Ralph's Blog

Gray Hardwood Flooring Remains Popular

Posted on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 @ 15:01 PM

Gray hardwood flooring looks great with modern interior design styles.

Homeowners who look at interior design trends for inspiration when remodeling their home often end up choosing to follow a few.

Of course, no one wants to incorporate a trend that will be overused and fall from grace as soon as designers stop creating hype around it. When choosing, tread carefully and go with something you know you’ll like even years in the future.

When it comes to hardwood flooring trends, a popular option—gray hardwood flooring—isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and lighter gray floors, almost tan in color, are now leading the way. Once you see how gray hardwood flooring looks and how versatile it is, you might fall in love with it, too. Let’s have a closer look at this trend to understand why it’s so popular.

It's a Neutral Tone

Even though a lot depends on the finish and type of hardwood, most hardwood options are warm-toned, which can limit the color palette you can use for each room. However, opting for gray hardwood flooring means you have a neutral tone to work with—opening up the possibilities and complementing multiple styles of design, including  both warm and cool color palettes.

For a gray color with a brown undertone, hickory is a great choice, as you can combine it with almost any style.

It Looks Great in Modern Homes

Gray is a favorite color in modern design and a staple of the color palette that’s used often in modern homes. Being able to pair the color of hardwood floors with other elements in a room can create a great design effect and truly tie everything together. Cool-toned modern designs benefit from gray hardwood floors, although it’s always possible to add some warmth to the design if that’s what you prefer.

It's Unexpected and Unique

Despite its popularity, gray hardwood floors are still a rare sight, in the sense that people don’t expect hardwood to be gray. What’s more, a gray finish enhances the grain of the wood and makes it more visible, providing a beautiful and unique effect that people will undoubtedly notice and compliment.

You Can Go Light or Dark

In the eternal debate of light vs. dark flooring, gray hardwood floors can join either side. With a light gray floor, you’ll benefit from making the room appear more prominent and brighter, as well as ensure that dust and pet hair are less visible. However, for a more dramatic effect, you could go with dark gray. It might take a little more upkeep to keep clean, but it certainly looks impressive.

Gray hardwood flooring isn’t going out of fashion any time soon considering its versatility and unique appeal. If you’re intrigued, visit our showroom. We might have the perfect gray hardwood floor for you!

Tags: hardwood floor options, hardwood floor trends, hardwood floors and interior design, hardwood floor colors

Your home may need a shade of gray

Posted on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 @ 18:02 PM

Grey isn’t usually something we associate with vibrancy and excitement – gray clouds, gray mood, gray matter, and gray hair.

Well the time has come to change your perception of gray because when it comes to hardwood flooring gray is gold. It's quickly becoming the worst kept secret in our industry - gray hardwood flooring is an excellent way to make a unique and lasting statement in your home.

There are several reasons why gray hardwood floors are literally jumping off the shelves. The process used to design the floors enhances the grain, creating a striking appearance that isn’t present in the usual brown hardwood floors. Second, they are unusual. One might think this would be a detraction but in reality many fans of gray hardwood flooring are drawn to these unique products for just that reason.

Visitors to our showroom tell me they love the look and feel of these floors so much and it’s not difficult to see why they have grown in popularity.

For amateur home decorators and family members who are taking the lead in the maintenance and improvement of their family homes gray hardwood floors offer several engaging possibilities. Because gray is a neutral tone it can serve as a beautiful backdrop, especially among warm colours like red or orange.

Grey tends to look best in maple oak and hickory and the good news is there are plenty of those available in the marketplace. Hickory is particularly popular because it is extremely hard and offers the gray color with an undertone of brown.   It is easy to tie into different colors in your home with this gray/brown look. Grey hardwood floors are an easy choice for any room in your home and can even work well in a room with bright colors, such as the dining room or guest lounge.

