Apr. 25 2024

How to choose your bathroom's wall color and wood stain: Top pairings for 2024

by Haley Carroll

In most bathrooms, square footage is sparse, making it ever more important for design elements to complement one another to bring cohesion to a small space.

Color is a key component in making a space feel harmonious. Two of the most significant sources of color in a bathroom are its walls and its wood elements. Selecting a wall color and wood stain that pair well together is a necessary step to a successful bathroom design.

Where can wood be found in the bathroom?

Wood and other natural textures are important to incorporate into your bathroom because it makes the space feel less sterile. Without organic elements, the room can feel cold, hard, or artificial.

You can incorporate wood into your bathroom with:

  • Vanity
  • Built-in cabinetry
  • Shelves
  • Cladding
  • Trim

Why is pairing wall color and wood stain difficult?

Choosing the tones for your bathroom’s walls and wood elements is a lot easier said than done, for a few reasons:

  • It’s difficult to change once the paint and stain are applied
  • It’s one of the most noticeable things about the room, making it a “make or break” element
  • You’re choosing from an entire spectrum of colors and hundreds of wood tones, making the decision hard to narrow down

Your pairing should coincide with your unique design style, whether that’s modern, traditional, transitional, or something else. If you need help determining your design style, you can take our quick quiz or browse a design style glossary.

Many people benefit from the help of an interior designer to navigate this process. An expert will help you understand your own design style and know exactly how to translate your unique preferences to a harmonious pairing that you’ll love. Remodeling with Innovative Home Renovations will give you access to an interior designer that will partner with you in every design decision.

How to choose your bathroom's wall color and wood stain

Choosing wood stain

Step 1: Select your bathroom’s wood stain

Why choose wood stain first?

Settling on the wood tones in your bathroom before tackling wall color will help set you up for success. There is less to choose from for this selection (though there are still many options), and people are typically drawn to a certain undertone in wood (warm or cool) and have distinct preferences for light or dark wood.

The wood’s shade and temperature that you select will help inform the color you choose to complement it.

Consider your home’s current design style

The goal is to tell a single story throughout all the rooms in your home; this means maintaining a level of consistency across the design of each room.

Do most rooms in your home lean toward a certain style: contemporary, traditional, farmhouse, or another? You’ll want to keep that thread going in your bathroom. However, if your bathroom is the first step into curating a new design style for your home, then get settled on what that new direction will be.

Design styles tend to use certain shades of wood over others. For example, Scandinavian, coastal, and mid-century styles often use lighter-toned woods. Traditional and craftsman styles both use darker-toned wood.

Most design styles will incorporate a range of wood tones and colors, however it’s still a good idea to take note of what colors already appear in your home to avoid creating dissonance among your spaces.

Think about maintenance

Depending on the level of wear you expect the wood to experience and your desired upkeep schedule, some shades may be more appropriate than others.

Lighter colored woods are better at hiding dust and dirt than darker tones, however darker woods are superior for concealing scuffs. To get the best of both worlds, a mid-toned wood will be your ideal solution.

Understand undertones

All shades of wood will have an undertone: a subtle coloring that ranges from warm (red/orange/yellow undertones) to cool (gray/blue/purple undertones). It is possible for the undertone of a wood to be neutral, meaning that it looks mainly beige.

The undertone of the wood will help you inform the paint color you choose later. Conventional design advice tells you to paint your walls a color that’s opposite to your wood’s undertone.

For example, a light-colored golden oak or a dark cherry wood both have warm undertones and should thus be paired with a cooler toned paint.

Account for space and lighting

Notice how much natural light the bathroom area receives. Lighter colored wood will help the space feel bright and look larger. Dark wood runs the risk of making the area feel like a dim cave; however in other cases dark wood will help a room feel cozy, refined, and mysterious.

Keep contrast in mind

When choosing the shade and undertones of your wood, the contrast you’ll be able to create with your selection should be a forefront consideration. People typically contrast the other furnishings in the rooms with wood objects.

We’ll dive deeper into creating contrast in the next step, paint color selection.

Pro Tip

Consider a painted wood vanity for your space. The upsides to a painted vanity over a natural wood finish includes more color options, it helps protect the wood underneath, and it’s a way to refresh an existing wood vanity without need to replace it.


See also: How To Choose Your Bathroom Countertop: Everything You Should Consider

Step 2: Pick your bathroom wall color

choose bathroom paint

Once you have your wood stain selected, it’s time to complement or contrast your choice with a wall paint. Review the options below to determine which color combination feels right for your space.

Maintain brightness with light-on-light

If making your space feel bright is your top priority, your best option will be to pair a light wall color with a light shade of wood.

Pro Tip

If you choose to paint your walls a shade of white, avoid selecting pure white – it’s too harsh, sterile, and unforgiving. Most of the time, you’ll want to steer clear of warm whites, unless you have a wood with cool undertones. At IHR, our go-to is Sherwin Williams Alabaster White.

Bring the drama through dark-on-dark

If you want your bathroom to make a bold statement and challenge what is “safe” in design, experiment with dark-on-dark color combinations – you may be surprised with how delightful you find them.

Create balance with both light and dark

The traditional way of bringing contrast to a room is to choose a wall color that’s lighter than your wood stain. However, pairing light wood with dark walls can create an unexpected and stunning effect.

Going with a medium wood? You’ve got options

If you’ve selected a wood with a shade in the middle of the road, you can experiment with many different wall colors. A good rule of thumb is to stick to colors in the neutral family, or colors that have neutral notes mixed in.

For example, greens and blues with a generous amount of gray or other neutral colors incorporated into the shade will pair beautifully with medium-toned woods.

The top wall color and wood stain combinations for bathrooms in 2024

The chart below lays out how popular wood stains and paint colors that pair beautifully with them.

Sherwin Williams’ color of the year “Upward” is featured on the list, as well as a lovely shade of peach, which was named Pantone’s color of the year for 2024. The chart also features an array of earth tones, which are extremely popular for 2024 and make for timeless color choices.

See also: How to Choose Colors for Your Bathroom Remodel & Avoid Palette ParalysisTop colors for Warm, light wood

Transform Your Bathroom with the Help of Experts

Get the most out of your remodel by designing and building with a team of experienced professionals that can ensure your bathroom will reach its full potential – from superior style to ultimate functionality. Contact a project manager today to learn how Innovative Home Renovations can turn your Seattle house into your forever home.

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