A Design Guide To Mixing Woods

A Design Guide To Mixing Woods

The key to a cohesive look—mixing but not matching wood pieces
The key to a cohesive look—mixing but not matching wood pieces

Good design is based on a combination of colors, patterns, textures and styles to keep your eye engaged and give each space its own unique appeal. Mixing woods to create this eclectic, organic feel is another important tool to utilize from your interior design toolkit. It may seem like an intimidating technique to master, but it’s actually rather easy. While there’s no magic formula for creating a space that feels chic and real, not like a matching set plucked straight out of a catalog, here are five tricks for making mixing work.

1. Start with the undertones

The key to mixing woods is to keep the undertones consistent. Shades of wood vary, but they generally fall into either warm- or cool-toned groups: Warm tones read as reds, oranges and yellows, while cool tones usually have more of a gray, blue or green appearance. Combining wood with the same undertones will keep a room feeling harmonious, where mixing tones can make a room feel disjointed. You can mix dark and light woods of varying finishes and grain sizes, just make sure the undertones are consistent. An example of how to mix undertones can be found in this pedestal side table, with a walnut top inlaid with a checkerboard pattern of bird’s-eye maple and mahogany.

2. Keep it simple

When you first start to mix wood tones, stick to two or three finishes to start, and repeat them a couple of times in the room. If you try to mix more than that, you can find yourself looking at a chaotic mess of a mix. To achieve balance throughout the room, make sure to repeat each tone at least once: Anchor the room by putting like-colored wood on opposite ends; otherwise, it can feel lopsided. If you have a set that feels too matchy-matchy together, like these wood-backed armchairs, splitting them up is a great way to get a harmonious, intentional feel.

3. Break it up

Whether the wood tones are too similar or too different, adding an area rug solves the problem. When the wood tones are similar, everything blends together; when they are too different, it’s jarring. Either way, an area rug like this Handwoven Geometric Kilim will help visually smooth the transition between the wood pieces. An area rug also gives furniture legs in differing wood tones a literal common ground to stand on.

4. Balance the browns

If the room starts to feel too busy, it’s important to neutralize the space and balance out the wood tones. Interspersing touches of white—from paint to curtains, throws to pillows—will help break up the brown and bring a feeling of calm to the space. Another way to dilute the look of your wood mix is to introduce other materials like metal, glass or acrylics, like this cocktail table with a limestone top and bronzed medallion posts.

5. High contrast, high impact

It’s not just about mixing tones, it’s also about creating impact. If you have primarily light woods in a room, using one dark wood piece will create an immediate focal point. For example, this mahogany storage cabinet would get lost in a room with predominantly dark woods, but would pop and feel special in a lighter, brighter space.

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