Dining Room Series: Mixing and Matching Wood Tones

My  Buffet  (From Pier1) which clearly does not coordinate with my original dining set. The buffet has cooler red-ish undertones, while the table has very strong and bright yellow-orange undertones. It’s also evident that they don’t work together stylistically Either.

My Buffet (From Pier1) which clearly does not coordinate with my original dining set. The buffet has cooler red-ish undertones, while the table has very strong and bright yellow-orange undertones. It’s also evident that they don’t work together stylistically Either.

In the world of home decor, the days of perfectly matching furniture sets have definitely past, and the look of carefully curating one’s home over time is more the norm. While there are many advantages to this “natural” or “eclectic” approach to decorating, it also poses some real challenges. Mixing and matching unique pieces of furniture is not always easy, particularly when it comes to combining different wood tones. I discovered this first hand when decorating my dining room last year, so I thought I would share a little bit about my experience as well as some general tips that I learned for how to mix and match different wood tones.

When I first moved in to my house, my only dining room furniture was a table and chairs, and because I had much more pressing furniture needs at the time, it stayed that way for a while. But after about a year, I decided it was finally time to add a buffet, so I looked for one that coordinated with the set I already had. I quickly discovered that this was MUCH harder than I initially thought. The dining table was oak, but the wood had a very strong yellow-orange undertone and a thick glossy finish from a heavy coat of polyurethane. The table was admittedly a bit dated, and it just didn’t “go” with any of the buffets that I could find.

I finally decided to go ahead and purchase a buffet that I loved, and then save up to buy a new dining set later that year that would coordinate with the buffet a bit better. However, that still left me with the issue of matching the wood tone of the buffet to a new dining table and chairs (although at least this time, I liked the wood tone that I was trying to match!). I’m admittedly a little OCD about “matching” wood tones—I really like them to blend together almost seamlessly, whereas some other people may feel comfortable with a bit more variety. So, here are the tips I learned, which really helped me to harmonize the different wood elements in the room:

The drawer from my new buffet which I went shopping with Next to a potential dining set. Even though the wood tones may not be an exact match, they blend much better and the wood from the buffet has enough variation to work with a slightly different Wood Tone.

The drawer from my new buffet which I went shopping with Next to a potential dining set. Even though the wood tones may not be an exact match, they blend much better and the wood from the buffet has enough variation to work with a slightly different Wood Tone.

1) Shop with your samples. I know it might seem a little odd, but I took one of the drawers out of the buffet, and I brought it with me to the store when I was shopping for dining tables. It makes a huge difference to be able to see the wood tones next to each other. Also, if the piece you’re considering is non-returnable, that might be your only chance to see them together before making the big decision.

2) Pay attention to the undertones. This is probably the number one most important thing to keep in mind. All woods have different colored undertones—some are red, some are more yellow, and others might even appear almost gray—but broadly speaking, they can all be categorized as warm or cool. While the undertones don’t have to match exactly, you should aim to at least keep them in the same general temperature/color family.

5) Use at least 3-4 different wood tones. If you have only two different wood tones in a room, the difference between them can feel a little more obvious. If you combine at least 3-4 different wood tones in a space (while also maybe using the same wood more than once), somehow your eye doesn’t notice the differences and instead works to harmonize them all together.

5) Break up the wood tones with textiles. Adding a few different textiles to the room helps to soften and break up all the wood furniture. And once again, the variety provided by the textiles also helps to harmonize the different wood elements together.

Dining Room 4 edited.jpg

6) Lighting can make all the difference. The temperature of your light source affects the temperature of anything it illuminates. When I first bought my new dining set, I loved it in natural light, but at night against the incandescent lights of our ugly chandelier, it looked almost cherry red—not the warm nut brown that I thought it was! Fortunately, my parents decided to put recessed LED lights in the dining room, which cast a much cooler glow, so my dining set went back to looking just the way I hoped it would!

And finally, here’s how my dining room looks now! In this photo, I have 4 different types of wood (the mirror, picture frames, buffet, and dining table), and yet they all blend together beautifully! You can even see the dining table juxtaposed directly against buffet in the photo on the left, and they actually look like an incredibly close match! I have also added some textiles (table runners, curtains, etc.), which soften all the wood surfaces and add more visual interest.

I hope this has been helpful and that you will have fun experimenting with different wood tones in your own home! Thanks for reading!