Are you thinking of adding a gray hardwood floor to your home? With several selections of gray to choose from our staff can help you discover a gray that will bring you confidence and make your home bounce. Don’t hesitate to stop by and learn how you can add a touch of gray to your home.

Tags: remodeling, hardwood floor colors

Deck the Halls

Posted on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 @ 12:12 PM

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words and so here are several thousand for you for the holidays. Merry Christmas and enjoy the hallways.







Tags: hardwood floor trends, hardwood floor colors

New Shades of White: The Transformation of Whitewashed Hardwood Flooring

Posted on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 @ 15:06 PM

Preverco Edge whitewashed hardwood flooringTen years ago, if someone asked us about whitewashed hardwood flooring, we would have assumed they were talking about the very, very white floors popular in the 1980s. And we would have pointed out that this look had become pretty dated.

But over the past few years, “whitewashed” has taken on a different meaning when it comes to hardwood floors, and this style has become quite popular.

Today, homeowners are choosing whitewashed flooring that has white tones but isn’t as purely white as was popular 30 years ago. Back then, the goal was to create a “contemporary,” relatively formal look by using high-grade wood with a uniform appearance and then staining it as white as possible. Sometimes this meant staining it more than once, making it look as if was painted. Often, actual white paint was used.

Now more-transparent off-white and greyish-white colors that don’t hide the hardwood’s characteristics have become popular, and many homeowners are using lower grades of wood to achieve a more natural look. (With hardwood floors, “grade” doesn’t refer to quality; it refers to the degree in which the wood used shows the natural characteristics of its species.)

Another stylistic change is that most homeowners are no longer looking for a uniform look in the other interior design elements around their whitewashed flooring. The goal used to be to make walls, cabinets, trim, window treatments, etc. as white, or almost as white, as the flooring. Now we’re seeing customers select colors that contrast with the white tones of the flooring, sometimes going so far as to dramatically pair black with the white.

One technical consideration is that we usually use water-based polyurethane for whitewashed floors rather than our standard Swedish finish. This is to prevent the wood from taking on an amber color, which can occur with oil-based finishes. This “ambering” isn’t an issue with most floor colors, but with light whitewashed floors, it can become noticeable. (With whitewashed hardwood floors on the greyish side, we can usually use our normal oil-based finish.)

Over the years, we have finished many whitewashed hardwood floors on site, and we are experts at achieving that look. But if you’d prefer prefinished hardwood flooring, you can find good-quality prefinished products such as the Preverco Edge flooring we frequently use (pictured above).

Whichever finishing option you choose, if you want flooring that brings lightness to a room and highlights the natural characteristics of the wood, the new style of whitewashed hardwood flooring might by just what you’re looking for!

To learn more about whitewashed hardwood flooring, please visit our showroom and check out our displays. You can see for yourself how “in-style” whitewashed floors can look.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, hardwood floor colors, finishes, stains & textures

Love at First Sight: Hardwood Floors and Kitchen Cabinets

Posted on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 16:05 PM

Paint is often used on kitchen cabinets to provide a contrast with the hardwood floor colors.Kitchens are a great place for hardwood flooring. They’re also a perfect opportunity to use hardwood floors in conjunction with other interior design elements to create a look that’s more than the “sum of the parts.”

Kitchen cabinets are usually the most important part of achieving this enhanced appearance. The way in which they complement the flooring can establish the entire feel of the kitchen, and a good pairing can elevate the room’s beauty and unite all its features.

The traditional thinking about how to pair kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors has been to make the cabinets a shade lighter, with a similar grain pattern in the cabinet and floor. There were a lot of kitchens with dark cabinets and dark flooring!

Likewise, we saw homeowners going for a casual, “breezy” look stick to light tones in both the flooring and cabinetry.

But tastes have changed, and homeowners are being more creative than ever in using kitchen cabinets with hardwood floors. It’s now stylish to use cabinets in a way that complements the flooring but doesn’t “match” it in the traditional sense.

