HOUSE: Newburgh + Inspiring Interiors

Wood floors, painted white.

The floors on the second story of my house are old, but they are not original to the house. They are narrow-plank oak, and were laid over the original wide-plank pine, most likely in the early 1900’s—a decade or so after the house was built. The pattern of the boards is quite nice, with the borders running perpendicular to the center pieces.

However, they are in pretty rough shape. The finish is completely worn off in some areas, and there’s a lot of deep staining and damage to them. There’s also an awful lot of paint tracked over them, thanks to a careless paint job done by a previous occupant. There are burn marks around the nails from too-aggressive refinishing once upon a time.

Yes, they could be sanded and refinished, but why? I don’t love the color of the oak, and the planks are very thin (only about 1/4″). So I think we will paint the floors on the second story. White! (Of course.)

Just as I don’t think it’s a mortal sin to paint wood trimwork, I don’t see any problem with painting a wood floor. It’s not even out of context with the house—painted floors were common in Victorian homes, particularly when the wood was not of premium quality. I’m not worried about regretting painting the floors, but I AM worried about regretting NOT painting them! I think living with those floors for two years has convinced me that they are worth making into something more beautiful.

EDIT, 1/2009: I have since painted my floor white!

See, like this:

Paul Massey photography

Living Etc

Living Etc


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  • Reply Making it Lovely June 19, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    It will look fantastic. I’m still planning on painting our kitchen floor… we’ve just been busy with other projects.

  • Reply sweet fine day June 19, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    We had white painted floors in our old brownstone apartment and as much as I liked the look, it was really hard to keep clean. The white just shows everything and we don’t even wear shoes in the house. I recall a friend’s apartment with white floors was the same. She made everyone take their shoes off before entering. Perhaps we didn’t have the right paint finish though – worth looking into I think, because it just looks so nice white.

  • Reply Anna at D16 June 19, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    sweet fine day: We don’t wear shoes in our house, but since this would be on the second story, I don’t think excessive dirtiness will be an issue, anyway. We spend 90% of our waking hours downstairs, and we don’t have kids (the pups stay downstairs most of the time). I’m not sure I would be so eager to paint the downstairs entry hall floor white, however!! (Black is another story. Hmmm.)

    Everyone warned me about putting black floors/cabinets and stainless steel countertops (and open shelving!) in the kitchen, too, but so far it’s really been fine. 🙂

  • Reply lena June 20, 2008 at 6:38 am

    i’ve saved so many images of white floors too… but so far have chickened out on doing it. but i love, love the look, and i’m sure it will look amazing. go for it! our floors are all original to our house, so i think that makes me hesitate… still i i don’t like their natural orange-ish color, and would love to stain them.

  • Reply sweet fine day June 20, 2008 at 6:57 am

    ooh Anna, yes, what about a black stain?? A deep ebony? I LOVE that look with white walls and white furniture. It is soooo stunning.

  • Reply Zee June 20, 2008 at 6:57 am

    We’ll definitely be painting the floors on our second story white- it’s just a matter of finding the time to tackle the job. I’m sure you’ve seen my White Floor Inspiration Flickr set ( – each time I add a new image it reinforces my desire to do it in my own house. You should visit the ‘Houses’ page for oodles of lovely painted white floors.

  • Reply kris June 20, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Back in my reckless rental days, I painted my wood bedroom floor green. It had already been painted brown, I just added another layer. I really liked it, but I wasn’t too paint savvy back then and used the wrong kind so it didn’t hold up too well. When I moved out, my other roommate painted the floor an ivory color and it also looked great.

    I think white floors would look great. Good luck!

  • Reply Jaimie June 20, 2008 at 8:13 am

    We just replaced the hardwood in our house (like yours, it was narrow oak strip and extremely worn out) with wide planks in a deep espresso. We love the look of it and I’m so happy we did it. The one caveat is that very dark floors show dust REALLY easily. Any little fleck that falls on the floor is immediately visible. It just encourages me to keep up with regular vacuuming though.

