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Photo Courtesy of @studioshamshiri IG

Designer’s Guide to Styling Walnut Color Interiors

Forget your traditional notions of wood beauty; walnut color is front and center in modern design.
Roxanne Robinson Dec 27, 2021
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It's hardly a coincidence that the popular 1970s tv show Little House on the Prairie depicts Americana, as chronicled by Laura Ingalls Wilder, as taking place in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. To be specific, the pioneer-founded state boasts a superior form of the Black Walnut tree popular in classic furniture and interior woodwork. Moreover, it was also the cornerstone material of early American lifestyle design, especially for simple Pennsylvania Dutch and Prairie furniture. Correspondingly, in 2020 the Little House on the Prairie tv show has made a globally syndicated comeback complete with a reboot in the plan, and, so has walnut color that formed the backdrop of many of its vignettes. Ideally, in natural form, or however simulated as a finish, the robust and versatile wood returns to the forefront of interior design.

Different Types of Walnut Wood Color

As aforementioned, one popular type of American walnut is Black Walnut. While the nuts a black walnut tree bears aren’t as preferred as its English counterpart, the wood this tree creates is sublime. Similarly, the English walnut tree is known for its constitution in materializing fine furniture, cabinetry, and architectural millwork. (It’s also known to make a guitar or two thanks to its veneer qualities; ditto for automobile and aircraft interiors.) Beyond these two most commonly used walnut types, other versions include: Claro, White, Bastogne, and Peruvian.

In terms of appearance, to be specific, one thing to consider is whether the walnut wood is kiln-dried, which is a controlled commercial drying process, or, air-dried. The latter is achieved with the proper set-up and monitoring of the wood. Following is a simple breakdown of each type of walnut lumber's characteristics according to Home Stratosphere.com.

1. English Walnut:

Indeed, the most common walnut tree for eating its nuts, this wood color ranges from pale brown to chocolate brown and can have hints of purple, grey, or reddish undertones. In contrast, its sapwood (or outer layer) is nearly white. Indeed regarded as one, if not the, most expensive walnut boards, it is particularly susceptible to insect damage.

2. Black Walnut:

Similarly gorgeous in color, Black Walnut wood compares to its English counterpart in color. It also ranges in tone between pale yellow and dark chocolate brown. However, its sapwood tends to be more pale grey-yellow than white.

3. Claro Walnut:

While most closely related to Black Walnut, the Claro Walnut trees' color ranges from light brown to darker chocolate brown shade. These West Coast trees also are known for being grafted with their English counterpart to create a marbled-effect variety.

4. White Walnut:

Also referred to as Butternut, this is a lighter walnut wood than its cousins, skewing light to medium tan with a touch of a reddish hue. In general, it's more affordable and readily available. However, despite it tending to be more susceptible to insects, it produces delicious nuts.

5. Bastogne Walnut:

A human-made cross-pollination between Claro and English trees created a new breed of walnut wood. Coincidentally bearing the same name of the Belgium region of Bastogne, this wood grows faster and more robust. However, it scores low on the taste of its nuts. Definitively speaking, its heartwood ranges in color from light golden to reddish-brown. By and large, it tends to bear nearly black streaks throughout its texture.

6. Peruvian Walnut:

Another tree with a misnomer, Peruvian Walnut does not come from Peru but from Central and South America. On the whole, it is usually the darkest of the Juglans (Walnuts species name) woods. Therefore it appears in a deep chocolate color, often with a slight purple tint. It's also pricier than most domestic types of wood but generally still affordable for an import.

The Art of Walnut Color Flooring

Indeed, one of the most popular ways designers are employing this popular wood is via flooring. Most certainly, walnut wood is considered exotic. Additionally, walnut boards tend to be highly coveted for their dark, rich tones and unusual grain patterns. While extremely sustainable, this wood is not as durable as most fruitwoods are not as strong as its oak and pine counterpart. However, because it's a natural dark color that doesn't need staining in most cases, any small dents or imperfections are less prominently noticed. It's also key to mention walnut wood is considered sustainable.

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Its rich color and patterns make this wood highly sought-after and among one of the most valuable wood floors on the design market. The sleek, uniform appearance of high-grade walnut wood instantly elevates a space to luxury standing, especially when paired with wide planks. Additionally, when rendered in wide board form, these planks conjure a modern appearance. Moreover, walnut flooring can have heaters installed underneath the planks for an added sense of interior comfort thanks to their stability and moisture-content.

Where Walnut Color Works Best?

All rooms in a house can have walnut floors, from living rooms to bathrooms. Likewise, walnut furniture and cabinetry are possible to impose throughout a house. While it may rustle up a more traditional notion, on the contrary, walnut accents in the home, or in commercial spaces, can read extremely modern. In any case, though the areas in which it's used haven't changed significantly, today's current interpretation of walnut colored wood has evolved beyond its traditional Americana roots. Accordingly, NestCasa demonstrates how walnut wood and finishes can make any room feel freshly contemporary and modern.

