With interiors trending toward a more relaxed and unfinished approach, natural wood is becoming a popular finish for furniture, as well as for exposed architectural features like skirting boards and beam-work. With such a great range of paint colours available it can be hard to know what to match the wood with for an eye-pleasing finish.
Different woods have different colours or tones, so first establish the colours inherent in the wood as this will affect the colours that will flatter it. For example, mahogany has a reddish, purple tone, while pine has an orange-yellow look to it. Although the wood may be natural, it might have a treatment on it, such as a wax or sealant, which might affect the colour.
If you put a piece of white paper beside the wood, it might help you decide on the colours within the wood.
The most important thing when choosing paint is to choose one with a high pigment content -- especially if you're going for a strong colour. If you can, take a piece of the wood along to your paint shop and get a few sample cans of colours that you think go well with the wood. Paint the samples onto artists' boards and prop them up in different places around the room to see how it looks in different light.
Complement or contrast?
You can choose to complement the wood or to contrast it. A neutral colour such as a dove grey, or off-white, will suit most types of wood, but if you're looking for something more dramatic, look to the colour of the wood for inspiration. Warm toned wood, like pine, mahogany and walnut, will suit warmer colours like coffee, mocha or cream, while cool toned wood such as oak, ash or elm will suit cooler tones like greenish-grey, pale blue and silver.
Identify the style you are trying to achieve. Neutral tones suit a more modern home, while bolder colours can look fabulous in period property. Take inspiration from objects that are already in the room. Perhaps a cushion or ornament that you love could give you an idea for wall colour. Or maybe there's a highlight colour in the curtains or upholstery that you can appropriate for the paint colour.