What a Marvelous Pair

By: Holly Bayer, ASID

As a person begins specifying millwork for their home, it’s a common misconception that the wood species throughout the home should match. It might go something like this,

“Let’s have Maple cabinets in the kitchen!”

“Alright, well then we’ll have Maple crown go around the cabinets and probably around the rest of the room. Maybe we should just continue it all around the main level. I suppose we’ll have Maple casing and base, and the interior doors should be that too… and the front door, wait! We can’t have a Maple front door!”

Now what? Better back up. Or don’t.

One of my brother’s asked me to write about wood species that work together and reminded me of one of our favorite vendor’s most repeated statement, “if all those woods can get along in the forest, why can’t they mingle in our homes?” That brother and that vendor know who they are. And hopefully they’re reading this blog, weekly.

They’re both right. A great deal of interest can be gained by combining wood species within your millwork package. By adding a simple dentil in a contrasting species to a door topper, or a backband that varies from the rest of the casing, a formerly safe selection becomes interesting.

If mixing two woods together on the same level makes you queasy, try introducing an alternative species on an upper or lower floor. At the turn of the century, the more expensive woods like Mahogany and rift sawn Oak were always used on the main level, while the upper floors carried more affordable Pine or Poplar.

But how and which species you ask? A great rule of thumb is to pair woods together which have similar grain patterns. Cherry and Alder work nicely together because they have relatively straight, subtle grain pattern. White Oak and Hickory make a fantastic combination because their grains are not only varied and similar in shape but their inherent coloring is similar.

The general coloring of species is also a consideration. Mahogany and Walnut look wonderful together because they have a similar tone; they’re not light woods and so, balance each other. Walnut sticking on a Cherry or Mahogany door would be like adding a pinstripe of detail. Interest that will surely differentiate your home from the neighbor’s!