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How to Choose ColourPrimary Bedroom

Ask Maria: What Colour will Work with my Wood Stained Furniture?

Tricia (my Senior Colour Designer) and I were reviewing eDesign projects the other day and she mentioned that clients are always quick to describe the wood stain colour of their dressers and end tables. (By the way, I oversee all of the eDesign, nothing goes out without my input and final approval, however the time consuming work is in organizing the presentation of all my colour specifications which is what Tricia does).

I laughed and replied that I vividly remember conversations from my paint store days, whenever someone would walk in looking for a paint colour for their bedroom, they always proceeded to carefully describe the colour of their wood stained dressers and end tables.

(White furniture, make sure you repeat white in your decorating ) Interior Design by Maria Killam


As I’ve said before, the master bedroom is the most highly neglected room in the house. First the living room gets decorated, then the kids rooms, the master bedroom is always the one where the homeowner is saying “In here, we have a blank slate, we can do whatever we want”.

This does not make any decorators job any easier.

Instead, without inspiration, we will spend the most time in this room while we analyze the merits of a greige, or a green grey, vs. blue grey, vs. violet grey, vs. taupe, (if you want a neutral) because you’re probably not considering beige inside this trend cycle.

If you want to paint your room green or blue for example, you could test 10 of them on the wall and still be waiting for your paint colour to propose, without a piece of art or a duvet cover to help you.

So first, if you have painted bedroom furniture (below), then that definitely should be taken into consideration. A COLOUR, not a wood stain in your furniture immediately becomes part of the colour scheme.

(Green grey four poster bed) Pinterest

But wood stained furniture? It’s pretty much in the realm of neutral with a few exceptions of really strong stain colours, for example.

Nina Farmer (stained wood end tables do not relate to the paint colour here)

The reason it’s hard to find a pretty bedroom in a magazine or online filled with wood stained furniture is because if you hire a designer to help you decorate your bedroom, they will often give you an upholstered headboard because it looks more luxurious.

Also a designer will not help you buy a 5 piece matching set because, well you can do that on your own. A matching set of furniture, just like a dining room set will not give you the designer look you are craving.

Once you choose your bedding, it’s easy to find a wall colour you’ll love:

Related post: How NOT To Choose Paint Colours (But Everybody Does It)

Serena & Lily

This bedding is true white, violet grey and blue, so you’d have three options for paint colour here with Behr Paints:

Notice there’s lots of white in this bedroom, that means it would be a candidate for considering an ‘art gallery white’, shade of true white.

Related post: 5 Reasons you CANNOT Paint your House Art Gallery White

Serena & Lily

This bedding is a blue grey, so it would work with BM Marilyn’s Dress.

West Elm

This bedding is taupe and violet grey and yellow so we also have two options:

West Elm


Pottery Barn 

Your options for this duvet (above) is a blue grey or a green which, if you click through you’ll see those are the primary colours in the fabric.

Pottery Barn

You can see that this duvet is yellow beige, orange beige, green grey and blue grey so that gives you 4 options from my system to paint this room. In comparison to the duvet, you can see that Pottery Barn used a upholstered headboard that is slightly pink beige.

Pottery Barn

BM OC-78 Parchment

Here’s how you know PEACH is coming back in! When you can find it in a duvet in a chain as big as the Pottery Barn!

However, the colour of your wood stain is much more secondary in importance to questions like:

What colour is your bedding?

Do you have some art that will provide inspiration for a colour scheme?

What colour is your existing carpet?

If you have painted furniture, match the furniture to a paint chip so that you have the right colour with you  when you go shopping for other fabrics or accessories for your bedroom. 

Okay raise your hand, who is guilty of wondering how much influence your wood stained furniture has on your wall colours.

It’s an easy mistake to make if you don’t know that you need to go shopping first.

Related posts:

The Case for Matchy Matchy Decorating

Do’s and Don’ts for Decorating an Empty Room

How to Work with Bedroom Carpet You Don’t Like

12 pins


  • what color is mahogany wood? that question has stopped me from sending in my color help request.

    • Maria Killam says:

      It’s in the orange/red family? But did you read my post? the colour of your furniture is secondary in importance to the fabrics, finishes going in the room. No one is looking at the stained wood furniture or floors and your wall colours to see if they relate. Otherwise, we would be painting the house orange? We are not doing that. Let me know if that clears it up. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Lucy says:

    Love, love, love all of your visuals and explanations. The inspiration pics are beautiful! Too often clients want to work backwards and before I realized that you need a starting place i.e. a rug, art, or bedding as you have pointed out, the room(s) really never came together right. So many will say that they are not interested in buying the said items but only want you to give them a wall cclor. Hard to get across to most clients. I would love to have them read this post before I even meet them! Excellent post as always!

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I remember a show that used to help you design a room using color. They laid out a color wheel & pulled out the colors that were fixed elements in the room. And they always brought up the color of the wood floors. From there you’d pick a color that brought out & enhanced or quieted the floor color.
    Maybe that’s where those types of concerns come from.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes I remember that show and it came out years after I worked at a paint store and was asked the same question about wood stained furniture over and over again. I think it’s a common misconception. Thanks for your comment! Maria

  • Christine says:

    WOW! That color wheel is ingenious!! I can’t wait to buy one!!

  • Alison says:

    Once again lovely examples Maria. What if you are like me though and own lots of linen and change the bed up seasonally, say at least four times a year probably more? Do you mean that all my bed linen should be the same colour? Mine isn’t as the colours used in winter are different to our baking hot summer. I love changing the room up and couldn’t imagine having the same bed covering on all year.

