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Design Domino Effect – Wood Stain

Dominos are one of the classic childhood games, one that all generations know how to play. However, the Design Domino Effect I am referring to is no such fun game.


This phrase is used in the design/construction industry when referring to how one seemingly small decision can put into motion a forced sequence of other decisions that will need to be made in result of that first small decision or the entire plan comes crashing down.

One of the most common times I see the Design Domino Effect happen during the selection phase of a build is when choosing wood stain colors.


Example: It is time for you to choose your wood floors, stair railing, and stair treads + a stain color for each. Your builder specified red oak for the stair railings and treads but you are leaning towards an upgraded engineered pre-stained white oak flooring because you like the light-colored stained look. Since you know red oak will not stain the same light color that you want without looking to orange/red - are you stuck having to upgrade the stair railing and treads?

Not necessarily! Here are two possible options to avoid this Design Domino Effect from spiraling down forcing you to change all of your other wood decisions.


OPTION 1: Choose a Flooring with lot of variation! Having a high variation floor is the perfect solution when mixing other wood elements in your home that will be a different wood species where you know the stain will not match perfectly. The variation on the floors will showcase different hues of brown that will help tie it all together.


OPTION 2: Go with a Dark or Black Stain for your treads and risers. This contrast approach will take the guess work out of having to match the stains as you know it is an impossible task to match the stain colors when you’re dealing with different species of woods. The darker the stain, the less the red/orange color will appear on your red oak treads and railings. My favorite contract stain is doing a true black and the Carbon Black color by Minwax is my go-to for this! You could also just stain the treads a black stain and then upgrade your railings to a black iron.


Whether you are thinking about starting your next project or you are in the midst of choosing all of your selections for a project, just remember to think outside the box! The Design Domino Effect can be avoided most of the time if you do all the planning before your build to identify and address (with a professional designer or builder as needed) any possible dominos from crashing down.


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