I’ve always had a knack for blending the seemingly unblendable to make spaces feel curated and harmonious. That’s why the concept of mixing wood tones in design strikes a chord with me. It’s really a practice in balancing the cozy, inviting essence of woods like walnut—a personal favourite of mine for its beautifully neutral tone—without veering into the outdated or the chaotic.

(I’m looking at you orange wood kitchen cabinets).

Done right, the art of mixing wood tones has the power to create a stunning display inside your home. From incorporating antique pieces to the contemporary sleekness of warmer woods in kitchens and beyond, woods can be thoughtfully blended to tell a cohesive story.

Unshelf Design DeWinton dining room

Considerations for Mixing Wood Tones & Textures

Mixing wood tones and textures is a big deal if you want a space that feels balanced and welcoming. And understanding which wood tones work well together and how different textures can enhance your design will take your room from nice to I DONT WANT TO EVER LEAVE. 

Know Your Tones

I know what you’re thinking. Wood is just… brown. But it isn’t. Just like your favourite paint colours, wood comes with a spectrum of undertones. 

When I’m mixing wood tones, I like to categorize my pieces into warm, cool, or neutral tones. Warm woods have undertones of red, orange, or yellow. Cool woods lean towards grey or pale. Neutrals are somewhere in the middle between warm and cool, which makes them a versatile option to bridge gaps.

wooden dining table in modern dining room with table set and vase of plants, interior design concept

Pair Your Tones

Pairing woods of the same undertone family will create a balanced look and give your design the feeling of continuity. A cool-toned coffee table will pull out cool streaks on an ash floor. Warm-toned dining chairs will complement oak kitchen cabinets. So on and so forth.

This year, interior design is trending towards more natural materials and textures, and I have some fave 2024 wood pairings that reflect that: 

  • White oak and walnut: I love this combo for living rooms and dining areas. The airy freshness of white oak paired with the neutral blending power of walnut brings about a coziness that enhances the livability of these spaces.
  • Ash and birch: I’ve never been much of a cherry fan–far too red for my taste. But I do like to swap it for birch and match it with the cooler undertones of ash to add a chill feel in bedrooms and family rooms. 
  • Walnut and maple: I’m also a big fan of pairing maple with walnut for outdoor or indoor accents. Both can have neutral to warm undertones and complement each other well in designs that want to blend elegance and sustainability.

Get more 2024 interior design trends here.

Know Your Textures & Finishes 

Grain in wood ranges from the smooth, polished surfaces of sanded wood to the rugged, tactile feel of reclaimed wood. Texture can help amplify wood tone–rough textures emphasize warmth and a “lived-in feel” while smooth, glossy finishes offer a sleek, modern edge. Mixing grains adds depth and interest by making each wood piece stand out while contributing to the overall harmony of the space.

Multi-Dimensional Wood

When there are many wood species and stains competing for attention, one way to tie everything together is to select a staple piece with strong variation in colour. Like an area rug, this one piece can pull colours from all elements and act as the grounding element.

In our Coach Hill project, the client has very orange oak floors, and a semi-updated yellow oak kitchen. I was not about to lean more into the oranges and the yellows so I choose a dark solid brown cabinet to add maturity. Now with 3 very different colours, I had a table custom made from a slab that pulled all 3 colours into one beautiful statement. 

In our Carstairs Commercial project below, we mixed a few different wood tones for this ‘outdoor indoor patio’ space. There is a violet undertone to the floor and we created a custom stain for the back wall to compliment it. The wild card is the planter boxes which we purchased off wayfair and are a little more orange than I had hoped. See how the other woods all pull from the various floor colours, except the planters? Wayfair is always a bit of a risk when it comes to wood.

Wait, What About Wood Floors?

A lot of my clients feel hesitant about introducing different woods into their homes because they have wood floors. Think of floors as a foundational element rather than a limitation. This means that unless your flooring is exceptionally bold or patterned, you can regard it as a neutral element in your design. This approach frees you up to introduce other wood tones through furniture, cabinetry, decor, and other design elements without the stress of matching everything to the floor. 

5 (Extra) Designer Tips for Mixing Wood Tones

In my mind, mixing wood tones in interior design is kind of like conducting an orchestra—each piece of wood, with its unique tone and texture, plays a major role in the symphony of space.

Unshelf Design DeWinton Kitchen

1. Start with Your Favourite Wood

Begin by choosing a wood tone you adore (much like my unwavering preference for walnut). Choosing one dominant wood allows you to curate your palette atop a solid base. Whatever your fave wood is, start there, and build around it.

2. Use Contrast to Your Advantage

Don’t shy away from contrasting light and dark wood tones. A dark walnut table can stand out elegantly against lighter oak flooring to add depth and interest to your room. There are tons of stylish ways to mix and match wood shades in your decor

3. Let the Wood Grains Speak

Pay attention to the grain patterns. Woods with simple grains can act as a neutral backdrop for more prominently-grained woods and allow them to stand out without overwhelming the space.

4. Layer with Wood & Non-Wood Elements

Introduce metals, glass, or textiles to break up the wood tones and add layers of texture. This not only highlights the beauty of the wood but also adds richness to the overall design.

Wooden accessories, like vintage bowls or picture frames, can also serve as subtle ways to introduce new wood tones into a room.

5. Limit Your Palette

While there’s no hard and fast rule on the number of wood tones you can mix, a good guideline is to aim for two to three main tones. This keeps the space from feeling chaotic.

One of my favourite designs to date is our De Winton Estate project. Heavily inspired by nature, the rustic aesthetic includes lots of raw elements, natural materials… and lots of different woods. Check out the complete walkthrough below.  

Mixing wood tones in your home is much less about following design rules and way more about creating a space that feels right for you. Whether you’re blending antiques with modern pieces or mixing light and dark woods, the beauty of your space comes from the story it tells and the feelings it gives off. 

So go ahead! Mix those wood tones with confidence to create a comfy space that welcomes you home.

WOOD you like an expert hand with your design? Contact Unshelf for help mixing wood tones like a pro.