Expertly pair two different hardwoods by going with the natural contrast instead of fighting it – attempting a perfect match rarely ends in success. But by making the decision look purposeful, it becomes a unique design element instead of a lackluster hodgepodge of materials.
Choosing the Flooring
Be confident and bold, choosing a wood floor that's a near opposite of what you already have or snagging two new floors with complementary grain patterns and stains. Pair existing maple in a sleek ebony finish with the grain of white ash finished with a dusty medium-tone natural stain. The ash's grain pops against the more demure maple's, and although the ebony and natural finishes are very different, their shared cool tones allow them to coexist peacefully.
- Tigerwood and bamboo: Balance tigerwood's unforgettable swirls with a minimal-grain bamboo finished in a color that mimics the tigerwood's grain's hue, like a neutral medium to dark brown.
- Brazilian cherry and pine: The natural color variation in Brazilian cherry pairs well with whitewashed pine – just have the cherry finished with a cool-tone stain to avoid a Valentine's Day vibe.
- Coffee and maple: It's easiest to pair cool with cool and warm with warm, but it's not a hard-and-fast rule. Choose wood floors with minimal grain patterns and have one finished in a sultry coffee and the other in a sugary, warm maple.
Ask for samples of every floor you’re considering and bring them home to see how they look with the existing hardwood or in the proposed room. Check the combinations under natural light in the morning, afternoon and at dusk, as well at night under artificial lighting.
Picking a Direction
If a door separates the rooms, lay the flooring in either direction will work well. It gets tricky, however, if there is a door-less opening between two rooms, or you're working with a loft-style floor plan, then, it's best to keep the planks of both floors running in the same direction to create harmony to the eye. The only caveat is when steps or a sunken room comes into play. Because the space drops down or goes up, you can get away with running the floors in opposite directions.
Transitioning Between Rooms
Handle the space where one hardwood floor meets up with the other by considering these factors:
Cost: Wood T-molding covers the gap between floors, smoothing it out so the eye, and your feet, move easily from one to the next. Ideally, match it to one of the floors so you can avoid trying to work in a third wood.
Open floorplans: Use one floor to create a border around the other, blending the colors and styles of the two. If you're working with new hardwood and an existing floor, rip out some of the old flooring around the perimeter of the room to add the border. Another option: Lay both floors in a herringbone or chevron pattern; at the border, stagger the two woods so they mix for one to three rows. Account for the extra new flooring when placing your order.
Maximum impact: Toss another material in the mix and use a strip of mosaic or a border of stone tiles as a transition. Just make sure the tiles matches both floorings, like turquoise mosaic with cool-tone floors or taupe stone with warmer woods. Skip the grout around the tile's border; instead, use a tinted silicone caulk to allow for expansion.
Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.