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Ask Maria: Which Colours Don’t Work with Honey Oak Trim

By 02/09/2013February 20th, 201751 Comments


I get a lot of questions about which colours work with honey oak trim, so I thought it would be easier to just show which colours are not so fabulous.

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Since honey oak trim has an orange/yellow undertone, I would generally advise against using any shade of pink beige colour with it. In my system of understanding undertones, the same rule of not combining pink beige with yellow beige or orange beige because pink beige will simply look dirty against these undertones will apply with honey oak woodwork.

Pink beige walls

The other guideline to keep in mind is contrast. The same pale shade of yellow beige for example will show up a lot better with white trim than it will combined with wood stained trim, so make sure you hold your large painted colour sample right beside your trim to make sure you are happy with the level of contrast.

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Here’s a dining room with mahogany woodwork with pink beige walls, and orange/yellow wood floors. You can see that the pink beige isn’t wrong with the trim but would not work at all if the wood stains were reversed.

In most cases, wood floors are like jeans because by the time you decorate the room, the wall colour should be chosen to work with the carpet, drapery or upholstery, however you can NEVER ignore wood once it goes vertical in a room, on cabinets or trim/woodwork.

If you have honey oak trim, what colour are your walls?

If you have a question for an Ask Maria post, email me here.

Related posts:

The Most Timeless Laminate Flooring

How Important is the Colour of Wood vs. Wall Colour?

Which Hardwood Floor is the Most Timeless?

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  • Kitty says:

    I have honey oak floors, but all of my trim is crisp white and acts as a bit of a buffer. I have dark blue walls in my office and they look great with the orangey floors. For my neutral walls, I tend to go with creamy whites instead of beiges. In my daughter’s room, I have a great chartreuse. I am not a fan of honey oak, but with the right paint colors it can work.

  • StagerLinda says:

    I’ve been slowly painting out my wood trim. I still have honey oak trim in my family room. The wall color is BM’s Powell Bluff–a neutral back drop for the bright furniture and accessories in thee room.

  • In our former home with honey oak trim/doors/floors I used a lot of creamy whites and some very,very subtle yellows. It looked quite nice. I also ‘buffered’ the oak with a lot of white (sheers, accessories,etc.)

    In our area we are inundated with honey oak trim…and builder’s pure white walls! Very hard to work with as a decorator. I usually try to suggest painting the walls since it’s a lot easier/less expensive than redoing all the trim and doors.

    • Suzanne says:

      Connie…I have the exact same Honey oak wood all over..Trim/Doors/Cabinets/Floors (Main Level)..

      What Creams and Subtle yellows did you use? This is a Hard Call..Looking for an All Over color to paint entryway, halls, stairwell, etc. Kitchen is a French Blue (Looks Fabulous with this wood-an entire wall is this color wood cabinet)… The Dining Room is a Soft Gray/Blue Farrow & Ball Parma Gray – we painted the Trim White-Also Looks Fabulous..

      The Family Room is very Natural – Farrow & Ball Chappell Green..all wood is left..So Serene..

      We are STUCK on the all over Neutral.. This home has a wraparound porch with a tan/yellow siding..the previous owners painted the walls the same as the siding..a bit whiter

  • Dawn says:

    We just painted my parents entry way with Winterwood by Benjamin Moore- and it works VERY well with all the honey oak they have in there, and looks great with all of their antiques they have on display! (They were going to do Putnam Ivory, but it was doing NOTHING for their honey oak china hutch, and honey oak trim).

  • Di says:

    I’m SO glad you posted this topic. We have southern yellow pine in our near 100-yr-old Craftsman-style house. It would be a sin to paint this woodwork. Yet, with it’s orange/brown tones, I have questions regarding wall colors and don’t often find answers.

    Thanks for daring to be different. So often a decorator automatically says ‘paint the woodwork,” but sometimes it’s good to listen to the house rather than the popular trend.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Well if I moved into a house with dated honey oak trim and kitchen, I would paint it ASAP, but I that’s just me. In the meantime, there’s plenty of people who like it and need to know what colours work with it.

