Are darker woods back on trend? Designers say this once-dated finish is in fact perfect for creating character

It's a natural progression from the return to warmth we're seeing in 2024, but are dark, warm wood really on trend? We ask the experts

dark wood tones in interior designers projects including a cozy living room, bathroom vanity and dark kitchen island stools
(Image credit: Heidi Callier Design / Photography Haris Kenjar / LH.Designs / Photography Lauren Taylor / The Misfit House)

Often, when considering trends for the coming year or months ahead, we find ourselves discussing the interior design styles that everyone needs to know about, the color schemes du jour, or the patterns and prints coming to the fore. Rarely do we stop and analyze a type and tone of wood as one of those moment-defining aesthetics.

But while light, white woods remain a popular interior design trend – especially if you're into Scandinavian decor or a more minimalist decor – medium, dark tones seem to be making an expected comeback. Think walnut, cherry, or mahogany finishes. Rich, deep, chocolatey wood tones imbued with an old-meets-new warmth, charm, and character are on the rise.

So we've turned to the experts. Asking a panel of interior designers, color experts, and brand founders alike to determine if dark woods are a major trend for 2024. And then we've corralled them into sharing how to use them in your own home for personality-packed decor, brimming with nostalgia. Let's see what they have to say.

Are Darker Woods On Trend In 2024?

navy blue living room with dark wood accent trims and cozy seating

(Image credit: Jamie Haller / Photography Lauren Moore)

The simple answer is: yes. The longer, more complicated answer is: well, it depends. But what we can resolutely determine is that we're moving toward warmer, more welcoming ways of decorating in 2024.  

'I think the return to darker woods has much to do with the popularity of beige and the general distancing from gray in which we seem to be collectively partaking,' observes interior designer Bethany Adams. 'Warm, dark woods look fabulous with warmer-toned neutrals so it makes perfect sense.' And if there are any color lessons to take away, it's to err on the side of warmth. 

'I love wood accents in darker warm hues to really give a room a cozy, yet sophisticated feel,' agrees designer Kathy Kuo. 'Darker woods with a warm quality to them like mahogany and oak lend themselves perfectly to aesthetics like rustic, the cottagecore trend, and dark academica, especially when paired with rich textures like cashmere, wool, velvet, and hair-on-hide,' she adds.

modern dining room with a large dark wood dining table and textured neutral rug

(Image credit: OKA)

Sue Jones, co-founder and creative director at OKA, says this isn't a trend reserved for those living in characterful, period homes. The richness and depth offered by warm wood tones create a cozy, inviting atmosphere in any style home.

'A lot of people often assume warmer, darker-toned woods are best suited to older, properties, thanks to their association with antiques, but they can work incredibly well in more contemporary homes too,' she advises. 'In fact, they make for a real design statement. If you’re looking for something that isn’t quite as dark as mahogany or walnut, but still want the rich warmth that those wood types bring, then look to oak that’s been finished in a darker stain.'

'With a resurgence of earth tones and pastels in modern design, a darker wood complements both trends easily, even tapping into the minimalist, monochromatic schemes,' agrees Kira Mclean, product manager at The Wood Veneer Hub. 'From a warm, coffee walnut, to a charcoal-like smoked oak, these deeper wood tones offer warmth and comfort, and, when paired with lighter, pastel tones, can act as a focal point within your space.'

But as every designer weighs in, one rule is becoming clearer and clearer – this is a style best suited to a color palette that sits on the warmer end of the spectrum. So how do you ensure the full-bodied tones you're leaning towards work well in your space? Here are 4 ways to introduce darker woods into your home.

4 Rules For Introducing Dark Wood Into Your Home

1. Try out richer tones in your kitchen

yellow kitchen by devol with light walls and a dark wood kitchen island

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

Emerging as one of the biggest kitchen cabinet trends for this year is, rather surprisingly, unpainted kitchen cabinet ideas. Cabinets once dominated by neutrals and bursts of color, are now being devoid of any paint whatsoever in favor of letting natural wood grains shine. 

Richard Davonport, managing director at Davonport Kitchens, says: 'We’re seeing natural wood return to the kitchen, with walnut topping the list. Its rich and dark aesthetic helps to give kitchens a warm and homely feel that is instantly inviting,' he observes. 'It also works across both modern and contemporary kitchens and can be styled as such.'

'The reason, we find, why wood cabinets are back in fashion is because color palettes are changing in kitchen design, shifting towards warmer colors, which luckily doesn’t have to be achieved by paint alone,' Richard continues. 'The rich, natural beauty of wood kitchen cabinets and wooden countertops brings a complexity and character to spaces that color alone struggles to achieve.'

Rich, espresso-stained cabinets, teak countertops, or deep mahogany islands can transform the kitchen into a luxurious space previously seen as solely a functional room. Not looking to take the full remodel plunge? Try a freestanding pantry idea (vintage is best) or breathe new life into old butcher block counters with a dark stain.

