Should You Match Wood Finishes? Four Common Design Myths Debunked

two women sharing a secret

While picking out a new piece of furniture, have you ever asked yourself if you have to match wood finishes? Should it match the wood floor?  Or not? And how do you match them? 

Or maybe you’ve tried to pick out light fixtures for your new build or remodel. Should they all match or at least be from the same collection?  Do they all need to be the same finish?

These are questions I’m asked about commonly. So if you’ve faced a dilemma like this, grab a cup of coffee and settle in… things are about to get a whole lot easier for you! 

Here’s the truth about four common design myths.

The Myths:

1. You should match your wood finishes as much as possible.
2. All of the window treatments (blinds, drapes, shades) in your home need to match
3. All the light fixtures in a space need to match or be from the same collection.
4. The carpet throughout your home should be consistent.

The Myths Debunked:

The opposite of all these is actually true.  

In every case, you should have different wood finishes, window treatments, light fixtures and most often, carpet. 

One of the design principles I teach my Design Academy students is about unity and variety.  Yes, there are elements that unify a space, but it’s equally as important that there be elements that provide variety.  When you have a good balance of unity and variety… you create what designers call a harmonious room

So let’s take a closer look at each of these:

1. You don’t have to match wood finishes.

You should definitely have variety in your wood finishes. Rooms that have wood furniture in finishes that are too similar lack interest and depth.  By using a combination of different finishes, you not only create beauty, depth and interest, but you also avoid the “buy a set of furniture/showroom” look.  Instead, it looks like your pieces have been collected over time. 

And mixing wood tones is easier than it looks. Just incorporate a mix of light, medium and dark tones. Just make sure that you have the same undertones in each… either warm or cool. 

So… not only is it ok to mix wood finishes, it’s preferred!

striped chair with white frame beside dark wood side table
Note the different finishes of the floors, chair and side table.
kitchen and breakfast nook with several wood finishes
Note the different finishes of the dining table, chairs, counter stools and floors.

2. Different types of window treatments creates a layered, interesting space.

It’s often tempting when building or remodeling to buy matching blinds or shades for the entire home. This might work in a super modern, minimalist home, but otherwise I always select the window treatments for each room individually… based on what furnishings, colors and patterns will be in that particular room. So I custom select for each room. More on this topic in a future blog post!

3. Light fixtures do not need to match.  

In fact, it’s a lot better if they don’t.  Variety makes things interesting. 

Instead of matching, the fixtures should “go” together. 

Generally speaking, all of the fixtures  should share a common style. You wouldn’t want super modern pendants over your kitchen island and a French country chandelier in the living room.  When you look at each fixture together, they should look good together, especially if you can see them simultaneously in your open floor plan. Try taking screenshots of the fixtures you’re considering and looking at them together on a Powerpoint or Google Slide.  Do they work together? 

Vary the shape of your fixtures.  

Using a variety of shapes will make things interesting. Avoid the situation where all of your fixtures are spheres or all are chandeliers with shades.  

It’s ok to mix lighting finishes.

But don’t go crazy…  I wouldn’t recommend using more than two different finishes in areas that are really open and multiple light fixtures can be seen at once.  If you have more defined or separated areas, then you can likely be more liberal with the number of finishes

4. You don’t have to use the same carpet in each carpeted space in your house.

If you have more than one carpeted room in your home, you do not have to use the same carpet. When I’m designing a space with carpet, I select the carpet based on the furnishings in that room, not on the presence of carpet elsewhere in the home. Again, more coming on this topic in a future post!  

I don’t know about you, but realizing it’s ok to mix wood finishes, window treatments, lights and carpet was like a breath of fresh air!!  But I also realize that for many, selecting things that don’t match but that “go” together poses other challenges.  If you need help with this, I can help you during a one hour Zoom design consult!

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Hi I'm Kricia

I help crazy busy women physicians create intentionally designed spaces that makes coming home the best part of their day!

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