The TOP 20 Paint Colors to Update Wood Stains
Can’t determine which paint color best suits your wood cabinets or trim? Maybe you want to highlight the beauty of your wood and make it come to life. On the other hand, maybe you want to CAMOUFLAGE your wood as you find its stain or grain too bossy. Whatever it is you’re looking for – I bet I’ve got it (except for sanity, that’s in short supply around here).
- Warm or cool paint colors that are a few tones lighter or darker than the wood tone will accent it more than colors with the same depth. Why? Because not only will you have contrast in color temperature, but in color DEPTH!
- If you REALLY want to jazz things up, choose colors that don’t have TOO much gray in them, as these will offer more contrast and energy against your wood.
- Even if you THINK you want to blend in your wood cabinets, you might be surprised at how awesome a well-chosen cool color can look.
- Keeping the paint colour a similar depth to your wood is a great way to keep things seamless, but it can be a bit bland looking if you choose a warm or neutral color. It’s better to go a bit lighter (OR darker) than your wood’s depth or shift into a slightly cooler (but not COLD) shade. This will add a bit of thoughtful layering without overexposing your wood. (There are sooo many jokes I could make…)
- When it comes to cream, beige, and brown, find ones with similar undertones to the ones in your wood. This helps to keep things muted and subtle and prevents clashing undertones.
- Some cream, beige, and brown paint colors can pick up a wink of green, which can look a weeeee bit murky against many warmer woods (especially, red or pink tones commonly found in cherry).
YELLOW-TONED WOOD STAINS
Yellow-stained wood finishes were especially popular in the 90s and fell a bit out of favor in the early 2000s. As for undertones, yellow-toned woods are often committed to yellow but can slide slightly into yellow-orange or, more rarely, yellow-pink or yellow-green.
WHAT COLORS TONE DOWN YELLOW WOOD?
If you want to make your yellow stain look LESS yellow, you might need to lean into it a bit with the following colors…
- Cream paint colors with similar undertone profiles, i.e., if your wood is yellow-orange, you’ll pick a shade of cream that blends yellow-orange (like Benjamin Moore Navajo White.)
- Subtle tan paint colors. Whereas beiges lean more on orange, tan paint colors lean on a yellow undertone (yellow-orange or yellow-green). A color like Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan or Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan can look pretty.
- Some greiges look great with yellow stains. While there could be a minor degree of accenting, depending on the greige you choose, many greiges (with their green-yellow) undertone, are beautiful partners to yellow woods. Of the options listed, they’re the LEAST likely to blend out the wood tone, but also won’t OVERreact (depending on the greige).
The staircase in this next photo has a wood stain with yellow-orange undertones…
WHAT PAINT COLORS GO WITH OR ACCENT YELLOW WOODS?
These colors will make your wood POP a bit (pun intended…wink wink – I can’t help myself). This means that if you love your wood stain and want to contrast and accent it, these are the colors you’ll want to explore (you’ll see references to SPECIFIC colors shortly).
- Gray with blue-green undertones.
- Warm gray with a violet undertone (not AS great with yellow-green stains).
As shown in this next photo, colors that are cooler than your wood will help highlight it…
Benjamin Moore Light Pewter
ORANGE-TONED WOOD STAINS
Orange wood stains are super common as it relates to oak cabinets. However, you can find orange on almost ANY wood species, as the STAIN can have orange in it!
While yellow-toned woods are usually pretty darned yellow, orange-toned woods easily lean into yellow or red, but the dominant undertone is still orange.
WHAT COLORS TONE DOWN ORANGE WOOD STAINS?
If you’re considering using cool colors on your walls, think again. Sure, they can look GORGEOUS, but they will highlight the warmth and color of your wood finish, whether its cabinets, floors, trims, or furniture. To downplay an orange-inspired wood stain, check out…
- Muted beige blends, preferably in the off-white to light depths (specific colors are coming shortly).
- Warm gray with a violet undertone can be an interesting approach without hitting things too hard, although some accenting can occur.
- Some greige/taupe colors can be quite pretty for a moderate balanced approach. However, beige is your BEST bet.
WHAT COLORS GO WITH OR ACCENT ORANGE WOODS?
If you’re a bit of an exhibitionist and want to show off your wood, these colors will do the trick! You’ll see references to SPECIFIC colors shortly.