    Anna, this may not be your style, but I’ve seen some neat images of painted floors done in subtle diamond or checkerboard pattern (in tone-on-tone shades of cream and white or white and grey, not stark black and white).

  • Reply rachel June 20, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Do it, do it! You won’t regret it. But use absolutely the right type of paint, 2 coats minimum, and fill really gaping cracks with decorator’s filler before painting.I have a very dark brown (Glidden: Van Dyke) painted floor in my main room downstairs, and a white attic floor, and both are hugely successful. Much better than the old and very damaged pine boards that this early 1900s house came with, and easy to dress up with rugs. Also dead easy to clean, but you do notice every bit of fluff or pet hair, and then start to worry about how filthy your carpeted rooms must be…..

  • Reply donna June 20, 2008 at 9:03 am

    When we moved in to our old house we couldn’t stand the old wall to wall carpeting upstairs so we removed it and painted the subfloors until such time that we can afford to put new hardwood in. Despite two coats, high gloss, it’s chipping all over the place. Maybe because it was just subfloor, I don’t know. I don’t know how they get it to look so pristine in the magazines.

  • Reply sammie June 20, 2008 at 9:21 am

    in Nantucket the wood floors are blue its beautiful but i thin white will be better

  • Reply lesley June 20, 2008 at 9:31 am

    do it! I love painted wood floors. I am now regretting redoing the downstairs floors in oak-colored laminate (below grade)–wish I’d done black and painted the upstairs floors (beat-up oak) black too.

  • Reply heather June 20, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Yay! I say do it and don’t look back. It will be lovely. I was thinking of doing the same thing to my new house as well – the floors are in similar condition. Originally, I wanted to ebonize the floors throughout but then I realized that I have a lot of black furniture. Then I was thinking that the second and third floors would be nice in super high gloss white or a very pale glossy grey. Maybe I’ll do the ground floor black, the second floor grey and the third floor white?
    I’m anxious to see your results and the resulting tips I know you’ll have for us. 🙂

  • Reply sulu-design June 20, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Oooh! Do it! I love painted wood floors. One of my favorite hotels (which I think you’d love if you haven’t already been there) is the San Jose in Austin. I stayed in a room with wide plank wood floors painted red. It made the rather stark modern interior just pop. Can’t wait to see your results.

  • Reply megan June 20, 2008 at 11:20 am

    ooh, i love the idea of white-painted wood floors. can’t wait to see the results!

  • Reply The Knittymommy June 20, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Go for it!

  • Reply Jan's camera June 20, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Hi, this is totally unrelated, but, can I ask where you got your beautiful white front door. Or was it original to the house. The detail is beautiful!

  • Reply Adam June 20, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Wow! I think that would look so nice! You are so brave, I think of doing these things and then chickening out.

  • Reply Anna at D16 June 20, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Jan’s camera: Is this the door you’re wondering about? If so, then yes, it is original to the house. (And it took FOREVER to paint!)

  • Reply angelica June 20, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    i think it will look fantastic. i dont think its a mistake if there are THAT many problems with the floors. how long does it take to dry?

  • Reply jaime June 20, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    DO IT! do it! Do it!!!

  • Reply jackie June 20, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Some friends of mine just painted their oak floors a semi-glossy white and the room is stunning. It has the most magical effect, the light is magnificant.

    I would truly do it post haste if I was not renting.

  • Reply stacy June 20, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Do it! White wood floors are wonderful.

  • Reply sandra June 22, 2008 at 7:58 am

    oh do it! i love my white kitchen floor, although i have to vacuum it almost daily since my black hair is all over it.

  • Reply Simon June 22, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Yes, Yes, Yes

  • Reply Emma June 22, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Go for it! We had it done in our hole apartment and we are so pleased. With the right paint its easy to paint as well…. just dont forget to close a window beacause there´s no going back in for a couple of hours…:)
    As a swede i love your blog by the way, and i understand there are some swedish genes in you! //Emma

  • Reply mrslimestone June 23, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Love this!! I considered painting my office floors white but Im too lazy to bother now. But it will look fabulous.