1. Living Room

Of course, the living room is a perfect place for walnut flooring. For instance, a room with a high ceiling can impart added drama using narrow walnut boards. But flooring is just the beginning. Dark walnut wood, in particular, can be the highlight of a room in the form of a statement piece such as a credenza. To demonstrate, Designer Laura Fulmine created this living room in a London apartment featured in ElledecorationUK.com. The designer plucked a dark walnut lookalike sidebar from Fiona McDonald London that anchors the room which is otherwise ripe with pale neutrals, save for the wood piece and olive green couch.

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Photo Courtesy of @laura_fulmine IG

2. Dining Room

The Dining Room practically begs for an impressive dark walnut wood display, without a doubt. Definitely, the table centerpiece allows for a large swath of walnut furniture to anchor the room. Designed by the late Polish-born Brazilian designer Jorge Zalszupin, surprisingly, this Brazilian Jacaranda wood table mimics a walnut wood texture and finish. Interior designer Nathan Litera uses this ‘conference room’ table to great success in this stark cream room within a 300-year-old Belgium chateau.

3. Kitchen

As tempting as it may be while a kitchen can support walnut wood-grain cabinetry, to point out, it’s generally not the place for walnut flooring. Ultimately, it’s not suitable for heavy use areas. Nonetheless, it is an excellent place for dark walnut accents. For instance, mustard yellow cabinets, pale tiled walls, and blonde wood flooring in this Greenwich Village, NY townhouse contrasts brilliantly with black walnut wood countertops, kitchen peninsula and a table as well as walnut wood stools and shelving.

4. Bedroom

Ideally, walnut works best in a bedroom when articulated through a bed frame, definitely the room’s centerpiece. This loft-style bedroom created by Rum Interior Design raises austerity to a luxe level. Stark white wall and rattan flooring highlight the rich bed, bench, and stool wood color that gives this room richness.

5. Bath

Suggesting walnut wood in a bathroom can sound like an oxymoron. But walnut wood color laminates and often walnut itself can be quite chic in a bathroom- and unexpected. For instance, this concrete bathroom at a secular retreat in Devon, England, designed by Swiss Architect Peter Zumthor features a Japanese-inspired walnut bathtub.

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Photo Courtesy of @_roomonfire IG

Editors' Picks

1. 1stDIBS Staved Walnut Block Ovoid Lamp


Staved Walnut Block Ovoid Lamp
$1,200.00 BUY NOW

In a Nutshell - Made from staved block rich brown walnut gives this lamp an oval shape recalling a peanut.

2. Rose Uniacke Solid Walnut Side Table


Solid Walnut Side Table
$3,016.65 BUY NOW

Shape Story - Another striking piece from Rose Uniacke in this side table in pure form.

3. Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler Walnut Two-Tier Bedside Table


Walnut Two-Tier Bedside Table
$8,338.70 BUY NOW

Walnut Curio - A unique and practical design for this bedside table from Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler stashes books, personal items and keepsakes close by.

4. West Elm Baltimore Dining Chair


Baltimore Dining Chair, Walnut, Stone, Twill
$259.00 BUY NOW

Simple Pleasure - This pair of Balitmore dining chairs in walnut  with twill cushion exemplify the impact of design precision. 

5. Soho Home Burnsall Dining Table


Burnsall Dining Table, Walnut Base
$1,795.00 BUY NOW

Tee Top - Mimicking a tree trunk, this Burnsall dining table is top with marble results in a stunning combination of materials.

6. Rose Uniacke Large Walnut Coffee Table


Large Walnut Coffee Table
$8,093.44 BUY NOW

Simple Form - Rose Uniacke's modest design coffee table leaves the focus on the beauty of the walnut wood grain.

7. 1stDIBS Platform Bed with Walnut Headboard George Nakashima


Platform Bed with Walnut Headboard George Nakashima
$25,000.00 BUY NOW

Fit for a King or Queen - This walnut platform bed created by George Nakashima studio circa 1960s can accommodate a variety of mattresses, depending on degree of bed edge to reveal.


Roxanne Robinson
Roxanne Robinson is an award-winning Paris-based American journalist covering luxury and fashion industries with over 25 years of experience. I spent over 18 years at WWD, covering sportswear, accessories and fine jewelry. My career witnessed the shift from print media to the digital age. I gained expert knowledge of the design world, wholesale and retail markets as well as the marketing that supports them. I met endless creatives and business people who create luxury from inception to POS with the consumer. My work has appeared in Forbes.com, BoF, The Hollywood Reporter, CRFashionbook.com, The Jewelry Journal as well in-house publications and websites at Bally, Pomellato, Au Depart and Editorialist.com among others.
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