Mixing Different Wood Tones Is a Designer Specialty — Here’s Their 9 Expert Tips


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After tackling thousands of design projects, you start to notice a few common faux pas in peoples’ homes. From too-high curtains to matchy-matchy furniture, certain design elements tend to throw people for a loop (and we totally get why).

We’d like to officially add mixing wood tones to this list. Time and time again, we see homes with one singular wood tone throughout, which can create a one-dimensional look lacking contrast (especially when paired with hardwood flooring). Picture: an oak dining table and matching wood chairs, or a low-slung TV stand that’s the identical stain to the wood flooring.

  1. Determine your primary wood tone
    To successfully blend different wood tones, it’s essential to start by establishing a primary wood tone in your space. If you have wooden floors, this becomes your dominant tone automatically. If not, identify the most prominent wooden furniture piece in your room, whether it’s a striking sideboard, dining table, or bookcase. The key is to ensure that any other wood tones you introduce complement this primary tone. For example, if you have light oak wood floors, it’s best to lean into similar warm tones like sand and walnut, rather than introducing conflicting driftwood hues.
  2. Embrace high-contrast
    This approach is both enjoyable and straightforward. Instead of combining wood pieces with very similar finishes, consider the opposite and welcome high-contrast wood tones. Picture black stained chairs paired with a driftwood-hued table or a rich ebony coffee table matched with sand-toned side tables. This is a signature designer move that instantly elevates your aesthetic.
  3. Embrace diversity
    Finding furniture with the exact same wood stain is often challenging, and you might end up with pieces that almost match but not quite, resulting in a somewhat haphazard feel. Our suggestion? Avoid this mishap entirely and welcome distinct variety in your wood tones. For instance, you can have a black coffee table, a warm walnut stool, and a blonde TV stand in the same room. This balanced mix of light, medium, and deep wood tones creates depth and interest.
  4. Follow a dominant color theme
    This approach strikes a balance between the first and second tips. If you’re seeking cohesion without complete uniformity, consider adhering to a general color theme. For instance, you can explore different shades of dark woods, as seen in the bedroom with a black nightstand and walnut bench, or opt for all light woods. This approach makes the mix feel deliberate and curated.
  5. Introduce a rug for contrast
    If you’re working with similar wood stains and wish to break the monotony, consider using a rug as a visual palette cleanser. For instance, in the living room mentioned earlier, a slightly cool vintage rug offsets the warmth of the wood floors, walnut-framed accent chairs, and wood coffee table, while jute poufs add a touch of sandy softness. Additionally, the live-edge texture and rich grain of the coffee table prevent it from feeling too monotonous alongside the chairs.
  6. Opt for tonal wood (but incorporate contrast elsewhere)
    When dealing with tonal woods, achieve a harmonious yet not overly uniform appearance by introducing significant contrast in other elements. For example, the living space described above features wood ceilings, an accent chair, and a fireplace mantel in the same color family, but the high-contrast white walls, rug, couch, and coffee table effectively break up the monotony.
  7. Vary shapes and sizes
    If you’re working with a single wood tone like dark walnut, as in the living space mentioned, diversify the visual appeal by incorporating different shapes and sizes. While the wood credenza is a standard rectangle, the rounded wood accent chair, scalloped wood pedestal, undulating wooden stool, and sculptural dining table introduce visual interest and a distinctive artisan quality. Opting for unexpected forms like these adds variety to the visual landscape.
  8. Incorporate texture
    When thinking about wood, expand your horizons beyond traditional planks. Wooden embellishments such as rattan, cane, wicker, and bamboo provide the same natural, earthy feel while introducing much-needed texture and visual diversity. For instance, when shopping for wood dining chairs, consider those with touches of cane or rattan, or even ones with leather elements. These additions not only contribute to color and texture variety but also create a unique visual appeal.
  9. Experiment with lighting
    Wicker and rattan lighting fixtures have been a lasting trend, offering an opportunity to introduce a distinctive and unexpected wooden element into your space. Think beyond furniture and incorporate wood tones through table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces, pendant lights, and even chandeliers. Additionally, lighting fixtures often double as sculptural and visually intriguing elements compared to standard wood dining tables.

From blending wood tones to refining your layout, our designers have a wealth of expertise. Explore our design packages to collaborate with a professional designer one-on-one.

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