- Gray with blue-green undertones.
- Warm gray with a violet undertone can be particularly striking without being OVERLY contrasting.
RED, PINK, OR CHERRY WOOD STAINS
Red or cherry-toned woods are often the strongest of the bunch, adding depth and color to a room. Red-toned woods can also look slightly pinkish (pink being the light version of red) or can give off a subtle purple cast, depending on the combination of wood and stain choice.
While sometimes its hard to tell what undertone a wood stain has, there’s one hiding in there. This next wood finish has a slight pink undertone…
WHAT COLORS TONE DOWN RED OR PINK WOOD STAINS?
While leaning into red (pink) can be scary, it’s often the best way to mute the STRENGTH of your red-stained wood…
- Taupe paint colors share a similar undertone (taupe has a touch of pink in it).
- Warm gray with a violet undertone can be an interesting approach, especially, but not exclusively, one with a bit more depth.
- Some beige paint colors that lean into orange-pink, but it depends on the exact wood stain/strength.
The burnt-red hue of the walls in this next kitchen isn’t favoring the gorgeous orange-red cabinets; this is a case of WAY too much of a good thing…
WHAT COLORS GO WITH OR ACCENT RED OR PINK WOODS?
Red or poink-toned woods can be super fun to play with as they respond SO well to cool colors. So, if you’re a bit of an exhibitionist and want to show off your wood, these colors will do the trick! You’ll see references to SPECIFIC colors shortly.
- Gray with blue-green undertones.
- Warm gray with a violet undertone can be a more modest approach (it’s one of my fave choices with red stains).
In this next photo, Sherwin Williams Jogging Path provides a nice subtle highlight to the red furniture stain and red oak flooring…
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to look at REAL COLORS! Remember…
MANY wood finishes will pick up on more than one undertone.
This means that not ALL of these paint colors will look good with ALL wood stains, but they should get you pointed in the right direction!
1. BENJAMIN MOORE CLASSIC GRAY OC-23
For a soft, subtle look, Classic Gray is a nice, slightly warm gray. This gentle shade of off-white has vague violet-pink undertones that suit MANY wood finishes. Its passive approach won’t blend with your cabinets but also won’t highlight or accent them.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH CLASSIC GRAY
Classic Gray doesn’t work well with yellow-green stains, but tends to humor a range of yellow, orange, and red woods.
2. SHERWIN WILLIAMS REPOSE GRAY SW 7015
Repose Gray is a warm gray paint color that’s SUPER unpredictable. While it can pick up a slight touch of green, it can just as easily wink at violet or even a touch of blue! Make sure you sample Repose Gray CAREFULLY and read its FULL COLOR REVIEW.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH REPOSE GRAY
It’s always hard to say with Repose Gray. With its slightly dirty undertones, Repose Gray is especially pretty with more ‘brown’ wood tones – ones without dominant yellow, orange, or red (pink) undertones. In other words, it can handle a ‘bit’ of undertone, as long as it’s not overpowering or overly noticeable.
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS KILIM BEIGE SW 6106
Kilim Beige is a soft, subtle, and versatile shade of beige. While Kilim Beige has a main orange undertone, it can entertain various finishes and wood tones.
Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige is a soft complement to the wood floor, stairs, and railings
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH KILIM BEIGE
Kilim Beige doesn’t look as good with red-stained woods that lean red-violet or have a decent degree of yellow. However, it’s especially nice with orange woods or those with a mild red stain (like the stain on the stairs in the above photo).
4. BENJAMIN MOORE ABALONE 2108-60
Abalone is a mix between gray, brown, and purple. The purple is subtle but adds a decent dose of color to get things out of the gray range. Abalone is also light enough to help offset a bit of the visual weight of darker cherry cabinets while still contrasting with white trim. I love how the purple taps into the wood tones without being ‘obvious’ about it (shown below).
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH ABALONE
Abalone is SO stinkin’ pretty with red hue woods, especially red-violet ones (above). However, it also suits some yellow woods, as long as they aren’t yellow-green and many orange stains.
