HomeHome Updates: Tips & IdeasDecorating Ideas and How To'sHow to Mix, Match and Coordinate Wood Stains / Undertones

How to Mix, Match and Coordinate Wood Stains / Undertones

Posted on December 19, 2019 by KylieMawdsley

How to Coordinate and Match Wood Stains- Oak, Maple, Cherry and More

What makes one wood finish clash with another? What makes one stain look fabulous and another look fugly? And how do you coordinated existing wood stains with NEW ones? It all comes down to undertone.

Now, this can get tricky as wood undertones are not always obvious at first glance, so I’ve got some tips to help you get going…

PS.  For those of you looking for pretty pictures, you’ll find this post amazingly underwhelming – it’s more a ‘learn how to’ rather than a ‘pretty picture’ post. This post was updated in Dec 2019.

How to coordinate, mix different wood finishes or stains. Oak, maple, cherry. Kylie M Interiors Edesign,

First Things First: Figure out the undertone of your wood

Whether you’re picking a new wood product or trying to coordinate with an existing one, you need to figure out which undertone you’re working with. Undertone is the ‘color’ of the wood, as in, ‘yellow/orange/red/purple/green’. The undertone will directly affect your choice of paint color, other wood finishes, furnishings, your sanity, and more.

How to mix and match or coordinate wood and stains in a room with cabinets and flooring. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, DIY blog and home decor ideas with paint colours

In the above images, which flooring would YOU pick with those kitchen cabinets?

  • TOP RIGHT: Kind of okay, but too rich and red
  • BOTTOM LEFT: Again, too red
  • BOTTOM RIGHT: Right idea, but too yellow and washed-out
  • TOP LEFT: Winner winner, chicken dinner – just LOOK at those undertones!

1.  Compare. Comparing different woods to each other can make the undertones easier to see. If you are choosing new wood flooring or cabinets, lay a few ‘similar’ samples next to each other. You should see a shift from one color to another and can eliminate the undertones you want to avoid. And it’s VITAL that you do this in your own home, not in the store, as store lighting always skews things – as does a glass of wine, so have a drink after you’ve picked your fave.

2.  Ask a professional. Whether it’s a flooring store or the paint dept (or me!) a professional should be able to let you know the ‘basic underlying color’ in your wood stain. If you can’t bring a sample of your existing wood finish to them (ie: a cabinet drawer), take a quality photograph and they should be able to give you the general idea.

Living room furniture layout, sectional, square wood coffee table, brown leather accent chair, white oak flooring. stone fireplace. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, online paint color

Note the consistency in wood finish between the mantel/coffee table/flooring – and they’re all different species! 

Now here’s where I blow your mind. Okay, maybe not, but at least you’ll be slightly entertained as you may have never known your wood has pink, purple or even green tones in it (will wonders never cease!)

Common woods and their ‘usual’ undertones

Oak and its common stain colors 

While it’s definitely becoming more popular for cabinets these days, it’s taken a good 20 years to come around. Personally, I find oak to be timeless – DEPENDING on the stain and style of furniture it’s on. And while some of these are a blend, I’ve tried to capitalize on the main color…

How to coordinate wood stains, finishes. Oak, maple, cherry pine, walnut. Kylie M INteriors Edesign

This next photo shows orange-toned cabinets that clash with a yellow-toned floor…

Maple or oak cabinets before being painted. Kylie M (1)


Maple and its common stain colors & finishes 

Maple is definitely one of the most popular and versatile woods, but clearly, all maple stains were not created equal! Again, some of these are a blend, so I’ve tried to capitalize on the main color…

How to mix and match, coordinate wood finishes and stains. Maple, cherry, oak. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour advice

Cherry and its common stain colors & finishes

Cherry is definitely one of my faves when it’s sealed naturally and allowed to age. And once more, some of these are a blend, so I’ve tried to capitalize on the main color…

How to coordinate wood stains. Cherry stains. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Look at that top middle one. If you compare it to the MIDDLE sample, it looks much more yellow, but compare it to the one on the RIGHT and you’ll see that wink o’ pink!

How to mix different wood TYPES and stains together

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably looking to match something new up with something you already have in your home. See if you can find a sample below that’s CLOSE to what you already have and see what combination options there are within different wood species. You can easily mix different wood stains/types together as long as they share a similar undertone.

Yellow-toned woods

While these ones can flex between yellow-orange, to yellow-pink and even to yellow-green, you’ll want to make sure that the look is generally consistent.

How to mix and match or coordinate with wood cabinets or flooring with yellow or orange stain colour. Kylie M INteriors

The top right is ALMOST a wink too orange for the top left, but they still connect.

