Design Dilemma: Mixing Wood Finishes In A Room

Hymns and Verses

This design dilemma comes from a post suggestion that we received via email.

Design dilemma question on mixing woods in a space

It’s a great question, so thank you for asking!

The answer to your question is NO.   All of the wood finishes in a space do not need to match.

In fact, too many perfectly matching pieces can make a room feel bogged down, so the current trend is to mix furniture and finishes to liven up your space and make it more interesting.

There are skilled designers that can mix what seems to be unending finishes in a room and get away with it, but that typically doesn’t work for most people.  These tips are for those who want to mix and match, but want to keep simple and need guidelines to make sure it’s all working together…

Tips on mixing wood finishes text underline

1. Start With One.

Choose one dominant wood tone that the others will compliment.  If you have wood flooring or a large piece of stained wood furniture, that can usually set the tone.

2. Keep It Simple.

Stick with two or three different wood finishes for ease of mixing, and to keep things from getting too crazy.  (Four, or more, could be used in some instances depending on what/how large the pieces are or what else in the room helps tie them in but, again, we’re trying to keep it simple.)

3. Repeat.

Repeating elements (for example, you may not have matching tables, but the color of those tables may be repeated in other elements of the room), will create a sense of cohesiveness when mixing wood finishes.

In this cozy living room, our stylists used the side and end tables to match dark tones from the floor, while the top of a fun little accent table repeats the floor’s lighter tones. A light wood lamp mimics the color in some of the fireplace stone across the room.

Design Dilemma - Mixing Wood Finishes in a Room - repeat elements in the space

4. Use Contrast.

Use a contrasting wood/finish to draw attention to the focal point of a room such as a dining table, bed, fireplace or, in this case, a kitchen island.

Kitchen Cabinet Ideas. Jane Kelly, Kitchen and Bath Designer.
Jane Kelly, Kitchen and Bath Designer via Homebunch

5. Balancing Act.

It’s always good design to balance furniture pieces in a room from one side to the other and this applies to mixing wood finishes as well.  If you have several finishes, distribute them evenly throughout the room.

6. Add a Rug.

Area rugs are not only great for adding warmth, texture and color, but they’re also a good way to provide a visual break between a wood floor and coffee table or dining table.

In this dining room, the wood floor is much warmer than the other finishes.  The rug provides a break, and also helps to tie the warm and cool tones in the space together.

Design Dilemma - Mixing Wood Finishes in a Room - use an area rug to break it up

6. There Are Exceptions.

Even though we love mixing wood finishes, there are times when it can depend on the space.

Two exceptions where I personally tend to lean to matching finishes more closely are: very small rooms, and larger rooms where there are a lot of other things going on.  In those cases, matching furniture more closely (but not necessarily perfectly) can help calm the space.

7. It’s Not All About Wood.

Remember that wood isn’t the only option.  If you’re unsure if your space can handle another wood finish, mix things up with metal and/or painted pieces.  (Or how about using an upholstered cocktail ottoman instead of a coffee table?)

Just remember to balance and repeat hues that are already in the space.

Do you have a design dilemma?

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