How to Pick Colors that Complement Your Wood Floors & Furnishings
These tips will help you choose the perfect colors and finishes to pair with the wood in your home.
Wood tones can be found on many of the furnishings in our home, including trim, cabinets, flooring and furniture. The stains and finishes for these elements can go from a light blonde hue to a deep mahogany, and these colors play a part in a room’s overarching color palette. Everything in the space, from paint colors to wall decor, upholstered furniture and other accessories, should all work together to complement the beauty of the wood, rather than clash with it.
Use this guide to help you pick the right colors for wood tones, and to build a color scheme that enhances wood’s visual strengths.
Focus on the Wood’s Color Tones
Every wood type has an inherent grain pattern and color. Stains and varnishes can be used to alter the appearance of wood, not only to change the color but to enhance the grain. Stains are typically named after the types of wood they imitate, like mahogany, cherry, maple, walnut and oak. In addition, wood furnishings can develop a deep patina over time that gives them richness and complexity. While newer woods generally lack this characteristic, they still possess an overall color tone that is dark brown, bluish brown, red-brown, orange or yellow.
When trying to pick fabrics or wall colors to complement your wood furnishings, pinpoint the prominent colors in the finish to help direct your choices. In addition, give thought to whether you would like a high-contrast palette that provides more drama or a rich, low-contrast palette. If the wood pieces in your room do not all match, it’s not cause for concern. The acquired-over-time look of mixed woods works perfectly in casual spaces where a comforting vibe is desired.
Use Contrast to Make a Statement
Having a distinct difference between the wood tones and colors in a room can make your wood floors or furnishings stand out. For example, dark finishes like walnut, mahogany or cherry pop against lighter colors, such as pale green or blue. Similarly, light wood is highlighted when set against a dark or bold hue.
Creating stark contrast brings more attention to the furniture, which is ideal if you have a special piece you’d like to showcase. Just keep in mind that a space with a lot of dark furniture may feel busier or more crowded when contrasted with light-colored walls than if the furniture blended in, and vice versa with light-colored furniture and dark walls. To offset this, try to streamline your furniture arrangements so that they have an orderly appearance. A high-contrast effect can also be made with medium-tone finishes by choosing soft and light wall colors. The goal is to create as much of a difference as possible between the wall and the wood color.
A good plan when building a color palette is taking a cue from the colors in the wood finish. For instance, if the most prominent color in the wood is red, consider choosing a green backdrop to intensify the wood’s color. Woods that are golden in color tend to pair well with warm reds, eggplant, teal or earthy greens. Buttery yellow walls are a good choice for brown woods featuring yellow undertones, as the wood relates well to the color but also stands out strongly against it for that dramatic, high-contrast effect. For antique woods, which typically have a patina on the surface, several color tones are often detected. This means they are more diverse and can be paired with a variety of light or dark colors.
Try A More Subtle Look
Putting together colors of equal value or intensity is considered low contrast. While low contrast palettes are definitely less dramatic than high contrast, this doesn’t necessarily mean everything runs together. For example, if you set an ebony or dark mahogany piece against a blue-green or deep red wall, a balance is created between the two colors — one of equal strength. The same idea applies to muted, medium-tone colors and medium brown woods, although the effect is more restrained because of the subdued tones.
Another winning strategy is putting together medium brown woods with warm neutral colors like khaki or taupe to highlight the deep, rich tones in the wood. While the furniture successfully stands apart, the overall effect is low-key. The pairing creates drama, but one that is very different than that produced by high contrast.
Consider Complementary Colors
It’s true that color preferences are a personal choice, but when picking colors to go with your wood furniture, it may become obvious to you that some hues work much better than others at enhancing the natural beauty of the wood. Here are several wood/color combinations that are winning combinations:
• Pine wood and green: A medium green brings out the warmth of a honey-toned pine and effectively highlights the yellow tones of the wood, providing a cool contrasting balance. Another great, low-key pick for light woods is a pale gray-green.
• Orange-toned wood and blue: Direct opposites on the color wheel, vibrant blue highlights the orange tones in wood. Considered a high-contrast look, it’s ideal for anyone who loves bold color, but may be too intense for spaces devoted to relaxation, like bedrooms.
• Natural wood and yellow: For a casual, welcoming vibe, consider using sunny shades of yellow to enhance the warm tones in wood. While this color won’t create contrast with the wood, the subtle tonal differences will work to bring about a pleasing balance.