The Polarizing Flooring Style HGTV's Leanne Ford Swears By

The right flooring style is so important for defining your home's overall feeling and adding harmony to interior design. We already know wall-to-wall carpets are out and cheap high-gloss laminate isn't good for anything but ripping up. But, one flooring style is making its rounds in the design world and the verdict isn't so clear. Popularized by HGTV's Leanne Ford, host of "Restored by the Fords," white-washed wooden flooring is a bold choice that lends itself to a modern coastal or neutral Scandinavian aesthetic. Ford has a penchant for all things white on white, so it isn't surprising that the designer wanted to incorporate white oak into one of her home makeover projects. What is surprising is how she got there. 

The HGTV star purchased unfinished red oak flooring which she white-washed herself using Bona NordicSeal. "They told me about a pretty red oak they had in stock. It was ready to be installed, but it was a product they had never tried before but had a hunch would work," Ford explains on her blog. "All I had to hear was ready to be installed and I was ready to experiment. And guess what... it worked!" From a design standpoint, Ford's flooring is as pleasing as she envisioned, but white-washed flooring is not an easy DIY task, and the style isn't versatile enough for every interior design. There's much to know about achieving the look, its practicality and alternatives, and how to make it cohesive with a home's design style. 

Challenges of white-washed flooring

As easy as Leanne Ford makes it look, whitewashed flooring isn't the easiest look to achieve or design with. For a simple way to incorporate this style, you can purchase solid or engineered bleached oak floors. If your home already has wood floors, and you're hoping to do it yourself like the HGTV star, you'll want to research the easiest way to whitewash your wood floors to produce an attractive result, without any stains or damages. This is not a beginner DIY project and will involve plenty of work. The style is not forgiving either, and if you make a mistake, you'll have to take Ford's advice and either "embrace the imperfections" or "sand the layer just applied and start over again."

If you're up for the challenge, whitewashed wood flooring can be a beautiful way to lighten up your home. However, it clashes with popular styles like maximalism, contemporary glam, brutalism, art deco, and industrialism. You'll also want to consider whitewashed wood's cleaning and maintenance challenges. Hardwood is a porous substance, so one coffee or wine spill can leave an unsightly stain and ruin all your hard work. Ford's own home utilizes white floors, but similar to her project for HGTV "Rock the Block," she uses options like concrete that are easier to clean in high-traffic areas like the kitchen and dining room. For flooring materials that are easy to clean and can emulate the look, concrete or vinyl plank are stylish and design-forward alternatives. 

How to design white-washed floors

If executed well, Leanne Ford's white-washed wood flooring style can create an ideal canvas for her signature white-on-white design. The HGTV designer is an all-star when it comes to nailing this look and often provides helpful tips for achieving it in your own space. "The key to an all white space is always...layering! Have shades of whites and creams living together," she shared on Instagram. "Layer cool linens and warm cottons next to bead board, shiplap, concrete and painted brick to add texture and interest for your eye." While white-washed floors won't pair with every look, they work perfectly with a few trending styles that rely heavily on shades of white. 

Oak that's been whitewashed retains its warm red undertones, plus its natural graining creates a texture and depth, so it feels welcoming and warm, not chilly and sterile. This makes it ideal for a beachy yet sophisticated coastal luxe design with natural textures like bamboo, and rattan, plus neutral colors like white and beige. White-washed wood flooring also works well with the Scandinavian décor trend. Ford often incorporates this property-value-boosting interior design trend into her own projects and pairs her white floors with light-colored contemporary minimalist furniture and decor. The flooring style pairs well with a shabby-chic aesthetic or a modern-rustic space like a warehouse apartment or converted barn. Mastering white-washed wood flooring requires effort and finesse, but the reward — a unique look that channels Leanne Ford's chic style — is worth the effort.