  • Reply Benita June 24, 2008 at 1:42 am

    I have a painted floor downstairs in a not so often used room. It shows scratches and marks pretty easily although the overall look is nice.
    In the kitchen I used a white stain on parts of the floor. The stain with varnish on top works really well. Stain is not to everybody’s taste tough…
    Go with what you want and you can always touch up the paint.

  • Reply whitney June 24, 2008 at 8:44 am

    I’m getting ready to rip up this ugly indoor/outdoor carpet our house came with and am quite excited that the hardwood floors underneath are painted white! I love the look of the all white rooms, so calm and clean.

  • Reply tamara July 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    We’re thinking high gloss Benjamin Moore white, over a primer, with two coats of water based polyurethane on top– Does anyone know what the best combination is? We’ve used porch and floor paint, and it hasn’t held up well. I’m afraid the oil based varethanes will never dry, and are so toxic–but that the water-based are less durable. What about yellowing?

  • Reply Mary July 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I love, love the white on plank floors, I think in your house it would be perfect. In my apt I have the same color floors as you have upstairs and I’m dying to go very dark or pickle them with a white stain but they’re parquet. what do you think? And I love you radiator. Did you paint it that pretty silver?

  • Reply kitchen remodeling san jose July 15, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    white’s the best. it brightens the entire room and it gives a very cozy ambiance.

    the rooms look very neat and the furnitures complement the entire feel of the rooms.

  • Reply kris July 24, 2008 at 8:49 am

    We painted our diving room floor white and I love it but I must have used the wrong type of paint as well. We used “Porch & Floor Paint” in a dove white, Satin. Now I know! I didn’t want it to looks shiny, I felt a shiny finish would be for flawless floors but now that I’ve seen pics its startin to grow on me, and I dont really have a choice. lol I am going to apply a polyurethane coat on top now but what a pain in @$$!
    I love the pics above, it looks awesome!

  • Reply eichler cabana August 6, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Have you painted them yet? I am doing the same in my house in super white soon and I am afraid I will not use the right polyurethane and and they will look yellow/amber. I would love to hear from someone who put a good protective coat over the paint and still look white white.

  • Reply Julie August 14, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Hi I just moved into an apartment with white painted floors and was wondering if anyone has any tips on how to clean them. Is there a particular cleaner I can use that will not ruin it? Any information would be great! Thanks!

  • Reply Michael August 24, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Mersi boku. Good idea. I’ll become your constant reader and subscribe on RSS.

  • Reply karen tyree September 13, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I love, love, love white painted wood floors. It is very clean, crisp and chic. Some people would worry about the wear and tear, but the scuffs and worn places are what give it a beautiful patina. In my opinion that sets it apart from any ordinary floor and gives it it’s own beauty.

  • Reply brooke October 26, 2008 at 8:04 am

    i have carpet in my bedroom and i am highly considering replacing it with shiny white floors. i have a concrete foundation. how would i go about starting this process? do i have to use real wood?

  • Reply Jo Celko January 1, 2009 at 10:09 am

    White enamel paint would give a glossy look and long lasting finish. As for priming concrete I have never done it but I am sure you could research it and figure it out. Add a fluffy white sheepskin throw rug at your bedside – it’d be a good looking contrast to the shiny white enamel. I have had them and it’s so luxe to sink your feet in 1st thing in the morning!

  • Reply Deb Mason January 8, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Hi To you,
    The white is fabulous and yes i am going to to my floors all of them white….does any one have advise on the kind of paint to use to get the look… the look in the please

  • Reply Reenie January 12, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Simply Awsome!!! my next project Just what colors exactly did you use? Wakks etc

  • Reply Doug February 12, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I painted my floors white, in my office and foyer, I am a woodworker so at first I was afraid of painting them but not that i have I love them…it’s not so much the paint, just make sure the floor is sanded so the paint can adhere properly, but the most important step i found is you have to put at least 3 layers of urethane over them just as you would over a stain or hardwood flooring…mine are durable, as I roll my office chair all over it…but I love them, clean, bright, and just add a different element to the room..

