Hardwood floors and wall paneling: to coordinate or not?

Decorating Dilemma:

I want to install hardwood floors throughout my house. However, the living room has a 10-foot ceiling and beautiful wood paneling on the walls, typical of many homes built in the ’70s and early ’80s (it was called a great room at the time). Should the wood floor be lighter, darker or an exact match with the paneling in the living room? I plan to use area rugs to keep the room from looking like a cave. Your guidance is appreciated!

Jane Jones
Dallas, Texas


Style Studio Solution:Hardwood floors & wall paneling: to coordinate or not?


What a fun project. You’re going to love having those hardwood floors!!

We don’t think your woods need to match exactly, but they should be in the same hue. For example, if your walls are a neutral brown, it’s fine to go with a flooring that’s lighter or darker than that same brown, but avoid a flooring choice that is redder or greener. See the graphic we’ve attached here as an example of three different brown hues going from light to dark. Try to stay within one hue, but just go lighter or darker.

It would be a good idea for you to get a few boards of your color options and lay them up against the walls and live with them for a few days, looking at them at different times of the day, as the light will change as the sun moves through the sky.


Good luck!

Style Studio Team

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.


  1. Reply


    June 28, 2021

    We have 4 types (and colors) of wood paneling in our home. My husband’s family home that his father built. The horrible carpet has to go as well as the rapidly peeling up linoleum in the kitchen. I want to put flooring throughout the house (except the remodeled baths) that is consistent. I do not want more wood on the floor. We can’t have ceramic tile because we are pier and beam. It would crack due to the constant movement. I have been looking at luxury sheet vinyl as my only option. Can you give me another option?

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      June 29, 2021

      It’s hard to make a suggestion for the rug without seeing your space. We have a team of free interior designers who would love to help you figure out your decorating dilemma. Simply upload images of your room and your question here.

  2. Reply

    Lori Birchbauer

    June 7, 2020

    I need help deciding what color Vinyl Plank flooring I should put down in my family room. We have honey oak wanescoating paneling that goes half way up our walls. I would love to put a gray flooring down, but don’t want to make the wrong decision. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      January 8, 2021

      We have a team of free interior designers who would love to help you figure out your decorating dilemma. Simply upload images of your room and your question here.

  3. Reply

    Shena Ross

    May 14, 2020

    Hey, I need some advice. I have gunstock kitchen cabinets and living room floor. We want to put up wood walls in kitchen and living room (open floor plan). We live in a small cabin so we don’t want it to look smaller, any advice on what color wood walls we would greatly appreciate it ?

    Thank you!

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      June 9, 2020

      Hi Shena,
      It’s hard to suggest a color without seeing pictures of your space. Our team of interior designers would love to help you figure out your decorating dilemma. Simply upload images of your room and your question here.

  4. Reply

    Bibi Houssain

    May 31, 2018

    Hello, thank you for your information. Very helpful. I have a question, I have oak panel in my living room and thinking of putting wood flooring. My question is, would it be better to put a lighter shade oak or can i use a different wood? Thank you. Bibi.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      June 5, 2018

      That’s a tricky question to answer without seeing photos, but as a general rule, I don’t think the woods need to match exactly. I would try to stick with the same tone woods though. For example, if your wood paneling is very warm, then choose either a lighter or darker wood but in that same warm tone. If your wood paneling has more of a gray undertone, then choose something with more gray. Does that make sense?
      Best of luck!

  5. Reply

    Donna Perron

    August 29, 2017

    I have the 1970 wood panel walls. I do want to wood flooring down, and i have read on here to go light. Well my husband is telling that grey flooring would go good with med-dark wood paneling. Please help, I can’t visualize it going to together. Please help!!

  6. Reply


    May 15, 2017

    In my great room I have a dark walnut colored paneling, that also includes lighter brown tones in the paneling as well. The paneling is from the vaulted ceiling to the floor. I previously had a light colored carpet, the carpet has been removed and I have been trying for eight months to decide what to replace it with. My original plan was to replace with a wood flooring, I am having trouble visualizing the completed project as something I can live with. I have considered a mixed flooring design. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you,

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      June 5, 2017

      We would love to help you design your great room! We offer a free service with our interior designers who will help you pick out furniture, fabric, and accessories. Just send in your question and a picture of your great room here, and a designer will reach out to you with a design plan!

  7. Reply


    June 14, 2016

    Thank you ☺

  8. Reply


    June 13, 2016

    We have paneling on our walls, older paneling that is…not real dark and not too light but we want to put in a wood floor but dont know whether to go dark or lighter flooring to go with the panelin

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      June 14, 2016

      Without seeing the space, it’s hard to offer suggestions, but we don’t recommend trying to match the paneling. We suggest either going a lot darker than the paneling or a lot lighter than the paneling on your floor so there’s enough distinction between the two. Look to the other finishes in your space to determine whether you should go darker or lighter.
      Good luck!

  9. Reply

    malka fraenkel

    August 7, 2014

    I have wood panelling as well in my basement and just tore the wall to wall out. I do not want to replace with carpeting and have two options which are wood flooring and or a marble look. Both are not natural. Are wood floors and wood panelling too much? the marble feels commercial to me.
    thank you,

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      August 28, 2014

      Hi Malka,

      Thanks for your comment. Without seeing your space, it’s hard to say, but we don’t think wood floors with wood paneling would be too much. You could also consider adding an area rug if you choose wood floors which will help break everything up. We bet that once you add furnishings and rugs to your basement, it won’t be too much at all!!

      Hope that helps!
      Happy Decorating,
      The How to Decorate Team

  10. Reply


    October 6, 2012

    Would never have guessed about the shadings of brown. This helps me a lot in my redecorating projects to come.

  11. Reply


    July 17, 2012

    Very helpful!