      • Lisa says:

        Respecting the 100 year old craftsman would help retain its value.

        • Alyssa says:

          Oh, I agree Lisa.
          The reason I am putting in a very competitive bid for a home (upwards of $899,000 – we’ll see!) is because the home has IMMACULATE original oak trim.

          It takes a deft hand to decorate this type of home in a way that is both respectful of the heritage yet contemporary (note: not modern) for current occupants.

          It is definitely not for beginners and requires careful planning really pulling out the correct tones of the wood.


  • Melissa says:

    When you all mention “creamy whites” do you have specific paint colors I could reference? all of my hardwood floors are honey oak…

    • Maria Killam says:

      All the yellow beige’s in my colour system would work with honey oak trim. Standish White, Powell Buff. . . Maria.

  • Elise says:

    How about yellow with oak trim. Also, how do you incorporate the oak trim with the gray trend?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I think as long as you don’t use screaming, clean yellows it works great. And in terms of the gray trend, I would stick to green grays instead of blue grays in general so that you don’t create a look that’s saying ‘New trend colour, dated oak trim’. Maria

  • Donna Frasca says:

    I guess the rule of thumb is to keep pinks with pinks and yellows with yellows. I had a Bungalow consult yesterday Maria and thought of you. They had the most beautiful home but 12×12 pinky beige kitchen floor tile! The granite was gold and the rest of the house was warm. Were your ears ringing? 🙂

  • When I have clients with honey oak furnishings or trim, I usually suggest a green or blue wall color. I think greens and blues make the wood look richer, rather than washed out.

    • barbiefish says:

      Agree. Our dining room is furnished with reproduction Stickley furniture in the Fayetteville oak finish, and we painted the walls BM Wythe Blue and its lighter neighboring shade, which are in the greenish-blue family. It looks great with the furniture; they complement each other.

      • Alyssa says:

        Wythe Blue is such a great colour, and works really really well with golden undertones. It is definitely on my short list of colours

  • carol jane says:

    Can a pure white paint be used with honey oak or a gray? I have thick crown molding in my family room thats supposed to be fruit wood, but I say its honey oak. The fireplace surround is the same color with a neutral marble,as a matter of fact, the window trim is the same. UGH! And you guessed it. Fruit wood floors. I have no idea what to paint my family room. I only like whites or light colors. Any tips from anyone would be very helpful.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I think oak is countrified so if you have a cottage style space then yes you could. If you have a traditional home with dated oak woodwork then I think painting all the walls white might look too modern in comparison. It would also make the trim stand out even more in addition to becoming a big focal point. You might have to start shopping for furniture to match (maybe).

  • Honey Oak is not my favorite, and I was kind of scared to try and find a color to go with it, until I saw a picture in magazine that showed it with pale, pale white with orange undertones, think Durango Dust. It looked great.

  • ellen Rush says:

    Hi Maria, I have heard you say many times about wood floors being like jeans but don’t remember you saying that once wood goes vertical you can not ignore it – so great to remember it this way, thanks!

  • ellen Rush says:

    oh, to answer the question, I think I would go with a greenish undertone – wood and green, can’t go wrong

  • Christine says:

    Just so I understand, I should choose a paint colour to coordinate with my honey oak cabinets and ignore my very bossy orangey-red stained wood floor? Leaning toward a gray/beige with green undertones a la Benjamin Moore Hazy Skies. Is that a mistake?

    • Maria Killam says:

      It’s a general rule of thumb that you can treat flooring like jeans but obviously if they need to be considered then you should do so. It sounds like you’re on the right track! Maria

  • Anonymous says:

    Love your latest blog. So, I have an oak filled house that I can’t change, and small boys. I am pondering a leather sofa, but am hesitant because it is brown and my carpet is gray and I don’t want to buy a couch that makes my house even more dated. But, it would probably look nice with the wood beams and is a definite plus with kids. I keep going back and forth on this and as a result have done nothing. Gray fabric couch, brown leather couch. Help!

