Wood Finishing Trends of 2021


The Takeaway:

  • Trends in 2021 are all over the place, but there’s a surge in light stains, dark rich stains, and washes
  • Natural wood is a timeless option for any Murphy bed or piece of furniture
  • Real wood changes colors as it ages, so be aware of colors shifting over time.

For 2021, experts are predicting that trends in wood stains will be…all over the map, actually! Funnily enough, most everything seems to be trending right now in the world of wood stains. How is this possible? Doesn’t the label of “trend” clearly indicate specific do’s and don’ts and a general, clear preference for most of the population? Why yes, yes it does. Or so it usually does. But the consensus is clear, stain popularity right now is broad in range and pretty nonspecific, with a few exceptions. 

Though counterintuitive, this idea of “everything is trending” is actually great news for home and furniture owners! Generally it means you can’t lose as most anything you pick is likely going to be hot and stylish right now and loved by many. You don’t have to worry too much about knowing what’s to die for and what’s a faux pas. And even better, it means you can trust your own taste. You can lean in to whatever you truly love and let your design gut lead without second thoughts and backwards glancing. Let this be a lesson for us in all areas of design and decor–YOUR taste is king. We should all try to let go of insecurities in our home and furniture choices, and with such a vast range of trends in wood stains right now, now is the perfect time to start practicing. Isn’t it exciting to have the whole, vast stain world be your oyster?

So what are all these stains that are so loved right now? And what, if any, rules and exceptions apply? Let’s start at the top. 

Light Woods

Light tones, natural and nearly natural wood colors, blondes–all of it is majorly in style right now. Many are choosing to stay light in their wood floors, wood furniture pieces, etc., because of how bright and airy it can make a space feel. When you’re dealing with a home with wood floors as far as the eye can see or a large piece of statement-making furniture, keeping it light is a solid choice! Light woods help a space feel larger while adding some visual texture. It helps things blend into the surrounding rather than bearing down on you. With the rise of coastal decor and Scandinavian details, light woods are at the top of many designers’ lists.

Dark woods

Dark rich nightstand
Image by LuxeDecor

…but even as I say light woods are hot, there’s a whole camp of people loving the other end of the spectrum simultaneously! Even within the same space, lights and darks are both having a moment. Part of this is due to the popularity of high-contrast spaces, and one great way to do this is to keep large, staple pieces dark, while layering in light items to create visual interest. Dark woods can contribute to these stark spaces beautifully, creating modern looks as well as adding an air of elegance and classicality. Many experts are even taking darks to the very most extreme by going as dark as possible with pure black stains. Dark items in interior design can be so grounding, and many recommend always including at least some amount of dark woods in a space to round it out.

Now within these two teams of darks and lights, what are the do’s and don’ts, if any? What are the trends within the trends? It’s no surprise that there is a lot of variety, but there are a few ground rules most are abiding by even still.

Keep it Cool

Whether you’re a dark or light wood lover, most everyone agrees that the undertones ought to be cool for now. No yellow or red tones for us, please! We’re on a break while we explore our cool side. While we’re pausing on the warm tones, exciting and unique trends are popping up as we mix cool tones into all the colors on the spectrum. The most prominent trend has got to be “greige,” or, a mix of gray and beige. It’s become so popular it’s likely that ‘greige’ has found a permanent home in the dictionary. Greige colors in wood occur when you play with mixing the browns and the grays, whether dark or light, and end up with a wonderfully unique cool while still comforting new hue. Greige is a great base for an interior as it pairs so well with both warm and cool decor. Try using it in your large, centerpiece items and then build up from there.

If you’re not yet ready to jump into such a color experiment in your home, gray tones in and of themselves have been building steam in the design world for years and are still a top choice. Gray is probably not going anywhere anytime soon so “graywashing” may be the option for you if you’re wanting to keep your home palette as cool as can be.


Not about to come in second place to the grays and greiges is the light, bright, and wonderful whitewash. Whitewash is a translucent stain option that lightens up a wood without turning it opaque. Whitewash often targets the grain specifically and highlights its natural beauty. When it comes to the warmth meter, whitewash plays it very neutral, being neither warm nor cool. In fact, it’s often the perfect choice if you’re looking to mute or turn down the undertones in your wood altogether. But unlike the gray end of the spectrum, whitewashing your wood creates some warmth indirectly through the brightness it adds. This is a great course of action if you’re looking to build a happy, comforting space without veering into the reds and yellows. Gray can sometimes lead to a gloomier vibe in a home, so if you’re looking to stay cool yet bright, whitewash, like with Wilding Wallbeds’ Grade 2 Whitewash stain is the choice for you!

When it comes to choosing the finish for the wood pieces in your house, you may want to follow current trends like those listed above, but you may also be wary of how fleeting such popularity can be. Especially if you’re choosing the look of a piece you plan to have for years, aiming for something timeless may work better for you.

Timeless Natural Wood

When it comes to timelessness, the look of natural wood is it. Real wood with just a top protective coat is always going to be in style no matter the decade, because wood will always be a part of homes and design. It will always be a staple in interiors, so just the simple look of wood in its natural state is going to stay popular. Thus, if you’re torn between light and dark, graywashing and white washing, maybe settle on just letting the natural tones and hues of your wood be the stars! That is a no-lose option.

Classic and Safe: Rich Medium Brown

Another choice that transcends trends is a medium dark, rich brown. As you can see in the Murphy bed below, rich wood, highlighted with a semi-warm brown stain will always be in vogue and always match well with any other styles that are current. Think of it like a natural finish with just a hint of depth to compliment the wood’s inherent beauty. Wilding Wallbeds achieves this look with their English Manor finish, a stain choice that is consistently ranked as the customer’s top choice.

One last consideration: Aging

If you’re new to the wood realm, you may not be aware that wood ages in ways that can slowly but surely alter any color you choose. This is definitely something to be aware of as you make your stain choices, especially for those large investment pieces you plan to keep for life. Here are a few things to know:

-Oak, alder, and maple yellow with time. So if you’re dead set on avoiding yellow tones, you may want to steer clear, or start out with an even cooler finish than you originally wanted.

-Walnut lightens and goldens. Again, know that whatever you choose may end up more warm than you intended, as well as more light.

-Cherry caramelizes. Over time it will develop a rich brown overtone similar to the color of caramelized sugar.

-Mahogany lightens and neutralizes. As it ages, mahogany will lighten up and lose some of its richness and depth.

Whatever you choose, timeless or trendy, take time and great thought as you make the stain choices for your home. Consider how it complements your current decor, as well as how versatile it may be for the future. Think of how it may change as it ages and how any undertones may contribute to the feeling in your home. But most importantly, contemplate what you LOVE! As previously stated, wood is a staple and cornerstone to any interior design, so getting it right–right for the era or just right for you–is crucial. Happy staining!