2. Ground a room with darker tones underfoot

dark home office study with dark wood floors, french doors and walls lined with mahogany book shelves with a comfy armchair

(Image credit: Susan Hayward)

Paired with the right furnishings, dark kitchen flooring ideas will create a sense of grounding and sophistication. They add an extra layer of warmth and a transitional, old-meets-new elegance that only deep hues can embody. 

'Whether as a larger design feature or in smaller decorative accents, dark wood offers a striking contrast to a more neutral palette within a home, adding comfort yet luxury to a space,' says Felix Milns, founder of HUX London. 'Using dark wood for flooring can create a cocooning effect, grounding an area in nature, and allowing the dark hues to provide a sense of warmth. Moreover, it is a timeless investment to the house, offering impact and glamour but also acting as a durable and hardwearing material to endure heavy footfall within a home,' Felix adds. 

To maintain the home's traditional style, when designer Susan Hayward approached the space seen above, she chose to echo the original wood flooring with custom walnut bookcases, wall panels, and traditional lighting to create the nostalgic and old-world feel that is distinct to this style. The result speaks to TikTok's viral shelf-styling trend: bookshelf wealth.

'Using dark wood more subtly throughout the house such as a mahogany side table, or walnut paneling can add weight and depth to a space by creating a layered and textured look, instantly drawing the eye further into the room' adds Felix.

3. Pair with warm, rich tones for an enveloping color palette

light blue painted bedroom with a pink bed, mustard velvet armchairs and dark wood bedroom furniture

(Image credit: Studio Duggan)

Of course, when incorporating dark wood into any space you're going to want to address the color palette. And while some shades of warm wood can look at home in a minimalist space, deep, saturated hues like burgundy, forest green, ochre, and navy blue will help to create a cocooning effect. It's all about creating a mood, not a moldboard. The rich tones evoke a sense of luxury and warmth, making the space feel curated and lived-in.

'People love the use of warmer wood tones because it brings in a sense of comfort, coziness, and a lived-in feeling,' observes Linda Hayslett of LH.Designs. 'It doesn't feel forced, and it doesn't feel heavy when paired with the right colors in a space.  Using darker woods paired with creams, merlot, and even mustard can make any room feel inviting, and relaxed yet casually luxe at the same time.'

Helen Moore, director of marketing at Benjamin Moore, agrees. 'Dark brown woods or accents paired with a rich burgundy will bring a rustic warmth to any room. This works particularly well in large, well-lit spaces where there is plenty of natural light,' she advises. 'Layer the look with natural materials such as ceramic clay vases and textured fabrics to soothe the senses and deliver softer surroundings.'

4. Select an accent piece or two

light green country kitchen with dark wood floor and dark wood bar stools in an otherwise light color room

(Image credit: The Misfit House)

Accent pieces are the perfect way to dip your toe into the trend, without committing to something bespoke or fitted. Whether it's a side table, a bookshelf, or a statement chair in a deep wood finish, it's all about adding something that works well with your existing decor without feeling jarring, but still providing some extra personality. 

A well-chosen dark wood accent against a neutral backdrop can be the defining touch that elevates the entire room. 

'If you’re looking to bring darker woods into your living room, I’d suggest picking one or two key pieces, such as a sideboard or coffee table; this way you can mix them in with your other pieces to bring a subtle touch of warmth, rather than overwhelming the room,' suggests OKA's Sue Jones. 'In the dining room, the table will look really smart in a dark oak, and if you’re bringing it into a more neutral room, you’ll find it becomes a wonderful focal point, bare or dressed.'

Rachel Galbraith, creative director of Ercol, agrees with taking a simple, subtle approach. 'To create a dedicated dining space in a corner of a room consider a darker finish that contrasts from the majority of the room,' she advises. 'A bold color will draw your eye to the area and give the space its own unique presence and prevent it from becoming lost or overlooked.'

'If you’re looking for a soft alternative to dark wood, try stained or lacquered rattan; the material’s tactile texture softens the effect of a darker hue and has the benefit of working in both traditional and contemporary settings,' Sue adds.

If sourcing some darker pieces to bring into your home is making you feel a little uneasy, remember that first of all, warm wood furniture and accent pieces have been around for centuries. Making it a 'trend' that will endure, and can be easily achieved with a quick vintage shopping search. 

Secondly and most importantly, the most modern and on-trend way to style these pieces is to let them sit in harmony with your existing decor, meaning they can be easily interchanged into any room of your home to bring extra character, not sit as an opposing lump in the corner. However you choose to work with dark wood in your home, do so with confidence.

Charlotte Olby
Style & Trends Editor

Charlotte is style and trends editor at Homes and Gardens, and has been with the team since Christmas 2023. Following a 5 year career in Fashion, she has worked at many women's glossy magazines including Grazia, Stylist, and Hello and most recently worked as Interiors Editor for British heritage department store Liberty. Her role at H&G fuses her love of style with her passion for interior design, and she is currently undergoing her second home renovation in Surrey - you can follow her journey over on @olbyhome