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How One Kitchen Pulls Off Five Different Woods

This space proves that sometimes you’ve just got to go against the grain

In the giant list of Kitchen Design Don’ts—somewhere between “Don’t hang the cabinets too low” and “Don’t install carpet, ever”—is “Don’t go too crazy with wood.” Too much of any finish is never a good thing, but something about grainy wood all over makes kitchens look particularly heavy and dated. So designers often warn against using more than two or three wood finishes in one space. How, then, does this eclectic-meets-transitional kitchen pull off five?

That’s right, five: the cherry-stained floors, the espresso molding, the gray cabinetry, the chocolate backsplash and the blonde cutting board. All those planks could easily look country or cabin-y, but here, they harmonize without screaming “WOOD!” Thinking about mixing woods in your own space but want to avoid the English pub look? Do like this casual kitchen and follow these guidelines:

1. Vary the finishes. The primary reason this design works so well? The wood doesn’t try to be all matchy-matchy. First, the grain intensity is smartly inconsistent. The floor, for example, has prominent grain, while the rest of the surfaces show little to none. Then, there’s the variation in the shine spectrum: The molding and floor have a little sheen, while the other woods are matte. But the colors make the biggest impact; each surface has warm undertones, while the actual hues range from cocoa to sepia to flat gray, which break up what would otherwise be utter wood monotony.  

2. Keep the walls light. Wood is warm, solid and sturdy, so a dark color on the walls of a wood-laden room makes the space feel darker, smaller and a bit too library-ish. Instead, offset mixed woods with walls painted several shades lighter than the prominent wood colors. Your paint need not be stark white; in this room, a buttermilk shade does its contrasting duty while keeping the vibe casual and lived-in.

3. Select a single metallic finish. Multiple woods and multiple metals in one space can veer dangerously close to flea-market territory. If you want to mix woods, stick to just one metallic finish to tie the room together. Here, cool stainless steel on the cabinet hardware, sink, Leland faucet, toaster and accent stool unites the woods and brightens all that warmth with its reflective finish.

4. Introduce pattern. It might sound counterintuitive to add more pattern near lots of wood grain—essentially a pattern itself—but graphic textiles create a welcome visual interruption. The key is to keep the pattern’s scale small—like the zigzags on this kitchen’s rug, or the red stripes on the apron-turned-artwork.