A hot trend in flooring right now is dark woods. "They look so luxurious and create contrast against painted trim, carpets, and furniture," says architect Carol Kurth.
But naturally rich-looking woods like mahogany and walnut can be prohibitively expensive.
Kurth recommends buying an inexpensive oak instead and paying the installer an additional 25 cents per square foot to apply an ebony stain.
You can buy lower-grade flooring (Number 2) instead of the best (clear), and save another $1 or more per square foot in materials. Just be sure to order slightly more than the standard 10 percent overage in case any of the boards are cracked or have other surface defects that could be accentuated by the darker stains.