My Color Washed Living Room Floor

My color washed living room floor (formula and application)Hey, friends! A couple days ago we moved into our new home, and WOW, it has been a really intense week. Words cannot describe. I'll save the long version of that story for another time and skip to the best part of my week…these floors! 

We chose intense turquoise color washed floors for our formal living room, which is also the first room you see when you walk into the entryway of our house. It will be a while before the room is styled and ready to share as a tour, so I thought I'd just write a quick post about how and why we chose this crazy bold floor and how it is done in case you want to DIY it or share our recipe with your floor guy. 

But first, remember what this living room looked like a few months ago?? 

BeforeWe've already come such a long way! 

So, one of the first things we did when we closed on the house was check to make sure there were hardwoods under the carpets (yayโ€”there were in all the rooms except the sunroom!). We debated leaving the floors their existing color to save money, but then we discovered that not all the rooms were stained the same color. They didn't match and most of them were really yellow. So we decided to have them sanded and restained. We hired a professional this time (mostly because we were still living in Missouri at the time). In the past we've done floors ourselves as well (Josh wrote a really good post about refinishing old wood floors here). 

Anyway! We decided that we wanted super light, whitewashed floors throughout the whole upstairs. This choice feels very fresh and clean to me, but it is also a practical consideration because our pug sheds light hair all the time. We actually like really dark floors too, so we decided to do those in Jeremy's studio where the dogs won't really be. 

When I told our contractor that I wanted super light, whitewashed floors, I could see that he wasn't thrilled. He explained to me that the benefit of using dark stain on old floors is that it hides every flaw. Light stain would show every flaw. But he was still willing to try it, and my heart was set on it, so we went for it. 

So all of the rooms in our house, except for the turquoise living room, are this color: 

White washed floorsThey turned out a bit more subtle (and less white) than I imagined, but I love it. 

As our contractor was working on the floors, he let me know that there were some stains (caused by a water spill or leak at some point) in the living room that couldn't be sanded out. They were in a really unfortunate placement at the front of the room (near the entrance), not in a place where a couch and rug would make sense at all, and one of the stains went across a whole bunch of boards. (So to repair it would require redoing most of that whole floor.) Not good. Here's what it looked like: 

Damaged areaBoo! This really put a kink in my plan. 

He suggested that maybe we do a dark floor in just the living room to mask the damage. 

So I went to look one more time at all the dark wood stain samples at the hardware store and I saw colored stain. The heavens opened up, light poured down, and I remembered the floors from The Surf Lodge (a rad hotel in Montauk)…. 

The Surf LodgeOoh la la, am I right? 

So we picked up all the turquoise stains at the hardware store. The guy at the paint counter warned us that a lot of people return them, but we felt pretty good about them based on the swatches (which looked almost identical to the photo above, super intense/saturated color). 

Ummm.... no.Ummm…no. 


I took my issues to Instagram (my #1 spot for crowdsourcing all of life's problems). I got a few more recommendations. I tried a couple more stain brands (with similar results), and I started to become more open to a paint option. My husband wasn't as open to it. We've painted floors in the past that got scratched up and scuffed almost instantly. But our contractor assured us that it's really the poly, not the paint that makes it durable. So we decided to go for it…again! 

My task was to test the paint/water/poly combos on scrap wood (the same kind of wood as my floors, red oak) and figure out the formula for my contractor. We tried different proportions of poly mixed with paint and poly mixed with water. We wanted to make sure the grain showed through, so it looked like stain, not just paint. We also wanted really intense color. 

Stained Glass by Valspar I chose Stained Glass by Valspar for my color. 

Testing color wash techniques For the formula, my favorite was 1 part paint, 1 part water. It waters it down enough to show the woodgrain without being crazy runny and watery. I applied two coats of it with a rag. Then I gave it a coat of poly to see how that would affect the color. 

ApplicationFor the real thing, my contractor used a fluffy looking sponge brush for the application. It only needed one coat and we were happy with it. 

White wash to color wash transitionHere's a shot of the transition between the kitchen and dining room (it's still taped up from the application here). I really like how the colors mix.

By the way, the big stain is still (barely) visible. But it's not nearly as noticeable anymore because when you have a turquoise floor, it's so visually stimulating it's hard to nitpick the flaws. We could have covered the stain completely, but that would have meant losing the wood texture, which I did not want to do. 

Color washed floorWell, that's the story of my crazy turquoise floor! I can't wait to share more after the room is furnished and decorated! It's going to be a lot of fun. I can tell that I have zero regrets, which is a great feeling. 

With that said, I realize this isn't for everyone and I want to hear your thoughts! Love it? Hate it? What color would you have picked? 

I am so so excited to share more house projects with you this season. Follow me on Instagram @elsielarson for more updates. I am documenting all the steps with #thelarsonhouse. Thanks so much for reading! xx- Elsie 

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson (mostly taken with the iPhone this time).