocoat on our White Oak floors and it feels just like your inspo photos. Worth looking at!

  12. Christina says:

    We used OSMO Polyx-oil (clear satin) instead of stain and polyurethane on our white oak floors, and it looks exactly like your inspo photos. It’s been 6 years and I’m super happy with it! It’s a soft satin/almost matte finish that feels really traditional in my 100 year old Atlanta house. I didn’t want to have to sand down the floors to refresh the finish. You just buff them with their wax cleaner or do a thorough clean and reapply the ployx-oil. I recommend!

  13. Betsy Morris says:

    You should look at Rubio Monocoat stain! It’s right up your alley. :) We have it in our house, and it’s holding up great.

  14. Laura says:

    We bought a traditional home with stained in place hardwoods in a medium tone. I love them so much!! The previous owners really nailed the choice! And kids crumbs aren’t too bad. I think it’s hides a lot, actually! You’ll love them!

  15. Nitasha says:

    I am always so inspired by your choices! We are currently thinking of changing our house floors and are leaning towards Ingrid by Stuga based on what’s used in your current house. But, now a medium tone looks rather appealing too! Would you please suggest a good medium toned floor from Stuga?

  16. Erin says:

    Lovely inspiration pics. I just noticed a detail with herringbone wood flooring that I never noticed before, the examples that really catch my eye are the ones that have leaned into the varying tones of the natural wood and sort of separate them into contrasting rows. Is that the proper way to lay a wood herringbone pattern that I am just now figuring out or is this just a personal preference? IMO wood stain is a perfectly good reason to travel cross country with the one you love if not a proper date night after the year we’ve had ;)

  17. Kayla says:

    Most importantly, have you taken bets on where the pot rack will be on Friday??

  18. Delia says:

    I went really dark in my first house and I was sweeping every day to keep up with the dirt and dust. I want to redo the floors in my second house. I have used your floors as an inspiration picture for what I want. Are they too light? Do they have to be swept every day? You said you like them I just wanted to make sure dust wasn’t an issue of why you were going a little darker. I love your new inspiration pics also. I don’t think anything you do could go wrong, but I’m not a sure as you and I was just wondering about the light tone.

  19. Lavinia says:

    These are gorgeous. Can’t wait to see the end result. As you consider stains, you may want to consider the soil color. Underneath your garden mulch and topsoil, do you have red clay like much of the Carolinas?

    • Julia says:

      I’ll have to check! I’m not sure

      • Morgan says:

        The short answer – in the RDU area, yes you do. LOL

      • Morgan says:

        The short answer – in the RDU area, yes you do LOL. Not as bad as the Charlotte/western side of the state, but it is still red clay. The stains are brutal.

      • Taylor says:

        Raleigh resident here – echo that you absolutely do have red clay!

      • Tracy says:

        I’m in Raleigh myself and the answer to do we have red clay… YESSSSSSSSS! And it gets on and in everything. Be prepared never to have truly white clothes again once they get stained with our lovely red clay! But I love NC!

  20. sara says:

    I just did white oak herringbone and used Build Direct’s “European character” solid oak flooring which has a lot of tone variation and knots and overall character. We didn’t do a tone stain, just clear protectant and the overall color looks almost identical to a lot of your inspiration pics. In the rest of my 1920s home I have original white oak flooring that we refinished four years ago in our first renovation and the tone has also darkened slightly in the years since, and also looks very very similar to your inspo. Try a satin or matte finish without color as well as stains to compare with the custom colors you’re mixing as it might be just what you’re after depending upon the natural variation tones in your wood.

    • Claire says:

      Hi Sara! Wondering how you liked build direct and if they seemed like a reputable company. Are the floors high quality? Do you have any pictures?


  21. Karen says:

    Hello! A NC gal here and I really am loving the choices you have narrowed in on. I think the mid tone makes a lot of sense in an area with red clay soil, the lighter stains are not forgiving. With all the greenery around your house, I would not be surprised that you might need to go a bit “red” in order to attain the “neutral” you desire.

    Your new home is going to be such an inspiration for those of us in more traditional homes. I am enjoying the journey so far.

  22. EP says:

    I love the rich medium wood tones! A little more traditional and really shows off the gorgeous wood. I don’t think you have to worry about crumbs with any of these shades — it’s only when you get a few shades darker that it becomes and issue IME. And these mid tones are better for disguising dog hair, if you guys end up with another pooch. 😉

    • Rachel says:

      Getting a very Parisian vibe from your inspo! ❤️❤️❤️
      Are you planning to balance the herringbone with the ornate plaster moldings too? It will look absolutely beautiful I’m sure no matter what direction you go.

  23. Laura says:

    GORGEOUS. Can’t wait to seeeeee!!!!

  24. monica says:

    Hmmm – I am interested in your comment “…and in our area, stain-in-place flooring is what is expected”. I am wondering how far you will take this advice. For instance, in my area (New England), and I am pretty much sure in most areas, it is expected to have the kitchen in the back of the house for easy access to the backyard for outdoor dining and entertainment and to be able to watch your kids play (one of my favorite views is looking out the window over my kitchen sink to the backyard). Wondering how you have decided which parts of your remodel to do what is expected for the area?

    • Julia says:

      You know we love to go with the unexpected generally, we love to be unique! But we also love to mix the unexpected with traditional and the traditional here are the floors.

  25. Mary E says:

    Besides the ability of getting a custom color, does staining floors in place vs prefinished flooring provide a better/different look?
    I realize you have the advantage of not living there yet. But if I’m in my home, staining in place takes longer. I would lean into prefinished floors.
    Does staining in place provide a better outcome in durability or appearance?

    • Michelle says:

      Staining in place is a look and quality that just can’t be beat. Through the installation and then the sanding all the gaps that are visible between boards on a prefinished or engineered hardwood floor just disappear. The stain and poly then highlights the different qualities of the wood and the grain, not the gaps between. There’s really no match for a traditionally laid hardwood floor. I think its worth the extra time and bonus, yes – you can get a custom one of a kind color and floor!

      • Mary E says:

        Thanks for the response. I like the idea of not seeing the lines between each plank. I bet that looks great.

    • Carmen says:

      We had our floors stained in place. Doing it that way we were able to get a pretty thick, matte poly coat on top, making it a smoother surface where less crumbs get caught and it really feels good to walk on.

  26. Samantha Richard says:

    I’m in new england, have 3 homes with oak floors, and have always chosen gunstock, which matches your inspo perfectly. Best of luck!

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