How to mix and match wooden furniture? Expert tips to try
There is an art to mixing and matching wooden furniture. Interior designers make it look so irritating and effortless, right? Wooden furniture has been a staple in interiors for thousands of years, valued for its durability and aesthetic adaptability.
It continues to thrive in interior design today, as environmental considerations are firmly at the forefront of design practice. The natural material enriches interiors with warmth and familiarity and forges a stronger closeness to our natural environment and all the benefits that come from it.
We are unlikely to see a world without wooden furniture, so learning how to incorporate them artfully into our homes is invaluable knowledge. You may be relieved to find that combining wood tones is a common stumbling block and something that many people shy away from doing. But what if there were a few simple tricks you could use to overcome this design conundrum? Fortunately, there are!
Sophie is an interiors writer and design enthusiast. She is currently studying interior design at KLC in London. For this article, she asked design experts for their advice on how to successfully combine different types of wooden furniture in one scheme.
How to mix and match wooden furniture
Like everything in interior design, maintaining a cohesive and continuous narrative is essential. With wood, the trick is to look at it the same way you color, paying attention to its tone and undertone.
The shape and finish define the style of the furniture. To boost your confidence in wood blending, we’ve selected wood-heavy projects by professional interior designers to lay out their secrets for successfully combining wood furniture.
1. Identify the dominant feature of the wood
“I start by identifying the dominant wood element in the room to set the overall mood,” says Ginger Curtis, founder and lead designer of Urbanology Designs. (opens in a new tab). The dominant wooden element is usually the largest element in a room, such as a floor, fitted wardrobes, structural elements such as beams and ceiling covering, or even a large piece of furniture, such as a a dining table. The dominant color will be your point of reference when selecting wooden furniture.
Sometimes there may not be one main feature but two or three, as is the case in Ginger’s bungalow. Here, “the fundamental elements of the piece belong to a neutral and organic family,” she explains. “So so that it doesn’t fall flat or feel overly simplified, it works great for blending wood tones as it acts as your color and contrast in the space while still staying true to a line organic basis.”
2. Match the wood shades
“I then take inventory of the dominant tonewoods and group them by tonality,” comments Ginger. Just like when creating a color palette, it’s important to pay attention to the undertone of the wood grain. Woods with warm undertones have a red, orange or yellow tint, while “cool” woods have a slightly gray, blue or green appearance. “I avoid woods that pull strong red and orange undertones because they can be harder to blend with other wood tones,” she adds. For a cohesive design, stick to a cool or warm color scheme in your palette.
“Keep repetition in mind and use each tone at least twice to keep the flow in the room,” suggests Ginger. Like all furniture, wooden furniture will look out of place on its own. Notice how in this bedroom Ginger takes inspiration from the warm mid-tone wood of the platform bed, replicating it with the nightstand and picture frames and dispersing it evenly throughout the room. The same brown tone is also translated into textiles with a cushion and a throw.
3. Experiment with contrast
Tonal variety is the key to achieving depth, interest, and balance in a space. The opposing qualities of light and dark tones play off each other, bringing a sense of tension, movement, and excitement to a scheme.
“One of the easiest ways to blend woods is to use contrasting tones,” says Tara Marshall, founding partner of Fort Architecture. (opens in a new tab). ‘Think of stains as a paint swatch. The wood in a space (whether it’s furniture or millwork) can vary from light to dark while remaining consistent,” she adds. For a balanced feel, follow the color rules and aim for three different wood tones per room (light, medium, and dark); more and the space will seem occupied.
In this open-plan living/dining room, inky black wooden bookcases and dining furniture interrupt the flow of smooth, warm wood veneers that adorn the floor and walls. As well as adding a sense of drama, the contrasting tones zone the room, establishing the dining area. “We would say the more contrast the better,” says Tara. This design presents a case in point.
4. Break up similar wood tones
Too much of the same wood tone can feel flat and feel overwhelming. “If you have two pieces of wood of the same tone next to each other, separate them with another piece,” suggests Ginger. In this dining room, the wood tone of the table matched the floor, giving it a faded and understated look. By introducing a rug, Ginger created visual separation; suddenly the table became a feature of the room and the rug added beauty and balance to the design. The black paneling has a similar effect, providing a black backdrop against which the light wood tones of the table stand out.
You can apply the same trick between furniture. Notice how Ginger paired contrasting black wooden chairs with this dining table. Even without the rug, the dark tone of the chairs would work as a bridge between the table and the floor.
5. Stay true to your style
Pay attention to the shape and finish of wooden furniture, making sure it matches the style of the room and/or property. For example, a light, rough, high-grain wood finish would suit a rustic, casual interior, while dark polished wood complements a more formal, luxurious aesthetic.
In this mid-century home renovation by Fort Architecture, all of the finishes and wood species selected were authentic to the building’s period to honor the property’s heritage. “The key to adding new wood to the project was to keep the color tones the same. We made sure that all the cabinets we added to the project echoed the warm tones present in the original house,” says Tara. Every design detail, from the material and shape of the furniture to the color palette of this earth-toned living room, has been carefully selected to be as true to style as possible while still feeling fresh and contemporary.