Metamerism: How Light Can Affect Your Floor Color

Metamerism changes color of hardwood flooring on a shadowed staircase
Design: Studio Eastman | Photos: Erin Little

When selecting hardwood flooring, you envision a certain tone, warmth, and character that will complement your home. However, once installed, you might notice that your flooring's color seems to shift under different lighting. This phenomenon, known as metamerism, plays a significant role in the appearance of hardwood floors and can dramatically affect the overall aesthetic.

Understanding metamerism and the influence of lighting can help you choose the right floor for you.

Why Does Metamerism Occur?

Metamerism occurs when colors seem to change under different light sources, even though the colors themselves haven't changed. This is because materials absorb and reflect light differently, plus it depends on the light’s spectral composition. 

Since every light source produces light at different wavelengths, the same piece of hardwood flooring can appear warmer or cooler under direct sunlight, LED, incandescent, or fluorescent lighting. What kind of lighting do you have in your home and have you ever considered how that will affect the tone of your floor?

A midcentury modern living room with warm white oak flooring in dim sunlight

Metamerism in Hardwood Flooring

In natural sunlight, your floors will show their most true color. However, the time of day and angle of the sun are also considerations. Morning light is cooler, while evening light is warmer, which will bring out any amber or natural oak tones in your floors. 

In LED lighting, a warm LED will bring out the richness of darker floors, while a cool LED could highlight the grain and texture of lighter woods. 

With incandescent lighting, which emits a golden glow, any warmth in your floors will be enhanced. This kind of lighting will make any caramel, tan, and brown tones stronger, creating a cozy feel in any space. 

Fluorescent lighting, which is a general no-go for designers, will make a room feel stark due to its cool, blue-toned rays. This kind of light will wash out your floors and make even warmer-toned floors (like a Frida or Tivoli) appear gray. 

Chair with warm white oak flooring showing metamerism in light and shadow

How To Deal With Metamerism

To make sure your flooring maintains its tone under different lighting, sample it in various lighting conditions. 


  • We suggest laying out your flooring samples at different times of the day and in different spaces. Samples are always free, plus you can order large samples if you’re deciding between a few favorites. 

Consider the Room’s Purpose

  • What mood do you want to create in your home? A natural oak will feel inviting, while a lighter-toned floor will help make an open-concept space feel that much more open and airy.

Planning to purchase new floors this year? Check out our Instagram highlights of your favorite floors in customer homes to see metamerism in action. Further questions? Email us at

Text reads "shop flooring" over a picture of a dining room with hardwood floors