With all our recent talk of the razzle-dazzle that upholstered furniture brings to your space (and my obsession with the fun flair of fabrics), I’m ready to shift our focus to another home staple: wood furniture. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of wood furniture? Don’t worry, there is no wrong answer. Throughout my design journey (which is, truthfully, only just beginning), I have had mixed feelings about wood pieces — they are essential, but I used to find them intimidating. I find myself falling in love with them a lot more quickly these days and more fully appreciating their longevity and versatility.

I’ve had everything from the college budget-friendly pieces to family heirloom pieces and I still firmly believe there is a time and place for all of the above. My most recent (and beloved) wood acquisitions are cherrywood pieces that have been handed down through my mom’s side of the family. They are beautiful in their simplicity, and they come with all the charm of well-loved wood furniture. My only challenge: finding the perfect spot for all the pieces in the set, which includes dining room furniture and bedroom furniture, without creating any matchy-matchy areas.

A rule follower though I may be, when it comes to design, old rules are made to be broken. I can’t stand hearing “you aren’t supposed to mix styles” and “ you can’t have different finishes, they don’t work well together” and “Katie, you can’t fit another piece of furniture in this room — are you crazy?” No more naysayers. If we can maximalize patterns and mix styles when it comes to upholstery, there is no reason wood furniture needs to be bland and shrink into the background. It’s time to let those pieces shine! (And, if Mary Carol Garrity has taught me anything, it’s that there is always room for one more piece.)

The first step in embracing your wood piece (old and new): Mix it up. You know what goes great with a gorgeous antique secretary? Literally almost anything. I think the beauty of design, and especially New Traditional design, is it takes the old and the new and marries them in a tasteful, unique way. While the rules used to tell us you needed to pick and stick to one defined style of furnishing, it’s not true. I think combining traditional wood elements with transitional, midcentury or a plethora of other styles makes for an interesting and dynamic room that allows each piece to shine. Picking out bold and balanced wood furniture doesn’t take away from the impact of each, but multiplies it.

The same concept applies when it comes to the wide variety of finishes you can find in wood furnishings today. Back in the early days of furniture when there were only a handful of wood stain options to choose from, it was harder to create effective contrast in a room, and matching made more sense. When your vintage china cabinet was built all those years ago, I bet they didn’t have a hot pink option. However, that does not mean you can’t use the new trends on the market today when adding to your rooms. DIY culture has inspired a whole new range of wood finishes for fan-favorite staple pieces. In fact, painting wood pieces has gotten so popular that CR Laine offers its wooden accents to be painted any color in the Benjamin Moore paint line. With countless wood stains and brightly painted colors, there are many customization decisions to be made even before you decide antique distressed versus traditional glossy versus modern matte finishes. With all these new options, wood furniture is in the same league as the pattern mixing and matching we get to play with in upholstery. As long as there is balance, there is beauty.


Adapted from nellhills.com. Katie Laughridge is the owner of Kansas City interior design destination Nell Hill’s. For more information, contact Katie at info@nellhills.com.


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