Amitha's Blog

Mixing Finishes

One of the questions I get asked most commonly at the shop is, “How do I mix all these fabulous pieces in with my existing furniture?” I often hear, “Should I throw out all that I have and start over?” And my reply is no, no, no – great design is evolved and collected over time! So today I wanted to share how to combine your existing pieces with your new ones, and how to mix painted and stained wood pieces together.

Many of us have these traditional French and English pieces throughout our home which tend to be veneered or dark stained pieces. I often hear clients talk about their inherited Chippendale pieces or Sheraton buffets, and their desire to combine their pieces with some of the new lighter, brighter, painted, and bleached finishes of the more ‘modern’ antiques.

In approaching any interior design project, I always want the end result to look like a room that has been beautifully collected over time. Even if we do an overnight installation, we still want the room to feel like many of the pieces have been collected. The best way to achieve this is to MIX all these fabulous finishes, so you have a lovely contrast of dark and light, as well as a multitude of periods.

When working in a space I always like to include: painted finishes, stained finishes and metal – such as gilt and or silver. If you love painted pieces, one way to make those pieces shine is to include some which are stained, so that the painted ones really pop or stand out. If you need a rule of thumb,  I suggest 60% should be of your favorite finish, such as stained, and 40% painted and/or some metal.

So look around your room and see how many pieces are in you room. Let’s say you have a coffee table, two side tables, a bench an a console in one room – here’s how I might do it:

  • Console – painted
  • Bench – painted wood
  • Side Table  – stained
  • Side Table – stained
  • Coffee Table – metal

Another room where mixing finishes is important is in the dining room. This is a room in which you might have a Chippendale or Sheraton style ‘set’. There are several things you can do here. One is to paint the buffet, if it’s not an heirloom museum-quality piece, which I’m sure you’ll be able to ascertain. That would add an element of light and brightness to the room.

When mixing, one of my favorite things to do is to combine a painted buffet with a traditional dark wood table, or conversely, a lighter toned table paired with a dark, rich, wood tone buffet.

The same principle works with the bedroom. This room is a little easier. If I have a dark colored bed, I love to flank it with painted commodes or a painted commode paired with a painted writing table. I just love contrasting the bed frame with the side pieces in my designs.

Here’s a pretty example of a dark iron poster bed paired with a pretty painted gate leg table.

Here is another great example of a beautiful painted armoire contrasting with a rich stained wood poster bed. This design makes both the armoire and the bed look much more unique. I also love the hint of gold in the frames and gilt finish on the side chairs. All of these tones give a very rich, warm, welcoming appeal to this room. Can you imagine the difference if all of these pieces were the same tone?

So remember: repetition is important when mixing. If you have a particular finish, you want to try to repeat that color or tone at least 2-3 times in the room. This might be in the side tables, chair frames or even artwork frames. Your favorite finish (whether metal, stained wood or painted) will shine most when it is harmoniously paired with other complementary finishes.

As always, be sure to share photos of your projects. All of us at the shop love seeing them!

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