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How to Mix Different Wood Colors

How to Mix Different Wood Colors

If you have wood floors or furniture, mixing wood colors effectively is the key to a cohesive space. It enables you to match your coffee table and TV console or find stools that complement the orange-tinted wood cabinets in a rental home. When you understand how different wood finishes work together, you can create combinations worthy of a professional designer.

Do Wood Tones Have to Match?

Here’s the good news: Matching wood tones is a thing of the past. Contemporary design embraces different colors, finishes, and textures, partially because the contrast brings depth to your space. Different wood stains also give your home an organic, lived-in feeling, as though you’ve spent years collecting meaningful pieces.

How to Figure Out What Wood Tones Go Together

There’s an art to mixing wood tones in a way that looks cohesive rather than chaotic, but it’s relatively simple. All you need to do is match the undertones. Wood finishes with cool or warm undertones tend to look good with other finishes in the same category, whether they’re light or dark.

What Are Undertones?

An undertone is a subtle, underlying color that affects the hue of the wood. Warm undertones tend to have hints of orange, red, or yellow. If your home is a gathering place for friends and family, these tones can intensify the cheerful, welcoming vibe of impromptu potlucks and laugh-till-you-cry catchups with childhood pals. Cool wood undertones make wood appear to be slightly blue, gray, and purple. They look sophisticated and calming, creating a sense of serenity after the busyness of a day packed with back-to-back appointments and errands.

There are variations within each category of undertones. Take two warm wood tones; one might lean slightly yellow, while the other could have a reddish cast. Some colors look better together than others, so it’s important to keep an eye out for these differences.

Identify Your Dominant Wood Tone

To make sure your mixed wood tones look harmonious together, start with a single point of reference. Identify the largest expanse of wood in any room. In the living room, that might be your wood floors or a large TV console. In the kitchen, it might be your cabinets.

Every time you want to bring a new wood piece into the room, ensure that it complements the undertones of the dominant wood piece. If you have maple floors with a cool gray cast, you might pair them with other cool woods such as ash and poplar. Complementary tones create a more tranquil space for shaking off the stress of the day and making the most of your 5 to 9.

Mixing Light & Dark Wood

Mixing light, medium and dark wood creates layers and makes your space feel more complex and spirited. Try to spread your wood pieces around the room; if they’re all on one side, or if the dark pieces are on one side and the light items are on the other, the visual imbalance can feel unsettling.

Strong Contrasts

Strong contrasts tend to feel dynamic and striking, which matches the bold energy of contemporary decor and brings a modern twist to vintage styles. To make your coastal kitchen feel fresh and updated for a wine-and-cheese night, slip a few dark ebony or walnut stools under the island to contrast with your pale, driftwood-colored floors. Want to lean into that stark, edgy vibe? Do away with medium tones entirely, and stick with dark floors and light-colored wood furniture or vice versa.

Soft Contrasts

If your idea of home is more settled and soothing, aim for softer contrasts that allow your gaze to move easily through the room when you’re reorganizing a bookshelf or doing a morning meditation. You’ll see this strategy in cozy interior design styles such as shabby-chic and French country, where designers preserve the gentle, welcoming atmosphere by using low-key contrast and fewer wood tones. That doesn’t mean you need to get rid of your beloved dark-wood ottoman; simply lighten the finish by sanding off the stain.

How Many Wood Tones Can You Put in One Room?

Restraint is key when you’re mixing different wood tones; when everything is special, nothing is special. Using a limited palette is a particularly effective way to mix wood tones in a small apartment; it makes the space look purposefully designed while avoiding the visual clutter that can make a room feel smaller.

Try Two or Three Wood Tones

Start with two colors: the dominant tone of your floors or an existing piece and a darker or lighter shade with similar undertones. Try to repeat each one in at least two places to unify your decor. If your ceiling has dark wood beams, pick a sofa with similar-colored legs for an effect that’s subtle and comforting. If you want more depth, layer in a third color using small accents such as an accent bowl as an added centerpiece and for more contrast.

How To Use Additional Wood Tones

Bigger rooms enable you to exercise more creative freedom when mixing wood tones. The same is true for rooms with white walls; the simple background reduces visual clutter and allows your wood pieces to shine. In a dining room with white walls and trim, you can easily mix medium-colored wood floors, a light dining table, and dark wood chairs to make family dinners feel more fashionable. Help your wood pieces feel like they belong in the same room, by sticking to a similar finish or wood grain. For example, you might choose pieces made from straight-grain woods such as mahogany, beech, and birch.

Decorating With Wood Tones

Area rugs can help balance the different wood tones in a room; the textures and colors break up the space, making it easier to mix two or three types of wood. For example: slip an area rug between a wood rocking chair and wood floors to soften the contrasting tones and create a more restful feeling on your front porch or in your child’s nursery.

Echo Wood Tones in Your Decor

If your wood pieces feel adrift, tie everything together by introducing similar colors in other elements of the room. For example, you might reference your dark-stained dining chairs with black pendant lights that hang above your dinner table and create a moody ambiance for meals.