So we’re seeing a lot of contrasting tones, often created using paint on the cabinets. Dark cabinets and light flooring (or vice versa) have become very popular. Bright, vivid colors are sometimes used on the cabinets. And matching the wood species of the flooring and the cabinets is certainly not a priority for most people.

Sure, we still get people looking to match design elements—such as installing cabinets with an antique look to match reclaimed hardwood flooring. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional idea of matching the cabinetry colors with that of the flooring. It’s all a matter of taste

But whatever that taste is, the cabinets in the kitchen will play a major role in displaying it. They’re a lifelong partner with the flooring in creating the look you’re after.

We’re happy to talk with you about how the hardwood flooring in your kitchen will relate to the cabinetry. Please stop by our showroom or give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902 to schedule an appointment or start a conversation.

Tags: hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends, hardwood floors & interior design

Hardwood Flooring Trends in 2015

Posted on Wed, Feb 04, 2015 @ 09:02 AM

Dark_floorAs we get into 2015, we’re seeing the continued momentum of several hardwood floor trends that have become evident over the past several years.

Very dark hardwood floors

Really dark floors are an increasingly popular choice among homeowners who want a formal feel. Some people are even choosing black floors created using naturally black species such as Wenge. While not black, other species (e.g., American Black Walnut) have a natural dark color. And species that aren’t dark enough can be stained dark. Some species will never be ideal for a very dark look, but we can stain any wood (but not bamboo) as dark as desired.

Greyish colors

While many homeowners desire the striking appearance of dark hardwood floors, many others are going in the opposite direction—selecting grey, off-grey, or even white floors. As with the dark floors, this coloring can be achieved with the natural color of certain species (e.g., European White Oak) or through staining. The lighter coloring appeals to homeowners who want an open, breezy, casual ambiance.

Wider boards

Twenty years ago, the standard width of hardwood floor planks was just over 2” wide. Now, boards wider than 5” are common, and we’re seeing more and more homeowners go very wide with planks that are greater than 7”. These wider boards create a more casual feel than narrower planks.

Lower sheen levels

High-sheen floors have come to be seen as “plastic looking” in many people’s eyes, and so they’re selecting low-sheen floors that don’t have much reflection. Lower-sheen floors also don’t show wear and tear as much as high-sheen floors—an additional advantage that attracts active families with children and/or pets.

Floors that look timeworn

Hickory_Hand_Scraped_3_ResizedSeeking an authentic, character-filled appearance, a growing number of homeowners are choosing to have their floors wire-brushed, hand-scraped, or distressed to add texture that creates a “lived-in” look. The amount of texture can vary from just a little all the way up to deep scrapes and purposeful “damage” (e.g., nail holes).  The goal in all cases is to make the floors look as if they’ve stood the test of time—like an antique piece of furniture.


The trends largely point toward a more casual look with hardwood flooring, but as the recent popularity of very dark flooring shows, not all trends move in lock step. Sheen is another example of mixed trends—while here in Wisconsin we’re seeing great interest in low-sheen flooring, along the East Coast high-sheen, blonde flooring is growing in popularity.

One thing that’s certain is that while hardwood floor trends will come and go, hardwood floors aren’t at all trendy. Hardwood floor preferences may change, but hardwood flooring has proven over centuries that it will always be in style.


Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends

The Colorful Splendor of Fall—and Hardwood Floors

Posted on Sun, Nov 09, 2014 @ 08:11 AM


Last month, my wife and I took a “color trip” around the state, checking out all the wonderful fall foliage that was just reaching its peak.

As we expected, it was an enjoyable, relaxing time. We delighted in the crisp fall air, took photos of the colorful landscapes, and were reminded of how beautiful Wisconsin can be.

The red, orange, and yellow leaves create a color palette that truly thrills the eyes. As the president of Ralph’s Hardwood Floor Co., I feel particularly attuned to this play of colors. I’m always focused on color because color variety is one of the great things about hardwood floors.

At Ralph’s, we’re constantly helping our customers find the perfect color for their taste, décor, and interior design. It’s not the specific colors of fall that get me excited—it’s the way the colors relate to each other, enhancing each other’s beauty. A hardwood floor’s color can work together with the colors in the rest of a room in just the same way.

8066012816_9f05644b8a_zWhat if all the leaves on trees turned yellow, and there were no reds or oranges? It sure wouldn’t be as visually interesting. It wouldn’t be much different than during the summer, when all the leaves are the single color green.

By choosing a hardwood floor color that complements or smartly contrasts with other color tones in a room, homeowners can make a room come to life! Walls, furniture, window dressings, accessories—they can all be coordinated with hardwood floor color for a marvelous effect.

The choice of hardwood floor colors is virtually unlimited. Floors can be brown, tan, beige, black, grey, white—you name it. The color can come from the wood’s natural color, or from staining. 

Some hardwoods—such as maple, hickory, and many exotic species—naturally have considerable color variation within the wood itself. This variation helps the floor become the highlight of any room!

Another wonderful thing about hardwood floor colors is how rich they are.  They have a naturalness, depth, and splendor that’s lacking in the color of other types of flooring.  

The fall colors are gone now, but homeowners who have made good use of hardwood floor color in their homes can continue to relish the visual excitement of appealing color interactions all year long.


Ralph's 2014 Idea Book


Photo courtesy of GSankary, Indy Kethdy. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Tags: hardwood floor colors, installation

Choosing Hardwood Colors in 5 Steps

Posted on Thu, Apr 03, 2014 @ 12:04 PM

Natural hardwood colors vary tremendously between species, and you also have the option of staining to get virtually any color you want.

With such a wide range of options, choosing a hardwood color can be a bit overwhelming. But there’s no need to stress—by following each of the following five steps you can be sure to get the right color for your floor.

1. Decide on the feel you’re after.

You need to be sure of the mood you’re trying to achieve with your hardwood flooring. Your decision about hardwood colors should be made with this overriding goal at the top of your mind.

Of course it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but darker colors generally create a cozier mood while lighter colors produce a roomier feel.

Another key choice is whether you want a natural feel. If you do, heavy stain color probably isn’t for you, although a light stain may be just fine.

Wire brushed hickory

2. Coordinate hardwood colors to your furnishings and to other rooms.

Choosing colors to complement your existing furniture as well as trim and cabinets is key. Achieving a nice contrast from the floor to the trim and cabinets that surround it is a great way to add interest. If you have dark furniture, you may want light flooring so that the floor and the furniture don’t blend together too much. As a rule of thumb, try to keep the floor and trim/cabinets off by at least two shades, either darker or lighter.  

3. Consider the maintenance.

Darker woods tend to show scratches and dust more than lighter colors—a fact that could be important to you, particularly if you expect the floors to see rough usage (pets, small children, etc.).

4. Choose a color you love!

Ultimately, choosing hardwood colors comes down to what you like. Even if a color makes interior-design sense, if may not be the right choice. You’re the one who will live with the floor, so make sure the color you choose is one that excites you.

Fortunately, hardwood colors are much more varied than simply “dark,” “light,” or “medium.” You can decide you want a color within one of those ranges, but still have plenty of choices, because each species has a distinct color tone. For example, a lot of oak flooring has a warm yellowish tone that many people fall in love with.

5. Work with an established hardwood floor company.

Working with a hardwood floor company that’s dedicated to customer service (like us!), you can review all your color choices, get expert advice, and ask any questions you have. This step will help you complete all the other steps.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, hardwood floor colors

It’s not just smoke and mirrors – grey is beautiful.

Posted on Sat, Feb 22, 2014 @ 08:02 AM

Smoldering Hickory Rustic 3 resized 600Not long ago, we got a call from a really nice couple who asked us to come look at the hardwood floors in their home. They wanted our advice on how they could refinish their floors in way that would help them get the perfect interior-design look they were after. As always, we were glad to provide a free consultation. 

