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9 Tips for Mixing Dark and Light Bedroom Furniture

We’ve talked about mixing wood tones in your décor before. These days, it’s pretty common to mix wood tones to create a custom look.

But mixing dark and light bedroom furniture seems to be an area where people struggle and often feel unsure. So, here's how to get a look that feels deliberate.

Photography: Caroline Sharpnack

Why We Struggle with Mixing Furniture in the Bedroom

I think there are three reasons people struggle with mixing furniture in the bedroom. Let me know if any of these sound familiar.

The first reason is that many of us were raised with the idea of bedroom "sets." Bedroom sets were very in vogue in the 1960s through the end of the century. When people were setting up a bedroom, they would often go to a big furniture retailer and choose a "set" of matching pieces—a nightstand, dresser, headboard, armoire. We all had the mentality that we had to match bedroom furniture—that's just how bedroom furniture was done!

The next reason is that a bedroom is a place of rest and relaxation. Our brains tend to crave order, pattern, and cohesiveness. We may have confidence in styling different rooms by blending different wood tones and mixing furniture pieces, but when we get to the bedroom, it can feel discombobulated and mismatched if the pieces aren't of a similar wood type and family.

Photography: Caroline Sharpnack

The third reason why many of us struggle with mixing dark and light bedroom furniture is that our bedrooms are incredibly personal—perhaps the most personal room in our home. The bedroom is often hidden from guests, so there's often not the same pull to experiment and play. Also, the bedroom is often already a mixture of two different styles—of two different people. It may feel easier to blend different tastes with a "set" of matching furniture.

Today, I want to help you shed those misconceptions and make a case for why mixing wood tones in the bedroom is perfectly okay, and actually preferred. Moreover, I want to help you find the confidence to mix furniture in the bedroom in a way that feels intentional and appropriate.

Design + Image: Studio McGee

If you’re trying to mix light and dark bedroom furniture, here’s how:

1. Choose a Dominant Wood Tone

Whenever you mix light and dark wood, you’ll want to choose one type of wood as your dominant color. That means if you have a dark oak or ash headboard or armoire, that might be the main focal piece of the room. You’ll want to have at least one other piece (or accessories) in a way that picks up the different tones or calls back to the colors in your main piece.

Mixing light and dark furniture in the bedroom is a little different than mixing furniture in other rooms because there are often several prominent items. Your dominant piece might be the headboard, or it may be a dresser or another piece of furniture. It’s all about what functions best in your space.

For example, if you have a dressing room or a large closet, you might store all your clothes there. On the other hand, if you have a smaller home, you may need to fit in other functional pieces in the room. The headboard might be wooden, woven rattan, or you may have an upholstered headboard in bouclé, linen, or leather.

Photography: Caroline Sharpnack

2. Focus on Getting the Proportions Right

No matter what furniture pieces you have, the biggest trick to mixing light and dark wood furniture in the bedroom is getting the proportions right. Your bedroom has one of the most significant pieces of furniture in the house—the bed. So it can quickly feel too full or overdone without the right considerations.

If you have a small floor plan but a very large bed frame, you may need to keep other furniture pieces to a minimum. This is where using lighter wood can help you create a sense of balance. On the other hand, if you have a larger bedroom, you'll want to choose pieces that aren't necessarily dark but are formidable to anchor the room.

Your nightstand, end tables or side tables, chairs, or other bedroom pieces should fit within the room with ample space for walking and moving around. When a bedroom feels cluttered, it can be less restful. Even if the furniture isn’t a mixture of light and dark pieces, too much furniture can make the room feel chaotic.

Photography: Caroline Sharpnack

3. Remember the Purpose of the Bedroom

When blending pieces in the bedroom, it always helps to come back to the purpose. As we've discussed before, the bedroom is a spot for rest. It's a place that's your haven and sanctuary from the rest of the world—so it should evoke peaceful feelings.

When choosing décor and furniture for a bedroom, it's far better to err on the side of less is more. Too much clutter can not only be stressful and stifling, but it can be a haven for dust and dirt (which can interfere with sleep by triggering allergies and breathing difficulties).

Similarly, choose natural fabrics, textiles, and finishes for all pieces in your bedroom. If you're combining light and dark furniture, look for pieces that are stained and finished with less-toxic finishes. I often incorporate antique pieces into many of my rooms because they've had plenty of time to off-gas and release toxins long before they make it into the home.