5. BENJAMIN MOORE COLLINGWOOD OC 28
Collingwood is a beautiful warm gray with a subtle purple undertone. The undertone is quite passive, so this is a ‘gray-centric’ color. It can look wicked pretty with red or violet-toned wood finishes. Most grays can lean into ANY of the three cool gray undertones with the right lighting or exposure, but Collingwood usually holds pretty steady with its commitment to violet.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH COLLINGWOOD
Collingwood is flexible toward MOST wood tones, depending on your intentions. It can be a bit fussy with some yellow stains (yellow-green) as it prefers more legit yellow, orange, or pink undertones. My FAVE combo is Collingwood with red-stained woods.
6. BENJAMIN MOORE GENTLE CREAM OC 96
Gentle Cream (also known as Barely Beige) is a great way to create a warm and inviting room without it looking overly golden. With its almost ‘butterscotch’ undertones, this color will sit pretty neutral with oak and other woods without camouflaging them or accenting them.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH GENTLE CREAM
Gentle Cream can be a gorgeous partner to yellow and orange hue woods but can be fussy with red tones, depending on the exact blend.
7. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CANVAS TAN SW 7531
Canvas Tan is a relatively neutral tan paint color that doesn’t fall too flat or greige toned for orange-toned woods NOR too golden warm, making it flexible for various wood stains, as shown below…
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH CANVAS TAN
Canvas Tan is a bit fussier than some of the others and doesn’t love closer partnership with overly red stains (the dining set above is as close as you want to get). It’s also hit-and-miss with some orange-hued woods. It BEST suits yellow woods, especially ones that might lean a weee tiny wink into green.
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8. BENJAMIN MOORE STONINGTON GRAY HC 170
Stonington Gray is a stormy gray with a soft blue-green undertone; it’s a beauty if you want a subtle accent to your wood tones.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH STONINGTON GRAY
There’s not much Stonington Gray can’t do if you want to highlight your wood (without going over the top). Stonington Gray is friendly to MOST wood stains, including oaks, maples, and cherry’s.
9. SHERWIN WILLIAMS SEA SALT SW 6204
Sea Salt is a lovely complement to most woods for a fun, fresh look. Sea Salt is a light-toned green blend with a gray-blue undertone to calm it down. Yes, it will slightly accent your wood stain, but it can look BEAUTIFUL! Read ALL about Sea Salt in its color review.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH SEA SALT
Because the goal is to highlight wood stains, Sea Salt is pretty flexible and you can expect almost any wood stain or species to pop against this cool-toned beauty.
10. SHERWIN WILLIAMS NATURAL LINEN 9109
With trends leaning warmer, Natural Linen is bound to be a popular shade. With a light-depth, more modern approach to beige, Natural Linen’s warm, flexible undertones are a soft and subtle partner to many types of wood stains, including most oaks.
WOOD STAINS THAT LOOK DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH NATURAL LINEN
Natural Linen is a versatile warm neutral that suits a wid range of wood stains, especially those with orange (orange-yellow, yellow-orange) undertones. It can be a bit fussy with overly red wood stains and cherry woods.
11. BENJAMIN MOORE JOCKEY HOLLOW GRAY HC 108
Jockey Hollow Gray is a gorgeous shade of greige with a decent green undertone. While it WILL accent the warmth of your cabinets, the neutral base keeps things a bit more in check.
WOOD STAINS THAT LOOK DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH JOCKEY HOLLOW GRAY
Jockey Hollow Gray is a heavier approach than the others and is a beautiful complement to yellow and orange stains. I’m not as BIG of a fan of red hues, but that’s a personal opinion, as some will love it.
12. SHERWIN WILLIAMS SILVERPLATE SW 7649
Silverplate is a slightly stormy gray with a vague blue (blue-green) undertone. While it CAN look cool, Silverplate isn’t traditionally cold. On the other hand, it’s not very warm but has a stormy softness.
The subtle undertones of Silverplate will slightly enhance any wood tone, but it’s a great way to create a more modern look with your yellow-toned wood (shown below).
And don’t forget about LRV when choosing a paint color! How to Use LRV to Pick a Paint Color
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH SILVERPLATE
Silverplate isn’t BAD with many wood stains and humors most. As shown above, I love how Silverplate plays with a yellow-orange stain. And while it certainly suits red well enough, it’s not my PERSONAL fave.