Natural, Understated Beauty

They obviously cared a lot about interior design, and they already had ideas. They knew they wanted a neutral color that would work well with other colors in their home. They had in mind a natural look, with an understated beauty.

After chatting a little, we suggested they come to the showroom and look at some of our greys. A great thing about grey is that is has so many shades—you can get just the look you’re after—a dark grey, a light grey, a warm grey, a cool grey, “washed” grey, flint grey, “maritime” grey, pewter grey, and the list goes on and on.

You might think grey isn't a color that many people would choose for their home. But we’ve found that grey is not only an excellent complement to other colors, it’s a soothing, cooling presence for a room—and it has become very popular among home owners.

What’s To Like About Grey?

Grey may sometimes by associated with dreariness or formality, but it’s not drab at all on hardwood floors.

People like grey because:

    • It shows off the grain and texture of hardwood, even more so than popular brown or blonde staining options.  
    • It can be achieved using all-natural oils, making it an environmentally friendly choice.
    • It can be adjusted until it’s “just right” for each homeowner’s taste.
    • Its flexibility in shading and tone allows homeowners who want a unique, imaginative look to be very creative.

Like most interior-design trends in the U.S., this one began in New York and Los Angeles and is now moving across the rest of the country. It’s natural, neutral, and gives you lots of flexibility in your interior-design choices—grey is hard to beat.

That couple’s decision to go with grey didn’t’ surprise me at all. Grey has become a very popular color among homeowners with similar tastes. After their showroom visit, they got very excited. They had found just what they were looking for!

If you are fan of natural looks and want something that can be personalized to your taste, I encourage you to drop by our showroom and take a look. Grey might be beautiful for you too.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends

Back in Black

Posted on Sat, Feb 08, 2014 @ 08:02 AM

ebonized floorAn enthusiastic middle-aged couple came into our showroom recently, trying to decide on the right hardwood floors for their new custom home.

 The last type of hardwood they had in mind was oak. They had heard that oak “had a lot of grain,” and that popular, traditional look wasn’t what they were after.

But then I showed them a sample of oak flooring that had been finished using our unique ebonizing process. “That’s it!” they both cried out in unison.

This black finish doesn’t highlight the grain in oak the way lighter finishes do. And they loved the richness of the black color—they wanted something bold and unique, and black fit the bill.

They were suddenly imagining all kinds of interior design possibilities based around black floors.

They didn’t make a decision that day. They considered other popular options for black floors, such as birch and maple. They also second-guessed themselves a little bit. “Is black really the way we want to go?” they kept asking themselves.

Eventually, they decided it was. And they choose the ebonized oak floor we had first shown them.

Black Makes a Comeback

This couple is by no means the only customers we’ve had to fall in love with black floors. One of the trends I see with hardwood floors is that black floors—and dark floors in general—are becoming popular again.

In the 1970s, black flooring was fashionable. So was dark cabinetry. This combination created a very dark atmosphere—but that was the cozy feel many people wanted. But then that look started to seem dreary to many people, and there was a general shift toward lighter, more “open” looks—a style that’s been popular now for decades. 

In the past few years, however, I’ve seen a lot of homeowners moving back to black. They want something a little different—maybe even a little daring—and the rich, vivid appearance of black appeals to them. The difference is that they’re using black floors in conjunction with light (often white) cabinetry and furniture.  This dark/light contrast is very distinctive and eye-catching, combining warm coziness with visual excitement.

Ebonized Oak

The ebonizing process we use produces oak flooring that looks like wenge, a very expensive exotic species known for its gorgeous, lush black color. Despite its reputation for pronounced grain, oak can be the perfect choice if dark floors appeal to your taste—as those new homeowners who visited our showroom discovered.

I invite you to stop by and see a sample for yourself.


Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends

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