We’re not all so lucky to be graced with antique white oak planks—some hardwood floors have an unmistakable orange tinge; others have a weird grain; and a few are simply beaten up beyond repair. But that doesn’t mean the only solution is to rip everything up and start fresh.

Why not try painting them first? Not only is it more sustainable (think of all the trees you’ll save), it’s budget-friendly. Whether you choose to add a lick of lipstick red to your bathroom or give your living room an airy gallery look with a coat of true white, you’ll be surprised what a paint can and roller can achieve. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Choose the Brightest Shade You Can Find

Photography by William Abranowicz; Design by Kate Brodsky

Color-obsessed Kate Rheinstein Brodsky of KRB didn’t hesitate to cover every last floorboard in her century-old East Hampton, New York, home in jewel tones: The living room got a grass green base, while the sunroom received a fuchsia checkerboard treatment. But perhaps the most striking moment is a blush guest bathroom that welcomes you with a bright dose of C2 Paint’s Stampede underfoot. She paired the daring hue with a white claw-foot tub and floral curtains for a room that feels like a cozy hug.

Million Dollar Red, Benjamin Moore
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Elevate Basic Materials

Photography by Victoria Hely-Hutchinson; Design by Green River Project LLC

Fashion designer Emily Adams Bode and Aaron Aujla of Green River Project are fearless when it comes to their downtown Manhattan apartment. They push every surface to its limits, cladding walls in coffee-stained Douglas fir and painting brick features in a vivid Yves Klein Blue. The plywood flooring is stained black, a warm backdrop to all the natural wood. 

Pitch Black, Farrow & Ball
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Give Objects Center Stage

Courtesy of Camille Architectures

French architect Camille Hermand created a gallery feel in this Paris apartment by painting the floors pure white and combining them with a punchy orange Arne Jacobsen Egg chair, lemon drapes, and pops of emerald and sapphire. The clean backdrop lets the modern vintage pieces shine. 

Supermoon, Backdrop ($60)
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Reflect What’s Right Outside

Courtesy of Beata Heuman

Blue-gray planks feel anything but cold in this Beata Heuman–designed London apartment. They’re set against forest green walls and book- and plant-filled shelves, which together mirror the greenery outside, grounding the tiny space in its verdant city surroundings.

Peaceful Blue, Behr
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Punch Up a Classic Space

Photography by Eric Piasecki; Architecture by GP Schafer

The neutral scheme in this traditional country bathroom by architect Gil Schafer could have easily been restricted to shades of tan and white, but the unexpected pop of steel blue floors lends a playful, relaxed atmosphere.

Hyperlink, Clare
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Fake a High Ceiling

The decision to paint the floors in Nick Blaine and Paul Denoly’s upstate New York farmhouse was a tactical one. Having the lower half of the walls in the same light gray hue as the ground ensured the low ceilings would feel taller. The full-height windows only add to the airiness. 

White Dove, Benjamin Moore
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