13. BENJAMIN MOORE GRAY CASHMERE 2138-60
Gray Cashmere is a soft gray with a strong blue-green undertone, making it almost whimsical with its fresh feeling (it usually favors blue over green). Gray Cashmere is similar to Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, but has more gray in it, leaving a whisper of color without being too powerful. This color will accent wood tones, not soften them.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH GRAY CASHMERE
Gray Cashmere isn’t SUPER fussy about its wood tones, although I’m not a huge fan of it with DARK espresso finishes. Gray Cashmere is especially pretty with most yellow hue woods, offering a soft contrast.
14. SHERWIN WILLIAMS HERON PLUME SW 6070
Heron Plume is an interesting off-white – stuck between gray and taupe. Because of this, it can shift a lot depending on the exposure of your room. While its undertones aren’t overpowering, they can flash through depending on the finishes you partner it with.
WOOD STAINS THAT LOOK DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH HERON PLUME
Heron Plume can be STUNNING with wood stains that are red-inspired, as it’s subtle violet undertones suit many red hues. It’s also pretty with orange-toned woods but can be a bit fussy with some yellow woods.
15. BENJAMIN MOORE EDGECOMB GRAY HC 173
Edgecomb Gray is one of the most popular colors, sitting nicely between gray and beige, with no obvious preference for either. Its undertones are also passive, catering to neither greige (green) nor taupe (violet-pink). Edgecomb Gray won’t really highlight nor blend in with most woods unless you have DARK wood, which would be highlighted via the degree of contrast, not the color.
V1 Real Estate Photography with Kylie M.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH EDGECOMB GRAY
Edgecomb Gray can handle wood stains with muted OR strong undertones, making it super versatile. However, be careful when partnering it with gray-wash woods, which can have a bit too much violet undertone for Edgecomb Gray.
Remember to pay attention to your room’s exposure too!
16. SHERWIN WILLIAMS COLONNADE GRAY SW 7641
Colonnade Gray is a soft, light-medium warm gray, borderline greige. Because of this, it favors a very slight green undertone but can easily flash into the others depending on your exposure/interior finishes.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH COLONNADE GRAY
Colonnade Gray looks gorgeous with many yellow and orange-hue woods and more muted brown stains. It can also work with red ones but can enhance the red, so watch for that.
17. BENJAMIN MOORE DRY SAGE 2142-40
If you want a dynamic combination between your wood cabinets, trim, and walls, look NO FURTHER than green. In particular, Dry Sage is a beautiful partner if you want your beautiful wood to pop a little!
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH GREEN
Green is pretty easy to please when it comes to its wood partners, enjoying yellow, orange, and even some pink stain colors! Just remember, your wood will POP in comparison!
I rely 100% on photos from my Online Color Consulting clients – thank you to everyone for sending them in!
18. BENJAMIN MOORE FERNWOOD GREEN 2145-40
Again, it can be hard to go wrong with green. Fernwood Green is a warm green paint color with JUST enough of a neutral base to calm it down while leaving a GORGEOUS green hue on the walls!
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH WARM SHADES OF GREEN
As shown in the photo above, woods with a red or pink undertone can look stunning with green paint colors. However, I also love how yellow-orange-toned woods look equally as much.
19. BENJAMIN MOORE IMPERIAL GRAY 1571
Imperial Gray is a gorgeous blend of blue-green and gray, creating a soothing, calming combination with many wood tones.
WOOD STAINS THAT DO & DON’T GO WITH IMPERIAL GRAY & OTHER BLUE-GREEN BLENDS
In the above photo, you can see how beautiful the blue-green paint color looks with the red stain on the dresser. However, you’ll find that these types of colors can be equally as stunning with yellow and orange-stained woods.
Here’s Imperial Gray in the same room, just at a different angle, shown with more orange-stained wood…
20. BENJAMIN MOORE COVENTRY GRAY HC 169
Coventry Gray is a stormy, subtle shade of gray with a whisper of green-blue undertones. This cool approach contrasts so nicely with warm-toned woods.
WHAT WOOD STAINS DO & DON’T LOOK GOOD WITH GRAYS LIKE COVENTRY GRAY?
While woods with a strong red undertone look okay with a color like Coventry Gray, it really hits its stride with orange-stained woods or those with a muted yellow.
Get your SAMPLIZE PEEL & STICK samples of Kylie M’s recommended colors from this post!
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WRITTEN IN 2020, UPDATED IN 2022 JUST FOR YOU!