5 Secrets to Mixing Multiple Wood Finishes

5 Secrets to Mixing Multiple Wood Finishes

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Dabney Frake
Sep 18, 2014
(Image credit: Marcia Prentice)

Variation in color, pattern, texture, and style is essential to decorating — it keeps things interesting. When it comes to wood finishes, match-y match-y floors and furniture look staid and flat. It's also largely impractical for those of us who don’t buy all our decor in one fell swoop. People are far more likely to cobble together a room over the years, bringing together a mix of inherited, found and purchased items with a variety of finishes. Here are a five secrets to making it all mesh...

(Image credit: Kyle Freeman)

1. Watch the Undertones: While wood finishes don’t need to match, they should complement each other. Look at the color bias of each wood to see if it is warm or cool, then make sure their undertones match, regardless of finish. For example, the coffee table is darker than the floors in Kay's Curated Somerville Nest, but their similar warm natures make them a good fit regardless.

(Image credit: Cleary O'Farrell)

2. Go With the Grain: If your many different woods all have a prominent grain, try keeping the patterns similar and retain the "mood" of the room. (In general, larger wood grains read more casual, while finer grain signal formality.) Here, the various pieces of furniture and the floor in Emily and Kai's Thoughtful and Stunning Abode all have a different finish, but the open, rustic nature of the wood makes it work across the board.

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

3. Use a Buffer: Placing a wood table directly on top of a different wood floor draws attention to their dissimilarity. Adding something in between, like a rug or carpet, lets them breathe a little bit and smooths the transition. Here, the weathered gray table in Mulu's Creative + Vintage Collective Den is separated from the warmer wood of the floor by a traditional style carpet.

(Image credit: Sarah Dobbins)

4. Don’t Go Too Nuts: Keep your choices to two or three types of finishes to start, and repeat each finish a couple of times throughout the room. Your space will be less chaotic, and feel more balanced throughout. Above, the dining room from Marsi & Robert's Bright and Tidy Southern Ranch has light floors and dark wood chairs. Each color and/or tone can also be seen at least once elsewhere in the room.

(Image credit: Chris Perez)

5. When In Doubt, White it Out: White and wood is one of those magical combinations, like basil and tomatoes. They just work. When you have a variety of wood tones that would otherwise look nutty, intersperse some white sections (with paint, furnishings, etc..) to break it up and calm down the potential crazy. Here, the kitchen Laurel & Margot's Celebration of Craft features a lot of white on the walls and island.

These aren't hard and fast rules to decorate by, but rather different ways to think about wood as it applies to your home. If you've found other strategies that work for you, please share them in the comments!

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