Mixing Wood Tones

I have had this blog post saved as a draft for far too long, so I am very happy I finally got around to hitting publish. I get asked a lot of various interior related questions, but one that tops the list time and time again is how to mix wood tones. I totally understand how this can be a mental road block and I still get frustrated myself when working on projects, but I often feel like this is something we tend to overthink. There are dozens of good thorough articles about this, so I just wanted to give my very stripped back approach to how I tackle mixing wood tones.

My biggest advice when I get asked about this is to always veer away from having your wood pieces look like they came in a matching set. You want the tones to compliment each other, but not be identical or your space can end up looking flat and a little boring. The way wood compliments each other is by their tone, just like paint these are grouped into cool, warm or neutral undertones (think yellow and blue). I tend to prefer warm tones in general (think white oak or walnut) and veer away from more grey wood because I don’t personally love cool tones as much. Just like everything with design, I don’t believe in strict rules and think a lot of this comes down to feeling out what you like. Overall I tend to gravitate towards a little contrast and prefer more antique pieces for a beautiful wood tone that doesn’t come with a manufactured finish. {source above}

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Take the image above for example. Those cabinets are more black/grey – I find them absolutely stunning because the rustic nature of the wood allows for it to have more than one tone showing (shelves and back of cabinets are much lighter than the exterior). This works beautifully with the texture and tone of the dining table and the brighter details in the rest of the room such as the chairs, walls and ceiling. If you were to use a cool grey wood cabinet that didn’t have the same detailing with more of a grey tone table and different wall color, the outcome would be very different.


What I Would Not Do

Although both the cabinet and dining table have cool undertones, this combination feels extremely heavy and less dimensional, especially when paired with black dining chairs. Because the cabinet is more modern, you don’t get any contrasting wood detail and it all falls a little flat.


What I Would Do: A darker cabinet (with contrasting lighter wood interior) paired with a warm wood table and chairs feels much more cohesive. When pairing wood chairs with a wood dining table I either like the seat cushion to have a differing material or the overall style to differ from the table so it doesn’t look like they came as a set. I also love a woven chair!


Get The Look


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I also think it is important to remember – it is never just about the wood pieces in the room. The examples above show other ways in which spaces with contrasting wood are tired together often by the other elements. The image on the left shows how the black detailing on the bedding, sconce, art frame and tray on the side table all compliment the bed tone – thus making the side table fit in more seamlessly than if the sconce was brass and the frame was a pale oak. Thanks to accessories it reads more as one.

The image on the right shows dark flooring throughout which pulls together the darker frame dining chairs and the leather on top of the bar stools. Additionally the kitchen island is very similar in tone to the dining chairs and the large brass mirror compliments the yellow tone of the bar stool base which helps tie the two spaces together perfectly. Your eye instantly goes from the woven chairs, to the stools, to the mirror on the back wall instead of feeling choppy.

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Existing architectural details like wood flooring, beams or doors can help set the tone of the room and serve as great accents to play off of. In the photo above the table is almost the same color as the floor, but having so much visual contrast with the ceiling details, floral fabric on the sofa seat and darker wood accents along the back wall add so much interest and make this space feel so effortlessly pulled together. I think having wood pieces the same color of the floor works well when you have upholstered or woven accents surround it to prevent it from feeling like a sea of wood. A pretty rug could also easily help break this up if you don’t love the finish of your existing floors and want to detract from them.

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This is one of my favorite rooms for so many reasons, but especially the subtle ways in which Mark Cunningham tied it all together. The tone of the coffee table perfectly mimics the base of the lamp and the bench on the far wall.. The antique side table matches the small bit of the sofa leg and the console between the two sofas has the same rustic detailing as the lamps which sit on top. There is a lot going on, but it feels so calming opposed to cluttered because of the way materiality is used throughout.

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The red tones in the cabinet wood are carried throughout the chair legs and other accents throughout the room such as a side table and basket. This creates a nice visual line throughout the room while still being very collected and anything but “matchy”. The white walls, large white table and fireplace surround also create such a beautiful fresh canvas for all of the varying wood tones to play off each other.

  1. Drey says:

    Really enjoyed reading this post. Everything looks so effortless but it’s so carefully selected.. Thank you for explaining!

  2. Carolyn says:

    Thanks so much for this post! It was really helpful to see examples of different rooms and detailed explanations of why they work. Love your blog and style!

  3. Morgan says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I love how you explained mixing tones in so many different spaces. I feel like you uncoded what is hiding inside a room like a beautiful piece of artwork. Thank you!

  4. Victoria says:

    Such a good post! I would never have thought of this but makes so much sense and the pictures are great!

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