This Is the Only Rule You Need to Know When Mixing Wood Tones

published Jun 7, 2023
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When it comes to decorating your home, you may already feel comfortable mixing patterns, colors, and even design styles. But one question that might not have such an obvious answer: Should you mix different types or tones of wood? You might be tempted to stick to one wood finish, but most designers will agree that you can create far more depth and dimension in a room if you add a little variety into the equation. In fact, the pros say that you can — and should — mix wood types and tones whenever possible. 

Designer, stylist, and blogger Emily Henderson, the founder of Style by Emily Henderson, is no exception. She says that although mixing different wood types in your home may seem challenging, it’s actually very easy when you follow one simple rule. “The best way to mix and match woods in the same room is having the undertones match — meaning, go for either warm, cool, or neutral undertones,” she says. 

Credit: Antrom Kury

The warm tone family includes wood with red and orange undertones, like cherry, maple, and oak. The cool tone family consists of woods that have a blue or gray cast; a lot of stained woods belong to the cool tone family. Woods with neutral undertones can sometimes appear to be both warm and cool, but they typically look a little more yellow in terms of undertone.

Keep in mind that your room is going to have a dominant wood tone, whether it’s wood floors or a large piece of furniture like a coffee table, dresser, or wardrobe. Start by determining what that dominant tone is — warm, cool, or neutral — and that will make it easy to incorporate similar tones into the room through your decorative accents. 

Henderson’s rule is a foolproof guide for mixing and matching wood in your home. Using similar undertones will make multiple pieces in a room look cohesive. “However, if you love how two wood pieces look in your space, and the undertones don’t necessarily match, that’s also totally fine,” Henderson adds. “Sometimes things that shouldn’t work do!”