Black Wood Finishes – Sophisticated Decor Inside and Out

There’s much more to décor than plain white. How about its diametric and dramatic opposite, black? It’s a simple way to achieve stunning, contemporary and highly unusual effects and it’s bang on trend. The shabby chic look can be dark as well as light, and the effects can be absolutely breathtaking.

As with any wood finishing project, it’s essential to do a small test patch first to make sure you’ll get the effect you’ve decided upon. Luckily many of the products we stock are available in small sample sizes, which makes it easy to test-drive different variations and get the very best result.

Do you need to seal black wood stain?

In a word, yes. Water-based wood stains are simply pigments. So you need to seal the finished article with a wood wax, wood oil or wood varnish.

  • If you’ve stained furniture, doors, picture frames or even a black shabby chic mirror frame, you can use a clear wax to seal it.
  • If you’ve stained an object that needs a more durable finish than wax because it gets heavier wear, a varnish like Manns Extra Tough Interior Varnish or Manns Extra Tough Floor Varnish is perfect.

It’s worth bearing in mind that while wax polishes are very good at maintaining the colour of the black stain, varnishes and oils tend to take the edge off the colour so it ends up looking more like rich, exotic ebony.

An alternative to varnish on floors, table tops and other interior wooden surfaces is a hard wax oil like Osmo Polyx Oil or Fiddes Hard Wax Oil. Both are impressively durable, easy to maintain and perfect for areas that demand a high level of protection against wear and tear.

Interior Black Wood Oils – A Host of Fabulous Black Wood Effects

Wood oils offer a good all-round solution. They’re easy to use, durable, easy to repair and with the right combination of products can produce a varied range of extremely attractive black wood effects. Black wood oils are available for both interior and exterior wood and are usually semi-translucent, which means you can see the lovely grain through the colour, a finish that delivers depth, personality and plenty of visual interest.

For use on interior furniture, picture frames, doors and other surfaces that don’t suffer much wear and tear, we recommend:

Wood oils are designed to be applied thinly and worked into the surface grain of the wood, so 90% percent of the product sinks in and just 10% or so remains on the surface. As we mentioned when talking about white wood finishes in a previous post, it helps to treat it like sun cream – apply a small amount at a time and work it in until it disappears. If you apply too much, too quickly, you risk ending up with a streaky, uneven finish, obvious brush strokes and a finish that takes forever to dry. So chill… take it slow and easy.

Osmo’s advice is to finish coloured oils with a coat of clear oil, for a very good reason. When a floor becomes marked, the clear finish gets marked first, rather than the colour itself. Which means scratches, scuffs and other marks are less noticeable.

While wood oils are easy to maintain and repair, applying two coats of black wood oil is still a good idea, especially if you want to create a particularly deep, strong shade.

Interior Varnish – Black transforms kitchen cupboards, furniture and more

If you’re looking to transform your kitchen cupboards, furniture and picture frames and create a stunning opaque black finish, you can use black coloured varnish instead of an oil or stain. Manns Classic Interior Paint is a varnish based interior paint that dries to a soft sheen finish. If more of a satin or gloss sheen is required, it can be over-coated with either a Manns satin or gloss clear varnish, it can also be taken down to a matt finish by over-coating with Manns clear matt varnish. Being water-based they are low odour and easy to apply with a brush or microfibre roller.

Exterior black wood finishes – Beauty plus durability

The fantastic thing about black is that it provides brilliant contrast and considerable drama. Imagine a deep, rich black garden shed in contrast with the vibrant greens of the vegetation and the vivid shades of the flowers. Wow!

For exterior wooden surfaces like external doors, cladding, window frames and other types of exterior wood, Osmo Natural Oil Wood Stain provides a luscious translucent brown / black finish. If you prefer an opaque finish, there’s Osmo Country Colour in Charcoal (2703) or perhaps Anthracite Grey (2716).

Fancy opaque black decking? What about black exterior wooden beams, barns, stables, fences and wooden garage doors? We recommend one or two coats of Ronseal Shed and Fence Preserver, which will help protect the wood from biological threats like mould, fungi, dry rot, woodworm and other wood related diseases as well as providing a great, solid black base coat. Once it’s dry you can even over-coat it with either Osmo Decking Oil (Black 020) for decked areas or one of the other Osmo exterior wood oils for doors and exterior joinery. You can also use Ronseal Shed and Fence Preserver on its own, which is more cost effective but less durable.