Design: Amber Interiors | Photography: Shade Degges

4. Select Pieces with Higher Contrast

One tip I've found for mixing light and dark wood in the bedroom is to go for higher contrast. Sometimes when we choose tones and wood types that are close but slightly different, it can feel like we missed the mark. Higher contrast pieces feel more purposeful and deliberate.

For example, choosing some vintage blonde pieces may look better with dark oak or walnut. Cherry or mahogany often have reddish undertones that look more deliberate when paired with lighter elements like teak or birch.

If you have to combine pieces that are “not-quite” matching, keep them further apart in the room if possible. The eye will pick up the tones and the general feeling of the wood rather than noticing that the finishes are a little off.

5. Limit Yourself to a Few Tones

If you’re new to mixing light and dark wood in the bedroom, start with only a few different woods—two is typically best. Working with three or more wood colors and finishes can be quite challenging, especially in a smaller space.

I've found that people often feel more comfortable mixing light and dark wood in the bedroom when they only worry about two different finishes. Choose one as your main focal piece and a secondary accent wood color.

Of course, there are ways to take a room in an eclectic direction too. For example, picking pieces made of different materials can create a more bohemian vibe. A vintage 1970s vanity with a high-gloss finish might look interesting amongst classic pieces made of darker wood finishes, metal, brass, glass, and more.

Design + Image: Marie Flanigan Interiors

6. Use Textiles that Compliment Light and Dark Furniture

The real secret to mixing dark and light furniture in the bedroom is to select textiles that complement everything and pick up the tones of each wood furniture piece. Artwork can also be a key to picking up the different colors and bringing everything together.

Rugs are typically my go-to method for making a room feel cohesively styled. There are so many options when it comes to rugs. I find it’s especially useful when the flooring is a little off from the furniture or the rest of the décor.

Another option is to look for throws, pillows, benches, and other items that pick up the temperature of both shades of wood. When in doubt, choose textured pieces, which almost instantly make a room feel cozy, welcoming, and more intentional.

Photography: Caroline Sharpnack

7. Add Accessories to Play Up Pieces

Accessories can also help you strike the right mix of light and dark wood in the bedroom. For example, picture frames are a simple trick for repeating wood tones in a room without investing in larger pieces of furniture.

Baskets are another excellent option in the bedroom as you can also use them for storage. Look for natural fibers in similar colors to the light or dark wood pieces in the room. Lamps and lighting are additional options for bringing in similar tones. A catchall on the nightstand, a clock, or a charging station can also call back to a furniture piece.

Even your paint tones (warm or cool) can help you bring everything together. When working with clients, I often create boards with samples of selections so we can see how the different pieces work together. It's sometimes surprising how several shades of one-color layer and work together in a space.

8. Aim for Balance

The biggest guideline for mixing dark and light wood in the bedroom is to always aim for balance. The goal isn’t necessarily to blend or match but to strike a balance where the room feels well-thought-out.

If you’re working with existing furniture pieces, you’ll find that balance by playing with the layout. There are many inexpensive ways (including simply sketching out the room) that can help you try different arrangements without moving furniture.

However, sometimes you'll discover that once you bring everything into the room, you have to make slight shifts to get that feeling of stability and calm. Something as simple as adding a few pillows or taking something away can make a room feel heavier or lighter. You want the space to create a sense of calm and peacefulness.

Design + Styling: The Identité Collective | Photography: Madeline Harper

9. Remember to Have Fun

With all this talk of creating a restful bedroom, it’s still important to remember to have fun with your space. Mixing light and dark wood, combining different pieces, and playing with furniture can make a room uniquely your own. It gives your house that bespoke feeling that feels like home.

Your bedroom should be your sanctuary from the world, but it should also be a place where you feel at home and most like yourself. That means selecting art, photos, and other items that you love. If you have several different pieces of furniture that speak to your style, don't be afraid to use them.

Some of the most intriguing spaces are those with personality and flair. Don’t limit yourself to sticking to rules about how furniture should match. If it feels good to you and looks appealing to your eye, go with it. Your bedroom should be the place you feel most at home!

Have you had success in mixing light and dark furniture pieces in your bedroom? Tell me about it below!

X Lauren


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