A Design Expert Explains How To Beautifully Mix Wood Stains In One Room

Interior design is all about variety. One-dimensional rooms often feel flat, which is why designers recommend playing with tone and temperature. And one great way to do so is by mixing wood stains in one room. Rather than having a matching set of furniture in honey oak, or matching your cherry mahogany table set with the cherry wood flooring, try adding at least three different stains into the space. This not only adds dimension but also helps prevent your home from feeling dated.

"We love seeing depth coming back to wood stains and wood tones in all things interiors, from furniture legs to wood flooring," designer Heather Fujikawa told Martha Stewart. "A good mix of wood stains helps to bring a layered dimension and makes it feel current, yet long-lasting all at the same time."

However, while wood might be timeless, stains aren't, and they continually go in and out of fashion. For example, knotty yellow pine was popular in the '90s, but dark red wood was all the rage in the 2000s. In contrast, thanks to the farmhouse boom, white-washed lumber remains in demand today. You can avoid dating yourself, though, by mixing wood stains — at least three in a room.

How to mix different stains successfully

Mixing wood stains isn't exactly intuitive, and if you do it incorrectly, the room can seem incohesive and messy. Luckily, there's an easy rule of thumb to keep in mind when choosing your tones: stick to one temperature. More specifically, your wooden pieces should either have cool or warm stains.

If your room has a warm color palette, you want to stick to warm wood tones. This includes cherry, mahogany, or hickory, and the wood is then usually stained with an orange, yellow, red, or pink tint, such as burnt sienna or golden orange.

On the other hand, if you prefer a cool color palette filled with grays and blues, go for cooler-toned woods and stains when mixing. These woods will look a little bit gray, like ash, poplar, pine, and maple. They typically come in stains with green, blue, or gray undertones. You can't go wrong by mixing within the temperature families.

How to balance the mix

Now that you know you need at least three wood tones in a room and that staying within a cool or warm stain is best, you're set to start decorating. But how do you balance all these different types of wood in one room? You need repetition to create a nice balance between all three. That means if you have two mahogany seats and two white oak side tables but only one cherry frame in the room, you need to find another cherry piece to bring balance. Having said that, it doesn't have to be something as big as a piece of furniture. A small wooden tray or string of decorative wooden beads will also fit the bill.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that you don't want to cluster your wooden pieces. Instead, disperse them across the room so the design feels symmetrical. Just like you wouldn't awkwardly clump an accent color in just one section, you don't want to keep your wooden pieces huddled together either.