An accented neutral color scheme sounds easy enough, but don't be fooled: neutrals are complex tones that don't just go with any old color.
On this page:
7 wood color combinations with good accent colors for
♦ cherry wood,
♦ pine, and
The Crucial Thing To Look For
In An Accented Neutral Color Scheme:
We're so used to seeing natural shades of brown around us - in furniture, paneling, flooring, as well as in nature - that brown doesn't register as a 'real' color most of the time.
However, most woods have a clear color bias, which tends to deepen as they age, and it also intensifies with protective oil or varnish treatments. This color bias is crucial for finding the best accent color(s) for a neutral color scheme!
Read more about 'biased' neutral color palettes here!
↑ Cherry wood is a beautifully warm, deep red brown with orange undertones. The easiest way to use cherry wood in an accented neutral color scheme is to combine it with 'blond' natural tones like wicker, pale straw or jute and wall paints in milky whites or cream.
In a way, cherry wood doesn't really need an accent color. In many low-key neutral color schemes cherry is the accent color!
However, if you want to pair cherry wood with a 'proper' accent color from the color wheel, the best ones come from the complementary side: Both green (complementary of red) and blue (complementary of orange) will look good here. You may want to keep them slightly desaturated so they don't compete with the rich tones of the wood:
♦ Prussian blue (dark, pale, or both [pictured]),
♦ Delft blue,
♦ pale turquoise or aqua,
♦ grayed olive.
↑ Oak wood tends to lean yellow. Large areas of this mottled, desaturated "yellow" can actually look quite cloying if they're not balanced with cooler tones.
Therefore a room with, say, an expanse of oak flooring will always profit from a) fresh white and b) cool neutrals, e.g. bluish grey and 'stone' colors. Blue is the 'opposing' color to yellow, and it works a treat with oak! However, you may want to add a warm, light beige to pick up the oak tones where needed.
Best accent colors for a warm/cool color scheme with oak:
♦ rust or burnt orange,
♦ absolutely any blue, no matter how intense or grayed
♦ bruised purple and/or lavender (purple is complementary to yellow),
♦ dusky rose.
↑ Pine ages to yellow-orange tones that are hard to mistake for anything else. The robust, golden-brown hue combines well with all kinds of greyed or blackened shades of the primary colors.
For this reason, I thought I'd splash out on accent colors and see what happens when I use blue, green and red all at once. I love the combination - think old Amish quilts in bold stripes, vintage woollen plaids and leather accessories that pick up the yellow/tan theme!
There's a good example of a non-primary yellow/red/green/blue combination on the page about Carl & Karin Larsson's Swedish country style. These slightly earthy versions of the primaries were often used together by the early Arts & Crafts movement as well, and they make very good colors for any type of country decorating.
↑ Walnut has a vivid, high-contrast grain that provides plenty of pattern for a room.
It comes in fairly neutral 'dark chocolate' tones but can also have a reddish chestnut bias. Walnut looks great with contemporary clean whites or light cream surfaces.
Add silver accents for a 'zen' look (very popular with urbanites). Walnut-white-silver makes a great color scheme for a kitchen, bathroom or bedroom. (There are some good examples on the page about neutral bedroom decorating!)
If you're not too concerned about preserving the purity of the look, check out these additional accent colors:
♦ 'water' colors (anything between blue and turquoise),
♦ strong reds (both warm and cool),
♦ a mix of bright orange hues.
↑ Natural maple is a blond wood with a gorgeous lively grain. Depending on how it's treated, the pinkish undertones can become quite dominant.
Maple goes well with strong, saturate colors, but also with subdued, quasi-neutral tints. It is incredibly versatile.
If you want to combine natural maple with other wood tones, I'd suggest a high contrast combination with deep, dark coffee colors (e.g. wenge, black cherry, ebony).
For an earth tone color scheme, try combining maple with terra cotta (more earth tone color scheme ideas here):
The best accent colors for natural maple depend on the overall color palette you choose - in the first example above, I combined aqua and spicy dark chocolate for contrast and color opposition. In principle, any of the following will work:
♦ Any blue (seriously!)
♦ brownish and greyed pinks,
♦ green hues anywhere between teal and olive green.
And here's some additional color inspiration - waaay beyond brown color scheme ideas: