You can stain wood floors to be red, orange or any other color of the rainbow, but most people prefer natural wood tones, which are usually a shade of yellow or brown. A typical wood floor includes several colors, and you should determine the main one before you decide on the wall color for the area. Once you've isolated the main floor color, the wall color can match or contrast, depending on your overall design scheme.
Finding the Predominant Floor Color
Variations in wood grain can be striking, and some floors contain virtually equal amounts of tan sapwood and dark brown heartwood that make it difficult to decide on a predominant color. One strategy for making this decision is to stand in a doorway and gaze straight ahead -- the floor color you see out of the corner of your eye is the predominant one. If the floor is stained, the stain color is usually the predominant one. You don't always have to match the wall color to the predominant floor color, but it serves the interest of simplicity in a room with many other colors and features.
Choosing Colors With a Color Wheel
Once you decide on the main floor color, finding that color on a color wheel is one way to choose the wall colors that go with it. Colors close to it on the wheel are analogous colors, and using them blends the floors and walls to create a restful space. If you choose this route, gravitate toward earthy colors, because these go best with wood tones. Choosing contrasting colors, on the opposite side of the color wheel, creates drama by separating the floor and walls visually. A third possibility is to choose a color 120 degrees away from the main floor color. If you do this, use the color that's 120 degrees on the opposite side for trim or in furnishings to create a triadic color scheme.
Warm, Cool or Neutral
The earthy tones in natural wood are warm, which means they have a vivid, energetic quality that opens up the space. Choosing warm wall colors to go with them enhances the energy, and if you go this route, you'll be looking for colors close to the floor color on the color wheel. Cool colors, on the other hand, close in the space and make it feel more restful, and if this is your goal, choose from colors on the other side of the color wheel from the floor color. A third strategy, which is always safe, is to choose a shade of gray for the walls. Gray is a neutral color that neither contrasts nor complements the floor color.
Feng Shui Considerations
If you choose to apply feng shui principles to the color scheme, you may be interested in balancing the five elements -- each represented by a color. Hardwood floors bring both earth and wood into the design, and the combination can feel arid in a room dominated by a fireplace, which represents fire. An alternate choice for this situation might be to paint the walls blue -- the color of water. Another possibility would be to paint the walls a neutral gray and place one or two mirrors in the room, which also represents water.