Mixing Wood Tones Creates Variety & Depth

One home interior question vexing many people is whether and how to incorporate floors and furniture with different woods, tones and grains within a space.

They could have a mix of purchased and inherited items they adore and prized hardwood floors that don’t match either. Or, they could be starting from scratch and debating whether to buy a full bedroom set or furnish the room piece by piece.

They know things don’t have to be matchy-matchy anymore, but won’t it be clashy-clashy?

In a word, “No.”

There are some guidelines to follow, but in general mixing wood tones adds a pleasing complexity and natural warmth to interiors. Here’s what to know:

Identify your dominant wood tone

It could be in your oak floors, walnut cabinets, pine dining set or maple dresser. Just figure out where your largest expanse of wood is. It could be in your hardwood floor, but if much of it is covered by area rugs it might actually be in your cabinets, largest piece of furniture, wood trim or somewhere unexpected.

Once you do, it’s time to shop for contrast. Light and dark woods can bring your rooms to life, even if you just incorporate a rough-hewn picture frame.

Take the temperature

One way to make this process easier if you’re choosing new furniture is to try to match undertones of the wood within a room. These can unify light and dark woods into a cohesive whole.

Most natural or clear-varnished wood is considered to have a neutral cast and can be paired with basically everything across the spectrum. But some do lean toward a warmer, orangey tone including cherry and mahogany.

Different observers can see different undertones, so it’s sometimes best to just go with your gut, since you’ll be living with the result.

Most “cool” woods obtain that undertone after they’re stained with a color that has gray or blue undertones, frequently including tones like charcoal, sand, bark or shell.

Power of repetition

If you’re working with floors and furniture you already own that don’t share the same undertone there’s no reason to give up. One way to make sure neither one looks like an outlier is to not strand anything by itself.

Each tone should be repeated at least twice somewhere in the space. Look for a ceiling fan that goes with your reddish-toned floors and a coffee table with the same cool vibe as the wood beams on the ceiling. It’ll be perfectly balanced in the end.

Get granular

The grain adds yet another dimension to your wood pieces and can create contrast and/or continuity. Large, heavy grain patterns lend a rustic or casual ambiance while smaller, lighter ones tend to feel more polished and formal.

Combine “grainy” and “nongrainy” wood for a balanced room, or pair cool and warm woods with similar grains for unity. Either way it’ll look fabulous!

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