  • Eliza says:

    I need to choose a new countertop, and wall paint for my kitchen with honey oak cabinets, which my husband refuses to paint. We are retired and know this house will be a teardown/major reno when we sell it, so do not want to make major changes. I just need to know the colour choices that will make this kitchen look the best it can IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES. Any advice from anyone is welcome. Thanks!

  • Joanne says:

    HELP !!! I have honey colored oak staircase and honey kitchen cabinets which I don’t like but they will have to stay as is but I want to put in new hardwood floors. The place is open concept so what color would work best since I don’t want to go with honey colored floors and would I go with the same look of grain in the wood

  • Krista says:

    I have a similar situation to Joanne (above). Open concept home, high ceilings, honey oak EVERYWHERE. On top of that, I have beige carpet and 25 year old ceramic, beige tile. We are either moving or renovating…but if one were to renovate…I’d love to know where to start.

  • Renee says:

    Maria, I have honey oak floor and cabinets with typhoon Bordeaux granite. Not a lot of natural light despite 3 windows. Frustrated- have read many recommendations, and spoke with staff at 3 paint stores. 24 paint samples later-still cannot decide. Please Help! granite has every color under sun except blue. black appliances

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Renee, Since you have a lot of colour options I would choose something that flows with the rest of your house. If you just want a neutral I would consider BM Collingwood. Hope this helps, Maria

  • Jennifer says:

    What would you suggest for honey oak cabinets and a travertine backsplash? The backsplash says go pinky-beige. And unfortunately, the cabinets cannot be painted.

  • Wendy says:

    Ugh…….I have medium oak wood (spice) on our trim and cabinets. I am in the process of updating our home but am struggling immensely. Having acquired assistance from a home decorator we decided to paint our home predominately with Benjamin Moore Hush AF-95 paint. Prior to this our house was painted in taupe and moss green paint. The new paint colour highlights the “orange” colour of our woodwork and the paint looks very yellow. Needless to say, it’s not the look or the feel we were going for. We’re not adverse to keeping the wood so do we re stain the woodwork a different colour? repaint the walls? or just paint the trim white?

  • I have honey oak trim and doors. Our living room is a warm gold/yellow (no way to describe it that makes it sound attractive, but it really is!), the kitchen/dining is a grey/blue, and the room in between is a mossy green. I’m actually wanting to bring in some “greige” type colors, and am struggling with which one! It’s definitely a tough trim color to work with.

  • Amanda says:

    Do you have suggestions for flooring? In our home we have the honey oak trim, base boards, cabinetry, and dining table. The dining room is carpeted and we want hardwood flooring. We live in the country and so I love the honey oak, but choosing where to begin with color and wood type is a bit crazy. We were looking at hickory mediums to add contrast to our honey oak home but I have also seen photos with the same honey stain on the flooring. Any guidance would be appreciated!!!

  • Rani says:

    I have a friend who has an old fashioned bottle green sofa with a bold print in burgundy and beige. Sofa is of good quality and she does not want to go in for a cheap one and would like to know how to go modern around it until she can afford new good quality sofa.
    She hopes to have honey oak floors installed soon. Any advice on what color walls and other accessories to lose the old fashioned look? She is working within a budget and I can make suggestions but I am no expert. I don’t want her to make the wrong choices and send good money down the drain.

    • Maria Killam says:

      There’s nothing contemporary about gold and burgandy and I would not recommend building a room around those colours. Go to IKEA, get an EKTORP sofa which everyone can afford and move on. Maria

  • Gloria says:

    Hi there!
    I love the suggestions i have read here regarding honey oak trim. I’m struggling with paint colors in my new home. The oak trim is everywhere – windows, floors, baseboards, doors, cabinets. We have an open concept floor plan – LvgRm/DinRm/Kit – windows galore (so lots of light) and dark cherry wood furniture and maroon colored sectional sofa; kitchen counter is brown granite. i was thinking deep paint colors to offset the honey oak trim, but don’t want it to clash with our dark furniture – but again, we have lots of windows/sunlight. Since I’m driving my husband crazy(!) any suggestions you could give might save my marriage!!! :0

    • deb says:

      What did you decide on? I am going through the same thing now and am getting confused with different color choice. Thinking BM Decatur buff or SW Camelback all over and dark brown or dark grayish brown in the kitchen.

