Is Dark Wood Back In Style? The Great Mahogany Comeback.

Hallway with arched windows and a large urn with cow parsnip in it.
I’ve always loved dark wood furniture and fittings. Is it time to make them popular again?

Is it time dark wood made a return? I’m on a mission to make it the next big thing and save thousands of beautiful pre-loved furniture pieces from the tester pot crew! Now, before I get loads of complaints from highly competent furniture restorers and decorators, I do love painted furniture. Indeed, I’ve bought quite a lot of it recently. Certain pieces are ripe for a makeover and when they are done properly they can look amazing.

The armoire we bought from @louisagraceinteriors is the perfect example. However, there’s a terrible trend on Instagram at the moment to literally paint everything, particularly if it is dark wood. Out comes the primer and the tester pots and before you know it, what was a stunning piece of natural walnut or mahogany furniture is now covered in rainbows and scallop shells!

My Love Of Dark Wood Furniture

I’ve always been a lover of the darker side of wood (no sauciness please!). For my first attempt at room design when I was 14, I sanded and varnished my bedroom floorboards in a very dark oak colour. I complimented it with deep claret skirtings, almost Brinjal, still one of my favourite Farrow and Ball colours and, of course, means Aubergine. Btw – do you know why the Americans call it eggplant? It’s named after the white cultivars, which look surprisingly like a white egg. Who knew?

Anyhoo, I digress. Dark wood can be so beautiful and often brings a rich soulfulness to a room, a sense of belonging and history. The patina and lustre of teak, walnut, mahogany and English oak can totally transform a space and bring depth and warmth to an otherwise monotone design.

Everything Comes back In Style – Look At The Mullet! Ok, Bad Example.

For the younger folk reading this, I remember a time in the ‘90s when it was high fashion to strip every last flake of paint off all furniture. It was during the big resurgence of stripped pine flooring. If it was painted it had to go! Unbelievable now really, but everything goes in circles. So, one day we will all be stripping those murals and abstract painted shapes off of our furniture to restore its natural beauty. Mark my words!

Our Latest Home

When we bought our latest home one of the first things that struck me was the original Victorian Gothic front door. It’s a rich, deep mahogany and I love it! However, and I’m ashamed to say this, my first thought was to paint it! I don’t know why, maybe mahogany has been out of fashion for so long that it was just an instinctive reaction to it, even though I secretly loved it. I was quite concerned at the reaction it was going to get on it’s debut on Insta. But, I could not have been more wrong and was completely blown away by the love it received. Exactly the same thing happened with the mahogany staircase. It’s a very dark mahogany, not the russet tones that became so unpopular.

So, when I came to decorate the walls of our entrance hall recently, it was imperative that I choose the right colour to bring out the warmth and depth of the wood grain. I decided on Old White from Farrow and Ball in Estate Emusion. It’s my most favourite neutral colour and pretty much works with everything. It’s one of those magic colours that somehow manages to bring everything in the room to life. The result is a welcoming space that literally gives you a hug as you enter it.

So, I won’t be painting the front door or the stair bannister anytime soon. I can’t bear the thought of me going down in the history of our house as the one who ruined the staircase. The thought of some poor person spending weeks stripping back my painting efforts, cursing me as they go, fills me with horror. Instead, I’m going to love my dark wood. I’m going to celebrate it and shout it from the rooftops. I’m also going to do my utmost to get everyone else to love it too!

JP Clark signature

Why not read: How to Renovate and Stay Under the Ceiling Price.


  1. Mary Katherine
    October 10, 2021 / 1:11 pm

    Great post as usual, JP! I now understand your choice of light fixture in the foyer as well. Still shuddering over the thought of someone painting that marble mantle piece! Looking forward to more pumpkin love. Keep up the great work, friend!

    • JP Clark
      October 14, 2021 / 10:01 am

      Thank you Mary Katherine. Xx

  2. Chriss Lewis
    October 10, 2021 / 3:49 pm

    Nice blog about trends in furniture finishes JP. A beautiful wood piece is always desirable in its natural glory. 😘🥰😍 Alway interesting and enjoyable to read your blogs. Can’t wait for the next one!!!!