  • Reply Anna at D16 February 12, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Doug (et al): I have since painted the floor in one room in my house white. You can see the results (and a detailed list of steps/products) here.

  • Reply StyleEstate May 14, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Very nice. I love the photos.

  • Reply Childrens bedroom furniture July 6, 2009 at 7:10 am

    The silver radiator in the first picture is gorgeous!

  • Reply Kyle B July 9, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Love the idea, and would love to do white, but am in an apt of which the landlord won’t let me paint the walls, and afraid it would be too white in here. Previous tenants painted the floors green but used the wrong paint and it’s chipped everywhere so got the ok to do it. Can anyone suggest a web site (or products) for properly doing the floors. Thinking ivory, or light tan, but want to ensure they are done right and can be easily cleaned going forward. Have very wide plank floors here original to the building in a Philly suburb.

  • Reply Anna at D16 July 10, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Kyle B: Here is a detailed post on the steps I followed and products I used when I painted my floor white.

    In my personal opinion, though, ivory or tan floors sound horrible – very institutional and depressing. If you don’t want to do pure white, consider a soft, pale gray (BM Lacey Pearl) or pale blue (BM Palladian Blue).

  • Reply holly July 26, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I want white wood floor in my daughters bedroom, its carpeted at the moment and doesnt have floorboards underneath or id just stain it myself it looks like cardboad ( but obviously isnt) does any one know where i can buy white wood floor from, proper white not off white that i can fit myself ? thanx

  • Reply sue August 2, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    anyone any idea which is the best paint to paint my hall floorboards with?It needs to be creamy shade.thanks

  • Reply gaye September 2, 2009 at 8:18 pm


  • Reply Suzy November 3, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I am highly considering painting two bedrooms and our family room that have hard wood floors. If anyone has any info. on the best materials to use, including paint colors/types, I would be greatful! I hope mine turn out as good as some of these!

  • Reply Anna at D16 November 3, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Suzy, there’s a link in this post to the steps I took to paint my floors white:

  • Reply Suzy November 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks so much Anna! Have you decided what to do with your beautiful room?

  • Reply amy January 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

    we also have an old house and at first wanted to replace kitchen oak floors. really love white oak floors and as our house is small 1200 sq ft, think the white would look great. need some advice. how is it on wear and how often does it need painting. also what is the absolute best paint to use. we have used sherman williams in the past on the walls and molding and have had no problems with it. is this the best for the floors. anyone with advice will be appreciated

    • Anna @ D16 January 5, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Amy, please see my FAQ page for answers to your questions.

  • Reply Sarah January 11, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I love white wood flooring, but I’m not confidant enough to do it myself. Is their anyway you can buy the wood already painted white???

  • Reply Mali09 November 1, 2012 at 6:46 am

    I have just painted my bedroom floor white, its looks soooooooooo refreshing.

  • Reply Paul September 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Hi, I love the white painted floors above, how they reflect the light, and how they go with white walls, ceilings and skirting boards; I have old clear-stained softwood boards with lots of knots, etc, which I’m not particularly keen on. I would be very grateful if someone could advise if I really do need to sand down the stained floors first, and apply a primer? Sanding will take forever and raise a lot of dust, while I’ve only just painted the walls (ivory white). Thanks in advance.

  • Reply vanessa November 12, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Hi, please could you help me out! We have taken back the carpet in our old Victorian house to reveal some lovely floorboards. They are nice and wide and are in good condition. We don’t want to stain them dark we just want to paint them white. People talk a lot about removing the old black varnish that was used at the time but only when you are going to sand the floors with an industrial sander so that the floorboards come back to the pine light surface and so that you don’t clog up the machine. But what about for those people who don’t want to do this and just want to remove the black varnish. What do you do here? I’ve read that you just scrub with the grain with steel wool and white spirit and then once is dry lightly sand over it by hand. Then its ready to paint with a primer and then x2 coats of the floor paint? Please can you help?
    Many thanks

    • Anna @ D16 November 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      I don’t know, sorry — I don’t have any experience removing varnish from floors.

  • Reply Donna December 14, 2016 at 9:51 pm


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