Random Tip: If you’re mixing two different types of woods together with similar undertones, make sure only ONE has a dominant grain (or neither). Both can’t have strong grains or they could compete

Orange-toned woods

Orange tones are WELL known for picking up a wink of yellow or a touch of red. I’ve done my best to find some interesting blends that work together…

How to mix and match or coordinate wood and stains in a room with cabinets and flooring. Red oak or yellow or orange. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, DIY blog and home decor ideas with paint colours

Another set of coordinating wood stains inspired by orange, but slightly branching into pink…

How to mix and match or coordinate wood and stains in a room with cabinets and flooring. Red oak or orange. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, DIY blog and home decor ideas with paint colours

Red-toned woods

Red-toned woods can often flex red-purple or red-pink (pink being the lighter version of red). A few of these are cutting it close, but the general idea is there.

How to mix and match or coordinate with oak or maple wood cabinets or flooring with pink, purple or red stain colour. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting

Purple, pink or taupe-toned woods

Again, totally different woods but very consistent undertones…

How to mix and match or coordinate with wood cabinets or flooring with pink or red stain colour. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting

Some gorgeous, more purple-inspired stain colors…

How to mix and match or coordinate with wood cabinets or flooring with purple oak or red maple stain. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting

Espresso or walnut look woods

Espresso is one of the easiest stain colors to coordinate with as the undertone tends to be the most neutral and often leans toward the purple end of things.

ideas for how to mix, match and coordinate wood finishes and stains like oak, cherry, maple, espresso, pine and more for cabinets, flooring and furniture

Is there any wiggle-room? YES!

There are always exceptions, and sometimes, as long as it’s not BLATANTLY different, you can get away with a subtle shift in undertone and have a better chance of it working if neither wood is drastically lighter/darker than the other.

For example, in this next photo, although the cabinets have a wee tiny bit more orange in them than the floor, because there is some yellow in the cabinets, they coordinate quite nicely.

Best paint colour for maple, oak cabinets, orange tone. Benjamin Moore November Rain gray paint colour, green undertone. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consultant

In this next example, although the cabinet has a slightly more washed-out neutral look, it does have some of the floor color in its pattern, and that’s the tie that binds!

Entryway with Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray lightened wood cabinet, Ken Kirkby art. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, online paint color

Use area rugs to divide slightly different woods

If your woods aren’t quite connecting, you can use an area rug under your furniture (assuming one of the woods is a dining table or coffee table). The area rug acts as a barrier between the two kinds of wood so that the difference isn’t quite as noticeable.

Sherwin Williams Wall Street and Wool Skein, coffered ceiling, moldings dining room,entryway. Kylie M INteriors E-design, online paint colour consulting. Client photo


Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (6)


The Best Paint Colors to Coordinate with Wood

The Best Paint Colors for Dark Wood Trim


  1. Well hellooooo Mary Anne!
    Nope, there is no rule at all – it’s personal preference! Now it’s usually easier to have painted risers than stained ones if you’re renovating…you know what, I’m going to do a blog post on this – you’re a genius!
    Anyway, the gist is it more depends on the look you are wanting.
    Wood tread/rise: Can be slightly more formal looking
    Wood tread/painting rise: can be slightly more country looking

    I also find that the painted riser can give some visual relief when there is A LOT of wood in a home….

    Thanks for asking my friend!
    Hugs, Kylie

  2. I need your help!
    I have cherry plank flooring and light grey walls.
    I don’t want white cabinets for kitchen due to maintenance issues. What other colors wud look great with cherry floor and grey walls. I’ll select the counter top granite once cabinet colors are decided.
    Any suggestions would help.

    1. Post

      Hi Shubha, it depends on what type of gray is on your walls, but you could do a gray that is contrasting from your walls, so either lighter or darker by a few tones, or maybe a blue/green/gray blend?

  3. I would like some help! I have maple cabinets with a pink undertone. I am refinishing my red oak hardwood floors and would like to do a gray stain. Will the floors take on a pink tone? Is there a stain color we could mix with the gray to offset the pink tone? Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Post

      Hi Staci! I’ve found the red oak often does well with restaining, but I have seen some flash slightly pink. Just keep in mind that you may NEED that weee wink of pink otherwise your new wood tone colour clash with your cabinets as the undertones would be different…

  4. Hi Kylie,
    I have a honey oak spiral staircase (yellow tones according to your very helpful chart). For the front foyer, I’m considering an ivory porcelain tile (Edgecomb Grey walls) but I would like to replace the old tired broadloom between the stairs and the tile with Preverco Wheat or Preverco Santa Fe Nuance oak flooring. The Wheat looks more yellow online than it does in the store and is a lighter brown than the Santa Fe. Any thoughts? The oak will be continued into the family room (BM Jack Pine) while the tile could be extended throughout the foyer and down a short hall into the laundry and powder room (BM Muslin / Ballet White). I am definitely struggling with the three types of flooring in this front foyer area.
    Your talented input will certainly be appreciated!

  5. Hi Kylie,

    What a helpful post! Suddenly I’m quite clear that I prefer undertones in the pink/red family. Question: can you recommend a stain color like the lower right image in your second-to-last grid? My husband and I are refinishing a nightstand made of two different woods, the darker of which is probably either walnut or mahogany, and a stain like that on the darker areas would be just the ticket.

