Mixing Wood Tones
August 22, 2013
Wood has made a comeback, have you noticed? Well what’s true is that wood never went out of style (are you kidding, how could it?) it’s just that our tastes have changed.
We’re so over the heavily shellacked yellowish and reddish stains from past decades, remember those? What we crave today is more natural and more organic. Think less shiny, more exposed, the real and the raw. Letting the wood itself be the star, after all, it took nature decades to create that beauty so why not show it off.
A reader wrote to me recently inquiring how to mix wood tones. Truth is, there are no hard and fast rules, the key is to mix them so that the wood finishes complement each other and don’t clash. There’s no secret formula, however these guidelines may help:
First, Avoid the Matchy Matchy. The “everything in the same wood tone” bedrooms and dining sets are a thing of the past. This bedroom set would work if the bed frame and armoire were a classic black or white and the dresser and end table were wood, but all of it together is just too much of the same thing.
If you happen to have one of these sets, no worries. Consider painting a piece or two in a classic shade (black, white, gray) to break up the set or replace one piece, say the bed frame for a softer upholstered version and you’ll achieve a less “matchy matchy” look.
White Makes It Alright. Wood is earthy, neutral by nature, and unpredictable in its grain, that’s what makes it cool. You can go crazy mixing the wood tones when you’ve got plenty of white to interrupt your medley and ultimately balance it all. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to this very idea, check it out here.
Pale Floors Are Neutral. Lightly stained floors act as a neutral as long as their undertone isn’t too yellow, orange, or red. Mix them with confidence with medium tone furniture or dramatic darker stained wood pieces.
The same is true for dark stained floors, when they’re underfoot they ground a space and you can mix a different stain wood above.
Less Means More. I’ve noticed the following: when you avoid the heavily varnished or shiny woods and stick to the raw, whitewashed, or graywash stains, you can mix wood finishes more freely. Less shellac means more freedom to layer varied woods with your architecture and furniture choices.
Think in Layers. Layered interiors look curated over time. It’s fine to mix a dark stain with a graywash or a blonde wood with a walnut stain. Most importantly avoid mixing intense yellow undertones with red undertones, and instead opt for a common brown undertone to unite.
If you choose pieces with more than two wood stains, bounce them around the room and repeat one more than once so they communicate a master plan at work.
When it comes to decorating, don’t take it too seriously. Varied wood tones are balanced when there is more going on in a space then just the wood itself.
Inject your personality, collections, something living, something treasured and everything will be fine. How do you relate or mix varied wood tones in your home?