The floors I wanted… and the floors I got…

When I started imagining what I would do with our condo and how I would transform it, I imagined re-doing the floors in a kind of classic walnut color… not too light, not too dark, totally timeless. In my head I was picturing something like these floors {side note: this is a newly renovated house that our team is listing here in Chicago, cute right?!}


Our existing floors were a pretty light color but they were kind of too bright in a way, it’s hard to put my finger on it… here is a before pic.


The existing floors in our living space are about twenty years old and they are pre-finished hardwood. That means that they were finished {stained and sealed} at the factory before being installed and in this type of flooring the edges of each plank are a beveled, so when it’s installed there are little grooves between the planks instead of it being completely smooth. I don’t like this type of flooring at all, but when I asked my flooring guy Gigi if it would be easier to just replace it {because I hated it and definitely wasn’t about to install more in the bedrooms} he almost had a stroke and then emphatically said that no, it would cost so much more just in material to replace it and that he would sand it down twice to get rid of the beveled edges and the floors would be totally smooth.

Great! Done. But that meant a new new set of things to consider…

Renovation life is a little trickier than new construction life because you are always taking into consideration the things that are already there… anything you take out you have to repair or work around, and everything that stays always has some kind of ‘baggage’. When I say that I mean – we decided to keep the existing hardwood floors, but we are also demoing part of the kitchen and the fireplace, both of which have no flooring underneath them, and we are adding brand new flooring in the bedrooms. So new floor and old floor are touching in more than one place and everything has to look seamless. That means a lot more repairing and weaving in new floor boards, and it also means that you have new wood and older wood together, and they don’t take stain the same way, which impacts what colors will work.

Here are some pictures of how they repaired the wood where we took out existing elements – knee wall in the kitchen, the fireplace, and the thresholds to the bedrooms {first picture is in the kitchen where the peninsula is, and the other two are the hallway into the master bedroom}. They took out extra individual boards to be able to weave in new boards so that everything looks seamless. It turned out great but if you look closely, you can still see a slight difference between the old and new boards in the pic on the far right.

floors_in progress

When it came time for the stain I told Gigi what I was hoping for and he brought four samples and put them right on the floor… if you didn’t know, that’s how you pick, not by the tiny sample in the hardware store, but you literally put it down on the flooring in small patches in your space and you choose what you like the best. Then the sand that all away and stain the whole thing.

It was crazy, on our floors it didn’t look like there were four options, it looked like he just put two stains down two times each. Two looked really dark and two looked too light.


I was gravitating toward the two lighter options, but I didn’t love how pronounced the grain of the wood looked, and with the lighter stain color, there was a big chance that once we put it on the entire floor you would be able to see the difference between the old existing flooring and the new floors.

Ugh. Wasn’t there anything in between?! I’m the freaking goldilocks of floor stains over here, none of these were ‘just right’!

Of course we went to the hardware store to check out all of the options, and when I asked about two colors that looked ‘in between’ in the store, Gigi told me that those were two of the ones on our floor as options!

So my pretty honey colored lighter stain wasn’t going to happen here. I had to accept that these floors just weren’t taking the stain the way I was hoping and with the risk of seeing the transitions between old and new wood with the lighter stain as well, we opted for the ‘lighter’ of the two dark stains and kept our fingers crossed that it didn’t look quite as dark once it was all finished.

And our floors look great! Here is what they look like now {well, right now they are covered in paper while we keep working on this place, and I am beyond eager to get that paper up and get furniture where it belongs! but here is the after picture with the new stain, lol}. The pics are kind of dark but not to worry, there will be plenty more ‘after’ photos coming as we keep making progress over here.


To be honest, the floors are darker than I had originally wanted, but I think this finish looks really beautiful and is still a classic color that will look great for years to come. And we are painting our living space a bright, almost white color which will help balance out the darker floors as well.

What do you think, would you have risked seeing the transitions with old and new floors and gone with the lighter color? In a few weeks we should have our kitchen cabinets in and the whole living space painted and things will really look different, it’s already getting harder to even remember what this place used to look like before


  1. Catherine G Calvert

    They dark floors look wonderful!! I was really hoping that you would go with the darker color (I didn’t read ahead in the post)…I think that especially with a lighter color on the walls, it is going to look super classy & fresh :)

    1. Thanks! It ended up looking a little lighter when it was all finished, we love it. And I’m doing wood finish for the lower kitchen cabinets but am going lighter than the floors so it will all look balanced in the end (hopefully!). :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s