These timeless and high-end decorating ideas are proof you can’t go wrong with white and wood.
White and wood is a really beautiful and dependable design pairing. There’s something about wood that brings out the brightness of white, and there’s something about white that brings out the warmth, richness, and texture of wood.
But beyond simply looking good side-by-side, white and wood are timeless interior design staples that won’t go out of style, even as trends and tastes change over time. In other words, you really can’t go wrong using white and wood together in your home. Here are six ideas to get you started.
1. Consider your options for wood types, tones, and treatments.
There are many different types and tones of wood. On one hand, you have wood types that are naturally warm in appearance, and then you also have other types that are cooler or more neutral in appearance. To figure out what type of wood you’re working with, you’ll need to inspect the undertones.
- Warm woods will have undertones like red, orange, and yellow. Some examples of warm-toned woods that tend to work well together include cherry, white oak, mahogany, and maple.
- Cool woods will have undertones like gray, taupe, black, blue, and sometimes even green. Some examples of cool-toned woods that tend to work well together include walnut, ash, poplar, pine, and wenge.
- Neutral woods will have a beige undertone. Some examples of neutral-toned woods include hazelnut, white oak, and walnut.
On top of all of that, there are also various methods of treating wood that can change its tonality, such as staining, bleaching, white-washing, and painting. Additionally, weathering or patina can occur to wood over time, which can change the appearance as well.
The wood you choose for your home may depend on personal preference, price-point, or simply what you already have available to you, but knowing the tonality of your wood is important, especially if you plan to mix different types of wood within your space.
2. Use multiple wood tones to create depth.
Mixing wood tones can add depth and nuance to your space. But when you’re mixing wood tones within a space, it’s best to stick to woods with the same undertone. This will give the space a sense of cohesion and intentionality.
If you’re not sure what undertone to go with, start by surveying the wood tones you already have in your space. You’ll want to choose a dominant wood tone—typically the undertone of the largest wood surface present in the space—and use that same wood tone throughout the rest of the space.
If your dominant wood tone is warm, stick to woods with red, orange, or yellow undertones. If your dominant wood tone is cool, stick to woods with gray, taupe, black, blue, or green undertones. If your dominant wood tone is neutral, stick to woods with a beige undertone.
TIP: A space with a lot of wood can benefit from a sense of contrast. To avoid overwhelming your space with wood, incorporate materials that will stand out amidst the wood, such as metallics, glass, and soft textiles.
3. Pick your white shade accordingly.
Just like wood, white paints can have a variety of undertones. A warm white will have a pink, orange, red, or yellow undertone, while a cool white will have a blue, purple, or green undertone.
TIP: To determine the undertone of a specific shade of white, compare it to a blank sheet of paper. The paper will act as a baseline, helping the undertones of the white to stand out. You can also consult a paint expert, if you’re having trouble deciphering the undertones.
White and wood work best together when the undertones are similar. In short, if your wood tones are warm, your best bet is a warm white paint. If your wood tones are cool, opt for a cool white paint. If your wood tones are neutral, you can take your pick of either a warm or cool white paint, but ensure you are being consistent with your choice throughout the space.
4. Go Scandinavian with it.
Scandinavian design is characterized by a minimalistic aesthetic, a neutral color palette, and plenty of natural textures and organic elements. As such, white lends itself pretty effortlessly to Scandinavian design. So does wood, although lighter-colored woods with a subtle grain and minimal knots and dark markings are best suited to the Scandinavian design style. The most common types of wood for Scandinavian-style spaces are beech, ash, and pine.
If you like the look and clean feel of Scandinavian design, let your design choices shine by keeping your space unencumbered by clutter and extraneous furnishings. Utilize clean lines when it comes to furniture and layout, as well as negative space, natural light, and biophilic elements.
5. Make it coastal.
Coastal design is characterized by crisp, white interiors, complimented with shades of blue, natural textiles, and pale wood tones, such as beech, maple, ash, and even driftwood. Weathered woods, which have been naturally faded by time or the elements, are also a perfect for coastal design.
You can also opt to treat your wood, which is a common practice in coastal design. Earlier in this article, we talked about white-washing, which is a manner of treating wood with a semi-opaque finish to achieve a lighter look, without completely covering the wood grain. White-washed wood tends to have a beachy feel to it, so it fits in easily with coastal design.
TIP: You can white-wash anything from wall panels to doors to furniture, but this technique is best suited to pine wood. White-washing also works best on raw wood, so sand your surface thoroughly to ensure the best results.
6. Play up the contrast between white and wood.
From the colors to the textures, there is a natural contrast between white and wood. Emphasizing this contrast is a great way to add depth to a room or highlight a certain space or feature. Here are some examples:
- Wood rafters against a white ceiling will draw attention to the ceiling height or slope, giving what would otherwise be a neutral, run-of-the-mill ceiling more of an architectural presence.
- A gallery wall made up of wood frames will really pop against a stark white wall.
- A sculptural driftwood coffee table against a pristine white rug or next to white leather sofas will give the room some edge.
- A wood vent hood in an all-white kitchen will command attention and spice up the space.
If you want to dial up the contrast even more, consider using darker toned wood, such as walnut, koa, and mahogany. You can also use a lighter wood that has been treated with a dark stain. The richness of darker wood tones will make white look brighter in comparison, giving both the wood and the white more of a visual impact.