Walnut Color: Why and How It’s Used in Contemporary Design

Although many beautiful woods exist, walnut is considered by many to be the finest wood in the world. Its rich brown to deep purple brown tones make a statement on whatever the walnut is used; in fact, very seldom is walnut wood stained because it is naturally so gorgeous. This doesn’t prevent other woods from being stained to achieve that same walnut color, however. In this article, we’ll take a look at a variety of walnut color pieces and what makes them special. Enjoy!

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Variations of Walnut Color Heartwood.

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The inner part of American Black Walnut wood, called the “heartwood,” can be anything from a rich brown to a deep purplish brown. (Similar to top right in this photo.) Other types of walnut heartwood can also be anywhere from a pale brown to a dark chocolate brown with even darker brown streaks in it, with reddish or grey tone. Walnut sapwood, which is the living, outer part of walnut trunk or branches, can be bright white to a creamy, almost yellowish, grey.

Walnut Color Accent Pieces.

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Black walnut is so popular among woodworkers around the globe, and particularly in the United States. This is probably due to its being a relatively “cooperative” wood to work with while offering a gorgeous wood hue in return. The best of both worlds, really.

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Walnut color stools and side tables make a huge impact for such a small piece of furniture. As a bonus, walnut wood itself has “good dimensional stability, shock resistance, and strength properties” (wood-database.com), making it an excellent choice for a detailed accent piece. Equally at home in a space with other lighter tinted pieces as in a darker, more somber traditional space, walnut color accent pieces are an aesthetic win.

Walnut Color Lighting Fixtures.

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Not only the rich, deep walnut color a striking contrast for lighting fixtures, but walnut itself has excellent machining characteristics: it turns, sands, and carves well (lewislp). This makes it a great option for high-end lighting fixtures. The resulting pendant, as you can see here, can hold its own beautifully in a traditional or contemporary space.

Walnut Color Chairs.

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The moderately open grain of walnut is one of its charming aspects; with just a clear finish or oiling, a beautiful satiny grain will be highlighted. However, other woods can be stained to match the walnut color even with variation on the grain. Walnut color makes an excellent choice for accent chairs, dining chairs, or office chairs, among others, even if actual walnut lumber isn’t used.

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Placing a contrasting element with walnut color, such as the ivory-white chair pad on a walnut color wood chair in this photo, adds a beautiful appeal that is both sophisticated and approachable. The two-tone look is chic in a variety of decorating styles.

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With such a gorgeous, rich look, it’s no wonder that walnut wood is commonly used for high-end furniture, carving, and flooring accents (as well as musical instruments and gun stocks). In addition, other woods are stained to try to achieve that same look for budget-friendlier options.

Walnut Color Tables.

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As we’ve discussed, walnut color is so versatile in interior design. Its depth and richness make it an excellent foundation or an eye-catching accent or anything in between. One interesting and beautiful way to incorporate walnut color into your interior is to pair its satiny richness with industrial pieces. The contrast of a combination like this is visually arresting and memorable.

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Walnut wood and walnut color (stained) lumber looks very chic on its own and also when combined with wood tones of a different tint, as is evident by this fantastic guitar-themed side table. The blonde wood helps to emphasize the mid-range natural luster of the primary walnut color. Walnut grain is generally straight, which also contrasts beautifully with the curved silhouette of this tabletop.

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Walnut lumber is so desirable to work with, and the heartwood has such gorgeous dark tones, that it’s often used as a veneer on furniture and paneling. This means that walnut is sliced thin (1/28th of an inch!) and then glued on top of less expensive woods. The practice allows more people to be able to afford the sophisticated look of walnut.

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This two-toned table is a contemporary focal point. The walnut color strip down the center extends past the length of the blonde strips flanking it. Incorporating a bit of two tone onto a dining table or office desk vastly increases the visual appeal and distinction, without sacrificing the clean lines and contemporary style.

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A roughwood or driftwood style table, particularly one that is cut thick and cut with the natural grain curvature on the sides, looks lustrous and textural in a walnut color. Personally, I love the organic flow of the wood table top and its contrast with more industrial polished chrome U legs.

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Of course, while walnut color table tops are the more common method of incorporating the wood type into a table, there are other creative design options as well. Consider this glass topped table with curvy walnut color base – the look is stunningly fluid, despite the hard materials used to create it. Opting for walnut, as a darker wood tone, on the base here makes it stand out beautifully.

Walnut Color Vanities & Credenzas.

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Walnut adds an eye-catching contrast to white, and when combined on a two-tone vanity, dresser, nightstand, credenza, or other larger piece, the cumulative effect is beautiful. Even with the patchwork of walnut colored wood strips on the drawer faces on this dresser, the whole piece maintains its modern appeal with clean lines, flat faces, and straightforward angles.

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Other pieces can get a little more detailed with their walnut color, though, and still work stunningly in a contemporary setting. This herringbone-style credenza is evidence of this claim, and the walnut colored front face plays largely into its success.”The warm brown [walnut] wood finishes beautifully. It is easy to work, yet durable. It shrinks and swells less than any other wood, which makes it valuable to cabinet makers” – ostermiller.

Walnut Color Doors & Walls.

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Walnut lumber is considered to be a premium domestic hardwood, which means that its price can be quite high. This is why walnut color veneer is so popular, and a common place to see this used is on doors and walls in the form of paneling. Of course, modern hardware on the rich walnut color door gives it a place in today’s interior design rather than looking heavier and a bit more traditional.

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Wall paneling in a walnut color is both rich and cozy; its darker hue wraps the space into a more intimate setting. With the inclusion of great lighting and/or ample natural light, walnut colored walls are becoming popular again.