(Step 4: Order flooring samples and decide on dark, medium or light.)
I've ordered three gorgeous floor samples. For an older and darker, more turn of the 19th Century look, Mayflower Mudslide Birch Engineered. It has great reviews, is extremely affordable for a hardwood look, and is only $2.29 per square foot. It also is reported to show dirt easily and is more expensive to install than laminate. I'm afraid of it being too gloomy in my one-story home as well.
The second is Dream Home St. James Embassy Mahogany High Gloss Laminate. It is extremely popular with 93 reviews as of today, is lacking the dull finish that is the norm for laminate, and has 12mm thickness plus 3mm of pre-glued underlayment. This means a cushy and non-clacky surface that goes down easier. It also is more in tune with the original wooden door stain in my MCM bungalow and my warm furniture. For a laminate, it's a little high at $2.49 per square foot, and my main concern is that it'll be too much of a good thing.
The last is Nirvana V3 Mississippi Whitewash Pine Laminate. This is a light and neutral color without the yellowish, pine-y overtones of some other lighter flooring. It is close to a clean, white Swedish look and the pale color that I have in the entry way. It's thin, only 8mm thick again with 3mm of pre-glued underlayment (not clear if that's in addition or part of the 8mm). There are only 18 reviews, but they seem very positive. Price is at $2.29 per square foot. I'm not sure how its more modern finish will look against my vintage-y crapola.
Painting the living room is the starting point, and from there it will be easier to judge the flooring in real life.