    • Bev says:

      I have the honey oak everywhere as well and after MUCH stress and then reading everything I could on Maria’s blog I went with BM Shaker Beige. It works really well with the oak and my eclectic collection of wood furniture.

  • Christine says:

    Hi! I live in a very traditional home with the honey oak trim/cabinets/doors/floors that were honey oak and have now darkened somewhat with age. I haved painted most of my walls a medium blue/gray and those contrast with the oak is beautiful. I did go over all of my oak with Old English for dark wood and the oak wood now looks beautiful .with the paint. I am in the process of painting my living room Silver Dust by Behr paints and I am loving it. My house get some sunlight but would not be considered “bright” by any means. My husband will not agree to paint any oft he oak so I had to make it work. All of my upholstery is white”slipcovers” and works well with the oak and blues. I hope this helps.

    • suz says:

      Hi Christine… What medium blue/gray did you choose? If you don’t mind me asking.. We have been struggling for YEARS…Yes years. I now wonder if I should be looking into a Green/Gray, Blue/Gray or Blue/Green/Gray in the foyer, and stairwell, as opposed to the Gray or Beige tones. Tried yellows, etc… Looks Horrible against the wood…so much wood, but want to leave most of it

  • Lydia says:

    I am currently remodeling a 20 yr old home with honey oak cabinetry which has yellowed over the years. I can’t change the floors (light cream/greige tile) and my husband does not want to paint the cabinets. Existing walls were beige with green undertones. The color was ok/safe but never my favorite.

    I finally saw a oak kitchen that I really liked in a kitchen planning magazine from Home Depot and I used that for inspiration. It featured dark grey counters, med oak cabinets, white subway tile backsplash, and beautiful dark grey walls which thankfully it listed as Martha Stewart Mushroom. It was exactly the look I was going for.

    I ordered very dark grey quartz counters (color of ash) and painted the walls Martha Stewart Mushroom (grey with sage green undertones). The combo looks very current and really makes the oak cabinets pop. They look darker now for some reason without ever changing them. I actually love my cabinets again.

    I decided to go with a different backsplash. It is a pencil tile with sage green/honey gold/dark brown glass, dark grey slate, and cream travertine with which really ties the entire room together. My kitchen gets tons of natural light so the grey is not too dark. I think the white subway tile backsplash would probably add more light to a kitchen that doesn’t get as much natural light.

    Note: If the kitchen gets a lot of natural light, the wall color will change throughout the day from sage green to elephant grey.

  • Kimberly says:

    I have honey oak everything in my 90’s townhouse – trim, cabinets, interior doors. We can’t afford to replace it all so I picked a color I love, Straw by Benjamin Moore, a light, fresh creamy golden-tan yellow. It harmonizes with the woodwork and makes my house look bright and full of sunshine. My decor is mostly blues, I love blues and yellows together.

  • Kathleen says:

    Has anyone used Benjamine More Gray Owl on the walls with honey oak cabinets? I have trouble with undertones, so I’m not sure of Gray Owl undertone. I’m guessing it looks grey/green?

  • Carol Primeau says:

    In my last home I lived in for 34 years I had honey oak cabinets that I put in at the end of the trend. 1995. I had painted the walls a slight whisper of pink to match all the other pink and blue I have through out the house. I always hated my kitchen until we decided to repaint around 2000. As I was painted, I saw first hand what you are referring to in this post.
    The new color was Water Chestnut BM. I was then able to live with the cabinets for another 10 years without hating them. Thanks for putting words to what I was always feeling. BTW, when I built my new house, I put in white cabinets, thank to you Maria and I love them.

  • Miranda says:

    I want to paint our nursery with a very light pink, but half of the room I’m done in honey oak walls. Would Sherwin Williams Intimate White go okay, or will it clash like the pink beige?

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