In the United States, when things are described as “colonial”, it typically refers to the period when the United States were colonies of Great Britain. That’s roughly 1600 to 1800 in terms of style. Typically, it is focused on New England or the East Coast as well.
The Types of Wood
The types of wood used for colonial-style flooring vary depending on where you are and the precise look you’re trying to achieve. Historically, the floors were made out of any wood that was available. Oak and walnut were popular woods that were commonly in use during that time period. Also, hickory was very common. However, they also used softwoods such as pine if they needed. You don’t want to emulate that aspect of the style; softwoods are too porous and not resilient enough.
Typically, the wood was either left its natural color or it was limed. A lime wash protects the floor from decay and from pests; it also leave shte floor looking washed out and somewhat white. It’s a very particular look that is very common in older colonial homes, especially those near the beach. If you want to emulate that look, you can choose to actually lime wash your floors or you can choose a stain that gives a similar appearance.
The planks used in colonial homes were typically fairly wide. Some homes, especially those that were not for the wealthiest Americans, would have varied-width wood flooring. The planks were no standard width because as much of the tree as possible needed to be used. If they couldn’t cut all of the planks the same width, they cut them as wide as they could. Also, colonial homes often had planks longer than those in use today.
Lastly, the planks were not all of the same quality. Now, if you buy planks of wood, you might find all clear grade or all select grade. That wasn’t how wood was sourced in the past. So, some planks of wood in a colonial home might be what would be considered select grade. Others might be cabin grade with knots and imperfections. All of them were used because as much of the tree as possible was utilized.
Essentially, that is the most important aspect of the aesthetic; there is a non-uniformity to colonial flooring that is distinctive and very attractive. To get the trending look, mix and match different grades of wood and different widths.