Whether your furnishings are Mission-style oak, country pine, or high-style mahogany, the beauty of the wood deserves a background that shows it to best advantage. The question, however, is not really what color goes with oak or mahogany, but rather, what color will best enhance your wood's finish.
Each type of wood has a characteristic color and grain pattern, and the color also can be altered with stain. Furniture makers have used stains and varnishes for centuries, both to enhance the appearance of the grain and to change the color of the wood. The stains sold at home improvement centers are generally named for the types of wood they simulate: Maple, cherry, walnut, mahogany, ebony, oak, and fruitwood are the most common types.
Over time, wood furnishings acquire a rich patina that gives the surface depth and complexity. Newer woods and veneers may lack this complexity, but they still have an overall color tone that may be yellow, orange, red-brown, bluish brown, or dark brown.
To choose wall colors or fabrics that will enhance your wood pieces, consider the dominant hues in the finish. Also consider whether you prefer the drama of high contrast or the richness of low-contrast pairings. Don't worry about all the wood pieces in a room matching -- the casual, comfortable, gathered-over-time look of mixed woods is perfectly appropriate today.
Continued on page 2: High Contrast