DESIGN DILEMMA: DO ALL OF THE WOOD TYPES IN MY HOME NEED TO MATCH?
For those of us that are fortunate enough to own older homes (hands down my preference, always), we are often asked whether all the various wood species need to match once renovating and remodeling comes into play. The assumption is that by adding in new wood floors, or wood cabinets, all must go exactly with anything pre-existing items that are on the ‘keep’ list, lest any new items feel out of place. Well, I am here to reassure you that diversity is a very good thing!
Homes, any homes – old or new – need to feel like they have a history. They should feel layered with all the things that we love. Inherited pieces, student discoveries that we’ll stubbornly never part with, incredible one off mid-century designer finds; all need to find their spot. In newer homes, that takes some creating, but with older homes it only takes bringing it out. The character from the pieces you’ll want to keep hopefully shows up in things like beautiful architectural details (moldings, doorways, window silhouettes), polishing up whatever layer you find underneath that very old, now terribly worn out carpet, and any built in cabinetry or banisters etc. If you like the tone they set, then baby them and bring them back to life. If you do not care for their coloring or feel (too yellow or too red for example), go ahead and paint, paint, paint away to give them new life. And please don’t be fearful of ruining beautiful wood – if it isn’t beautiful to you, it will take away the home feeling like it is your own, and more often than not it can eventually be sanded back to be re-revealed for any future homebuyer.
If in all of this, you seek the warmth and coziness of a lot of lumber items, absolutely mix them up. Now along with this rule, do consider the age and geography of your home. Namely, every region comes with its indigenous species, and those are certainly the best place to start.
Imagine a renovated kitchen with old oak cabinets and heart pine floors brought back to life. Because both oak and pine are heavier, more dominating, types of wood, a nice counter balance might be a light, fresh birch. Great as a breakfast table, off in a light-filled nook, this will give balance to those other wood areas you brought back to the forefront. If a mix of antiques are in question – the key is to position things rhythmically. Namely, use very ornate pieces sparingly and regardless of time period, feel free to mix clean-lined items. An art deco secretary can look fabulous with a sober Biedermeier piece and a mid-century coffee table is great with something more industrial feeling from the turn of the last century.
If it is overall light and airiness you seek with those built in wood items that came with the home, then aim to have only 1-2 pieces of wood in any given space. Mixing those with painted, upholstered or stone pieces will give you a more open than cozy feeling space for the most part. And wood floors can look just as gorgeous and really set any tone to a home with a great area rug on top. I often hear people say they are fearful of covering up beautiful wood floors, but I promise, you will live on them more, notice them more harmoniously with a great area rug to sit down on.
So when mixing it up, ask firstly what appeals to you given what came with the house and then try to enhance it. By adding other wood textures around it, you can easily elevate and reinvigorate those early contenders. Just remember to be deliberate – not every piece can be a star and heavier wood-types can be very dominating.