    • Mid America Mom says:

      We change at least 2 times a year and just picked up a new duvet cover to make that 3. So there are times that the wall color is not in the comforter. I make sure to have the colors repeated in the room somewhere like pillows, bric a brack, curtains, throw, the art. Yep I have been known to rotate all of these things!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Alison,
      Lots of people like to change up their bedding, so they would ask me for a neutral colour AND they would still stand at the colourizer after they picked up the colour chart from the paint store AFTER I had been to their house (and chosen a neutral for them) wondering if we had chosen the absolute perfect NEUTRAL. Why? Because it’s hard to get excited about any colour when it doesn’t relate to anything. That is what I’m trying to shed some light on here! Thanks for your comment, Maria

  • Nicola says:

    Gorgeous bedrooms and great advice.

    Wow – the new new and even more improved colour wheel looks awesome. Looking forward to it.

  • A-L says:

    Okay, two questions.

    When you show the Nina Farmer example from House Beautiful directly after the line, “But wood stained furniture? It’s pretty much in the realm of neutral with a few exceptions of really strong stain colours, for example,” does that indicate that this room is an example of a strong stain color that should have been taken into account when choosing paint colors? If not, can you think of an example where the wood color would boss the room around (perhaps a very orangy-oak)?

    Secondly, what about metal finishes (like a metal bed or table)? Do they influence color choices? Is it kind of like needing to choose cream vs. white, or clean vs. dirty, but not having more of an impact than that? Or does it not affect anything? Looking at these Wesley Allen metal finishes (, I would guess that Silver Bisque would be more with cooler tones or white-based colors while Brass Bisque would be with warm tones and cream-based colors and Pewter could maybe be a color that would be most flexible and read like a neutral. What are your thoughts?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes those metal finishes read like a paint colour for sure, so they are not neutral anymore and should be considered. I have a brown metal scrolly headboard in the guest room and my bedskirt is brown to relate to the headboard.

      I would have posted a photo of ‘bossy stained wood furniture’ but I could find nothing since a designer decorated room often has a combination of upholstered headboard with painted furniture along with the wood stained furniture to make the room look like a designer was there. All I’m saying is, if you focus on the art, carpet or bedding, you’ll notice your stained wood furniture is less bossy than you think. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Mid America Mom says:

    OH! The West Elm Green Beige Duvet and gray headboard (hopefully that is green gray). I like seeing that mixed together like hay with an overcast sky above ;0 Thank you for encouraging people to think about their painted pieces! We used to do a lot of custom work painting furniture to draw out a color in linen or upholstery or walls to the furniture (or a touch of it on a two or three colored piece).

  • Stacy says:

    Why do you have to match your bedding or other fabrics? Why not complement? Such as a blue bedspread with gray walls? Or a white bedspread with blue walls or pale creamy yellow walls? You can always bring colors in with throw pillows or art.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Stacy, I often get the same objection for the reason to buy a charcoal sofa. “So you can switch it up with the throw pillows”. The problem is an accent colour that gets ‘thrown in’ usually looks that way. You need a small, medium and large gradation of scale when you introduce an accent colour for the room to look well decorated in general.

      Could you pull off something different without using these ‘guidelines’. Sure if you have a creative flair and an eye for pulling a room together regardless. My advice is for the everyman, struggling to have a bedroom they are happy with on their own, without a designer to choose everything. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Roland says:

    Good evening Maria,

    I’ve always been fascinated with color. It has the ability to create a sense of tranquility, serenity, joy, excitement, passion etc. I found your website not too long ago, and I’ve been drawn to it ever since. I look forward to your emails. My son and I are Super storm Sandy 2012 survivors. My son is a US Navy veteran with a disability. i care for him. We live off Raritan Bay, and enjoy wonderful sunrises, that fill the house with light and shadows. I can’t afford a decorator, so I rely on others like your self for inspiration. There’s one problem though. I am a man’s man. I grew up with rugged men. Veterans, wiseguys, hunters, fishermen, sea men, car enthusiasts, bikers etc. Your designs and color schemes seem to be directed primarily for the soft and gentle sex kittens. I love the sea coast, and I am struggling to put something together with a classy man’s touch. Coastal colors, windswept seas and dunes, driftwood, sea shells and fishnets. A lot of faded, and sun bleached colors with a splash of boldness for contrast. Not all men’s men are bar room brawlers. Some of us have vivid imaginations. Once in awhile, do something for the guys. Sincere thanks

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, thanks for your comment. I talk about white or cream a lot for FIXED elements like tile and countertops for kitchens and bathrooms because if you inherited either of those, you would be less inclined to immediately rip it out. I understand that Men see white as a ‘women’s colour, it is a feminine colour for sure. I will think about how I can write a post like you are suggesting. Maria

  • lolla says:

    So regarding the Pottery Barn picture of the pink beige headboard with a duvet that has orange and yellow beige in it…I thought that PINK, yellow and orange beige should not be used together…especially when the two are so close together…what are your thoughts?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I agree, I wasn’t saying it worked together, I was simply pointed out the difference. No it doesn’t make any sense to choose a headboard colour that is not in the duvet, but they are selling the duvet so maybe they thought it was close enough. Maria

  • Holly says:

    Nice to see the pics with white furniture. I recently replaced two items in my living room, and I’m loving the lightness of my new white items. I never thought I would decorate with white but I’m just so done with dark heavy furnishings.

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