Your floor covering can be the star of the show or an understated background.
For beauty and warmth underfoot, wood floors are unrivaled. And with new manufacturing methods, they've become increasingly durable and affordable.
Solid-wood floors cost less than engineered-wood flooring, although labor for installing and finishing solid wood pushes the price up. Solid-wood floors hold their value because they can be sanded and refinished many times. With the right care, they age gracefully, developing a patina that the look-alikes can't match.
Layering a smaller area rug over a larger rug defines a seating group within the larger space. It also enriches the palette of patterns in the room.
To use this layering technique effectively, avoid high contrast between the room-size rug and the area rug. In this living room, a swirl-print rug lays over a neutral woven rug.
Brick pavers bring a rustic, old-world look to a room. They may be laid in basket-weave, herringbone, or running-bond patterns, and you have a choice of sizes and thicknesses. After it has been sealed, brick is easy to maintain simply by sweeping or vacuuming. Dirt and mud can be removed with soap and water.
Wide-plank hardwood floors bring character and beauty to any living room. Search online for companies that specialize in reclaimed or salvaged wood or for those that focus on sustainably harvested new growth.
Custom-crafted floors like this are expensive. If you're going to stay in your home for a long time, however, real wood floors can be a good investment, because they will last as long as your home does. If properly cared for, wood ages gracefully and can be refinished as needed.
A painted floor can set the tone for the decor of an entire room. This geometric pattern of rectangles establishes the room's bold, playful style.
Use deck and floor paint to apply the design. If you want a hint of the wood grain to show through, wipe off excess paint until you get the effect you like. Apply several coats of polyurethane to protect the finish.
Carpet warms a room physically and visually, and it's comfortable underfoot. The wall-to-wall carpeting adds warmth and texture to this pretty living room.
Choose a neutral color like this one if you want to downplay the floors. For a room with a high ceiling, opt for an attention-grabbing hue to ground and balance the space without detracting from the expansive atmosphere.
Polished concrete floors in this living room are sleek and understated. Concrete floors can be stained and scored to mimic stone or tile at a lower cost than either material. They can also be stained to imitate leather or treated with other decorative effects, providing a chic and versatile flooring material for contemporary living rooms.
Concrete is porous, however, and must be sealed to protect it from moisture and spills.
In this living room, small- and medium-size rugs lend definition and visual separation. A rug beneath a table sets off that space as a work zone, while a rug placed in the center of a seating arrangement denotes it as a gathering place. To securely anchor a grouping, a rug should be large enough for the pieces to rest entirely on it.
Wood floors may be made from hard or soft woods. The harder the wood, the more resistant it is to dents and scratches. Oak is a popular choice for that reason. Pine is soft, but if you like the rustic look of a worn pine floor, the softness is a benefit.
Rectangular slate tiles give an earthy, natural look to this beachy living room. Slate needs to be sealed to protect it from staining, but it's easy to maintain and pet-proof. Slate isn't forgiving of dropped items, however, and remains cool underfoot, so consider layering a rug over it during the winter months.
In a living room with plaster walls and a dramatic stone fireplace, polished stone floors evoke an Italian palazzo. The tiles boast natural gradations in color and are arranged in a geometric diamond pattern, creating subtle interest underfoot.
Natural stone is porous and needs to be sealed every few years.
Wood floors with a medium-brown stain are a good neutral choice for most decorating styles. Real wood floors are available prefinished, but often it's less expensive to have a new oak floor installed and finished on-site. If left unstained, oak is a mellow gold. For a dark, dramatic look, choose an ebony finish.
A checkerboard of polished black and white marble tiles is a classic treatment for living spaces. In this open, lofty room, the rows of black and white squares add a splash of pattern underfoot. The tiles also help to visually widen the room.
Terra-cotta tiles with a rosy color evoke Italian villas, while those with a more orange cast suggest Mexican or Southwestern style. Tile floors are cool underfoot and well-suited to casual living areas in warm climates.
Grout lines are as important to pattern as the tile itself, and alignment is key. These terra-cotta tiles form a neat grid with gray grout providing low contrast to the warm color of the tile.
Laminate flooring is a low-cost alternative to real wood. Available in a range of finishes and wood grains, laminates are stain-resistant, but they can be scratched if you drag furniture across them. Use protective buttons on furniture feet to protect the floors.
Learn how to install laminate flooring with this how-to video.
Self-stick carpet tiles are an inexpensive and easy way to cover an unattractive floor. They can be installed over plywood subflooring, a wood floor, or concrete. The carpet tiles adhere to the surface with adhesive disks, so they're easy to pull up and clean in case of spills or accidents.
Choose squares in assorted colors to make a checkerboard pattern like the floor here. For a more uniform appearance that draws less attention to the floor, use a single, neutral color.