    • JP Clark
      October 14, 2021 / 10:00 am

      Thank you Chriss, you’re the best. X

  3. Julia
    October 10, 2021 / 4:44 pm

    Could not agree more, J.P. Here’s a question from a genuine place of curiosity: what’s with the sticky tackiness that develops in the finish of older, darker pieces over time? That’s the problem that consistently has me scratching my head. Is there a way to cut through the tackiness without hurting the piece? Or is it just something you have to learn to tolerate?

    • JP Clark
      October 14, 2021 / 10:00 am

      Do you know I’ve often wondered that too and don’t know the answer!

  4. Susie
    October 11, 2021 / 2:13 pm

    I’m with you, some pieces just need to live as they are. Their patina, their personality is just perfect as is.
    The V. Dream is coming along swimmingly, I do not know where you get your energy, it’s amazing.
    Best to you!

    • JP Clark
      October 14, 2021 / 9:58 am

      Thank you Susie. Xxx

  5. October 11, 2021 / 2:47 pm

    Though I’ve been a part of the tester pot crew (how you hilariously put it!), I do appreciate the beauty in some antiques dark wood pieces, (like those in your fab new home!) I have also wondered for a few years now if and when dark wood furniture would come back in trend, and I think you right, now would be a very good time!

    • JP Clark
      October 14, 2021 / 9:57 am

      Didn’t mean to any way offend, I know you took it in the spirit it was intended though. Let’s hope dark wood makes a big comeback soon.

  6. Erin
    October 11, 2021 / 8:09 pm

    What about kitchen cabinets? I have walnut cabinets that are medium to dark in finish and have been reluctant to paint them because the grain of the wood is so beautiful. I just know when I bite the bullet, wood cabinets will be the trend again.

    • JP Clark
      October 14, 2021 / 9:56 am

      Oh I think kitchen cabinets are fine, go ahead!

  7. Judith Peacock (another JP)
    October 16, 2021 / 1:19 pm

    I love natural wood. Only have a few painted pieces. The woman we bought our vestibule shoe cupboard from was a bit put out when I didn’t want it “restored”. One of my favourites is our walnut grand piano which is a bit out of tune under the bonnet but is a real thing of beauty.

    Well done JP on shouting out your support of furniture of all hues

    • JP Clark
      October 29, 2021 / 1:28 pm

      Oh that piano sounds stunning!

  8. Joanne Simmons Pattillo
    October 24, 2021 / 10:54 am

    Love this and love your blog!

    My grandmother lived in a big Victorian house in Aberdeen and everything was polished dark wood and stained glass – it was beautiful and even the old, chiming grandfather clock in the hall was dark polished wood – very ‘homely’ grandeur of eras long gone. Why cover beautifully crafted wood with paint? I completely agree that dark wood should be left in all its natural, dark beauty.

    Thank you for your entertaining and inspiring blog.

    • JP Clark
      October 29, 2021 / 1:26 pm

      How interesting! Thank you for taking the time to read it. X

  9. Fiona Barber
    January 9, 2022 / 10:30 am

    Hi there
    Where have you been?? At last I find someone who loves dark wood furniture as much as I do! I am very lucky in that o have inherited many family antique pieces from the victorian, georgian and even Elizabethan (the first not second!!!) periods. I love combining them with a more contemporary pieces although that’s now a challenge as we moved to a grade 2 listed medieval house in 2017 – now that’s a balancing act! Really enjoyed reading your blog – particularly the blue and white !

    • JP Clark
      January 9, 2022 / 4:07 pm

      Oh wow! It sounds like you have some wonderful pieces! Thank you so much for your kind words and thanks for reading my blog.

  10. Bree
    August 9, 2023 / 3:54 am

    The walls in the foyer, what color is it!? I love it and would love to pair it with my dark wood furniture. Thank you!

    • JP Clark
      August 19, 2023 / 10:51 am

      Hi. It’s OLD WHITE by fARROW AND bALL.

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