    Again, loved this! It has already been helpful even if you’re way past responding to comments on this piece. Thank you!

  6. Don’t know if you noticed but you are claiming the “Top Right” photo on your very first example is both good and bad. I think you meant top left and put top right again. Basically you said the top right wasn’t a good fit and gave your reason then at the end claimed it was the best one. Top Left was never mentioned at all.

    1. Post
  7. Hi, I am struggling with a dark wood floor I already have in the salon (dinning/living room) because I want to use a white wood floor for the rest of the house and I am not sure if it will match nicely or totally crash
    Any advice? I will certainly appreciate your comments

    1. Post

      Welllll, if it were me, I’d be pretty hesitant as I worry about it creating a patchwork look. It’s easy to change to tile/carpet/etc… but going from one wood to another usually doesn’t work :(. I mean, at the very least they’d need the same undertones/sheen level, but I still get a bit twitchy – I’m sorry!

  8. I do not think this posting could be any more perfect or timely for me right now! As another poster said – you come to the internet “hoping” to find something that will help you make decisions in a renovation and often, it is sadly disappointing. I live in a California Ranch home (in Michigan!), which is known for it’s wide open floor plan, so my rooms and their color need to have some harmony and flow. I have red oak hardwood floors and natural cedar planked lounge in groove on all of my ceilings, so LOTS of wood! We are remodeling our kitchen and I want to combine wood look tile with my wood floors, which will be refinished. This post really gives me some great ideas and strategies on how to work the colors together, although I am not going to rule out doing a consultation, because I really want to get this part right. I know how I want this to look, but I want it to look right and complimentary. Thanks Much

  9. The architect who built a house for his own family, and sold it to us when he needed to move, said that he would never put faux wood beside real wood, or faux tile next to actual tile, and so on. I think that is a good strategy. So for the Pergo flooring in this kitchen, the Pergo in a tile look would be best.

    1. Post
  10. I need help! We are remodeling the basement family room. We are using vinyl plank flooring. Should flap in the walls. And a plank ceiling in place of the current drop down ceiling. I was thinking a natural looking finish on floor and white shiplap but I’m not sure what color or satin to have on the plank ceiling. I want some neutral, timeless and popular. I have a hard time visualizing it all together. Can you please give me advice?

  11. I’m in the process of building/completing a log cabin that will be our permanent home. I’m really struggling with all the wood and trying to pick finishes that tone it down. Especially difficult is choosing stain colour for the fir flooring. Do you offer stain suggestions with your e-design packages? As this is new construction it is a pretty blank canvas … except being surrounded by yellow-pine logs and pink-fir flooring.

    1. Post
    2. Hey Danya – I have a log cabin and can honestly say that I have at least 4 different woods and colors going on and they all look great together.
      Med cedar color on pine logs
      clear natural stain on pine walls
      Med dark stain on hickory cabinets
      Dark express stain on rough hewn floors

      Hope this helps a bit

      1. Post
  12. Hi! I’m installing new quarter sawn white oak cabinets, and I will be refinishing the current red oak floor (that reads yellow with just an oil-poly on it with no stain currently). Any recommendations for stain color? Seems like there should be a gold starting point out there somewhere!!!

    1. Post

      Oh, I WISH I could throw something at you. The challenge is always with the pink undertone in red oak that’s really hard to avoid, especially aginast the very NON-pink undertone of white oak!

  13. Hey Kylie –

    Your hilarious, honest and to the point…love your candidness.
    I recently inherited my parents home and I want to leave the “real” walnut paneling in
    the living room as it goes with the divider and speakers my Dad made (Dad built the house
    in 1961 himself) I have been removing the old carpet and found oak flooring in the bedrooms
    with plain plywood flooring in the living/dining/hallway area……I’ll probably put Oak flooring
    in the lv/dn/hall to butt up against the bedrooms….but wondering what stain would go with
    the walnut paneling? It seems like this darker color you show as being the most easiest to
    match or coordinate with? Thoughts? My anxiety is through the roof as I’m also trying to
    match paint colors at a rental I’m also flipping….having a horrible time trying to figure out a
    fabulous color for a slight tray ceiling with a very wide crown cove molding and Spanish plaster wall…ugh

    1. Post

      Oh, I would SO love to help you, but stain colors are not ma jam. It totally depends on the exact species and which stain was applied to the walnut and how it’s aged! As for the tray ceiling, it allll depends on the surroundings/hard finishes, but generally, warm off-whites look quite pretty!

  14. Hi…I am redoing my kitchen and finishing the remainder of the first floor in red oak with a provincial stain, which is medium brown but pulling an orange undertone. I am thinking of pairing it with a maple cabinet. The grains don’t compete, both have orange undertones. Do you think this is a good combo?

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