Wood floor types – designers on how to pick the right one for how you live

The trending wood floor types we've got our eye on and how to create a timeless wooden look at home

A wooden floorboard in a games room of a California home
(Image credit: James Carriere. McCaffrey Design Group)

Wood floor types come in a real range of styles, colors, material, grains and finishes, but whatever your choice, a wood floor is a classic flooring choice, creating a timeless look in your home that will withstand the test of time.

Aside from the aesthetic of wooden flooring, a hardwood floor is hardwearing, taking the toll of daily use and spillages in a busy space, and can often improve with use and age, giving your flooring a rustic quality. Wood flooring is long-lasting too, while it is not totally waterproof, it can be water-resistant with adequate care, and investing in the right wood for your home will last a lifetime. 

There are so many ways to make your wood flooring look distinct too, think about the lightness of finish, how you lay down the tiles to create patterns, from Herringbone to diagonal, to wide plank. Trend-wise, reclaimed, recycled and environmentally sustainable choices are popular for hardwood flooring too. Read on for our favorite wood floor type that you should recreate in your home.

What are the best wood floor types?

The best wood floor types are those that are hardwearing, durable and won't wear down after heavy use. Flooring is also about aesthetic, and you want your wood floor to be beautiful so that once it's laid down, it lasts for the rest of your time in the home. As well as the material, which can be anything from oak to walnut to engineered wood with a top coat made of wood, the best wood floor type is about gloss, stains, coloring and just as much about how you lay it. Read on for our favorite wood floor types.

1. White oak hardwood

A white oak floor with a warm stain

(Image credit: Phil Crozier. Design: Reena Sotropa In House Design Group)

White oak hardwood is a classic natural hardwood material that has been used in residential interiors for many years, but recent wood flooring trends has seen white oak hardwood used more and more. White oak is a great wood flooring idea as its attributes make it dense and exhibit a beautiful pronounced pattern and texture, which works well across all styles of home. Contrary to the name, white oak is a mix of browns and tans. White oak is a domestic hardwood, meaning it is grown in North America and is pretty affordable, especially when compared to its sister wood species like walnut and cherry. 

'Now more than ever, white oak is having a moment in terms of current design trends,' says Reena Sotropa of the Reena Sotropa In House Design Group. 'White oak takes any color of stain beautifully and is a popular choice with homewoners,' she adds. The oak is relatively neutral in color and its ability to take on stains makes it a versatile choice for customizing the look to suit your home. The above example is a white oak hardwood floor with a stain, giving it a warm aesthetic that takes away from the stark white of the kitchen.

2. Engineered wood flooring

A kitchen floor made from engineered wood

(Image credit: Ståle Eriksen. Design: Davide di Martino)

For an inexpensive floor that gives the wooden effect, engineered wood flooring is made from a mixture of materials like wood fibres, sawdust and chemicals. A top layer of real wood is then stuck to the top. The flooring is good because of its sustainability credential, while it provides good performance in extra wear and splash resistance. Meanwhile, solid wood floorboard are made from solid planks of hardwood. 

'Usually, the oil-based finish has an outer layer that is hardened to give extra wear and splash resistance. Additionally, this also allows easy maintenance while offering a great range of colour and texture selection to match with the interior.' says Thomas Barstow, architect at Unagru, who designed this space.

'Engineered wood is a great option,' adds Katie Hudghton of Ted Todd, the company that produced this engineered wood plank liquorice in this home. 'Easy to care for and can handle marks and scratches from pets and busy family lifestyles, while still providing the intimate individual details of real wood.' 

The longevity engineered wood provides also means you won’t need to redo your kitchen flooring frequently, it will grow with your family and continue to look smart.

3. Maple wood flooring

A maple wooden floor in a kitchen

(Image credit: Phil Crozier. Design: Reena Sotropa In House Design Group)

For a richer, earthier look, a maple floor is a great choice and one of the harder wood species. Of all the wood types, maple is dense, meaning it is hard to stain and resulting in possible inconsistencies, but this is part of its charm, and it is great for those high-traffic areas. It's also more affordable than oak, meaning its a good choice for those on a budget who want that long-lasting floor.

'When refinishing existing maple floors, we have found that our clients are often looking for a richer color and wanting to play down the variation between the boards as much as possible,' says Reena Sotropa, who used maple in this kitchen. 

4. Walnut flooring

A walnut floor

(Image credit: Phil Crozier. Design: Reena Sotropa In House Design Group)

A beautiful wood floor option and arguably one of the most classic wood finishes, walnut is highly prized for its dark, luxurious look and its sustainability, being that walnut trees are the only trees that are grown in Britain which produce naturally dark hardwood timber, so they are a sustainable alternative to cutting down tropical timber. Walnut is also characterized by its rich dark nuttiness and chocolate tones, giving any room a dramatically dark floor. 

Walnut is, however, naturally softer and much more susceptible to damage than other types of wood flooring and is not recommended in areas of the home where durability is a priority.

5. Laminate wood flooring

Laminate kitchen flooring

(Image credit: Lifestyle Floors)

While technically not wood flooring, if you're after the wooden floor look, but are on a budget or are minding your sustainability credentials, laminate flooring in the style of wood can be a great option.

Given laminate's affordability, it's been around for so long that it has a huge range of styles and looks, and you can recreate any type of wood flooring, color, and layout style you wish.

'Laminate flooring is a great option for anyone who wants to get that real hardwood look for a fraction of the price, and it can bring warmth and coziness to a space that can easily look and feel quite cold,' says Marc Husband of Leader Floors. 'Laminate flooring is hard-wearing and highly durable when properly cared for, which is ideal for a room with such a high daily footfall like a kitchen.' 

6. Wood flooring color

A blue painted stairway flooring

(Image credit: Little Greene)

A painted wooden floor is a type you might be seeing more and more, with all the color qualities of wood but with a splash of color. Your choice will depend on personal style, but one floor paint idea that is popular is a bright white, giving a Scandinavian interior design look. But avoid white floorboards in busy areas as the pristine look won't last in a space that is high traffic. Darker paints can create a dramatic effect, but again can really show up dirt and spillages. If you're going for the painted floor look, stick to hallways and bedrooms.

In terms of the best wood floor color, 'If your goal is to brighten a dark room, white floor paint creates a greater sense of scale in a space, says Camilla Clarke, Creative Director at Albion Nord. 'Use floor paint to help create more light in a poorly-lit room. This solution is ideal for small rooms or rooms with few windows.' 

7. Parquet, patterns and planks

Parquet flooring in a traditional Parisian apartment

(Image credit: Kasha Paris)

Parquet wood flooring is still extremely popular. Popular in the seventeenth century, and often found in grand estates and the likes of Versailles, parquet is associated with luxury and opulence. It may have had its heyday centuries ago, but it's still a fashionable fixture in kitchens and living rooms, and is comprised of small blocks of solid timber, laid in a pattern, like this style from Kasha Paris

In terms of parquet patterns you can achieve with wood flooring, there really are ample options. From chevron to chequerboard, to geometric to hexparket, there are so many different styles that give your wooden floor that extra bit of personality. 

The timeless Herringbone pattern is probably the most popular look of them all, bringing the allure of French flooring into your home and reminiscent of Parisian style decor.

As with solid hardwood boards, parquet flooring can be complex and expensive for those fitting at home, and you can recreate the look for cheaper with luxury vinyl tiles. 

When it comes to cleaning your parquet floor, for sealed parquet flooring, use a mop, water and cleaners that are designed for parquet and gently scrub.

When laying your timber blocks, you might also want to consider plank flooring. 'As well as Herringbone, which is here to stay, plank is really popular which suits the Scandinavian and Japandi style well, making rooms feel longer and wider.'

8. Gloss and stains

The Stylesmiths

(Image credit: Marnie Hawson)

Using stains to seal and polish natural wood flooring helps preserve the wood, adds a shine to your flooring, and can really emphasize the richness of the color. Dark wood stains have a luxurious quality, like this dazzling floor from The Stylesmiths. 

In terms of trends, a light or white colored wood floor stain is popular. 'We're seeing a huge push for white and light colored wood flooring at the moment and it is a trend that is set to stay through until next year,' says Katie Hudghton at Ted Todd, luxury wooden floor specialists.

'Lighter flooring allows light to bounce around a room, which can make rooms feel bigger and brighter. White, grey and light flooring pairs well with a range of styles and cabinetry colours, especially with the dark kitchen trend that’s popular at the moment,' she says.

'Also, the higher the gloss, the more resilient your wood floor will be,' adds Camilla of Albion Nord.

Remember that stain colors look different on different types of wood, so test your stain out on a corner of your chosen wood before applying it to the whole project.

What room does wood flooring work well in?

Wood flooring's durability means that it is a solid choice of flooring across the home, whether it's a high traffic area like a kitchen or a bathroom, or a relaxing space where the priority is creating a warm and inviting aesthetic.

'We currently have several projects that have either hardwood flooring in the kitchen, or they have added single plank hardwood floors,' says Christian Ladd of Christian Ladd Interiors. 'There is something warm and soft about wood flooring in a kitchen and it’s surprisingly functional - you’re less likely to shatter a dropped dish on a hardwood floor than tile or marble.'

Water is an issue for hardwood flooring though, so consider how much moisture a room gets. 'While suitable for other areas where water is present, like the kitchen, it doesn’t work as an option for a bathroom,' says Barrie Cutchie of bathroom specialists, BC Designs. 'For it to be suitable, they have to be perfectly installed and perfectly sealed from the moisture, and this is almost impossible. If hardwood floor isn’t fitted correctly, water will penetrate, and they will rot eventually.' he adds.

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.