What about black shabby chic furniture?

Shabby chic décor also works beautifully with dark colours… and it looks fantastic. Imagine black chairs, a black table, black mirror frames and so on. The shabby chic look isn’t about achieving perfection. Quite the opposite – that’s where the ‘shabby’ bit comes in. So it’s perfect if you’re not quite 100% confident in your DIY abilities, a style where imperfections are a must – much more desirable than a seamless, perfect finish. For details about how to get the effect, see our special blog post on White Wood Finishes.

Black versus white – Which décor effect to choose?

How do you decide which shabby chic finish to go for? Here are three helpful hints:

  1. White brings items forward so they stand out more, black sends them backwards so they stand out less.
  2. Colours can look washed out against white, but they glow much more dramatically against black.
  3. White makes things look bigger, black makes things look smaller.

Want inspiration? Here’s a short list of places to go to see black shabby chic in action:

Alternatively, do a Google Images search for visual inspiration. Or explore Pinterest.

Need help?

If you’re looking for the perfect black interior or exterior wood finish, our guide should hopefully help you make the right choice. If you’re still unsure or have any questions we haven’t answered, why not call our friendly experts? They are always on-hand to offer help and advice.

24 Responses to “Black Wood Finishes – Sophisticated Decor Inside and Out”

  1. Margaret Mccormick Says:

    Have black laminated floor looking to use black gloss finish varnish as some of the floor is damanaged

  2. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Margaret,

    Its not recommended to use Varnish on top of Laminate Floors as it tends not to adhere for very long and will peel and flake. If you where using it just to fix some small repair areas then it might be a viable option. Although depending on the size of the damage you could consider using a black filler such as Osmo Wood Filler to repair the damage.

  3. Peter Johnson Says:

    I have a good quality Habitat solid wood 1970’s table and sideboard finished in black ash. They need some touch up, restaining and polishing in places. Which products do you recommend?

  4. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Peter,

    I would need to know what the table is finished with in order to be able to advise you which product you can use to repair it. You can email me at wood@finishes.direct with some photos and I will be happy to advise you from there.

    Kind regards Sam.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Hi there,
    I’m having a new kitchen fitted and want to turn the oak cupboard door handles a glossy black. What would you recommend? The ones I want only come oak self coloured but are a fabulous shape.
    Thanks
    Lisa

  6. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Lisa,

    Thank you for your inquiry, which product I can recommend will depend on whether there is any thing currently already on the handles. For example if they already have a varnish on them or an oil based product.

    If you are applying to bare wood then there are a couple of treatments that you can look at, the first is Manns Interior Wood Paint which comes in Black. For extra durability apply Manns Extra Tough Interior Varnish on top.

    As an alternative you could have a look at the Osmo Polyx Oil Tints in Silver, and finish with the clear Polyx Oil in Glossy finish. This will give a more natural look and feel to the wood, but will be slightly less glossy and durable than the varnish.

    If you have any other question or need any help please feel free to get in touch.

    Kind regards Sam.

  7. Stephen Says:

    Hi,

    I am looking at turning my light brown pine effect kitchen doors to black. Can this be done?

  8. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Stephen,

    The first thing to consider is what product is currently on the doors? This will determine what products you can use to go over the top. Although we would nearly always recommend taking back to bare wood and starting again.

    If you are treating bare wood then there are two options that I would recommend, the first is the Osmo Intensive to achieve the black, 1 coat will be translucent and two coats opaque, you may need to apply a clear coat of Osmo Polyx Oil over the top if the areas need extra protection.

    The alternative would be to look at the Manns Classic Pine Stain, which is available in Black and you can continue to apply coats until you have the black that you would like. And then finish with the Osmo Polyx Oil for protection. Always try test areas first.

    Let me know if you have any further questions.

    Kind Regards Sam

  9. cassandra Says:

    Hi; my family lives in a unique timberframe barn/house we’ve been building ourselves over the last 10 years. Our floors are just tongue and grove spruce boards on the timbers. We’ve been living on the bare wood for a few years already. I love the feel of the bare wood because it breathes, but I don’t like the colour. I’m looking for a really deep, rich, dark, warm black colour that allows some of the grain to show through. I’m not really picky about creating an even tone. I want something that delivers a lot of colour and not much finish because I don’t like the plastic feel that doesn’t breathe. What method / products would best suit this purpose?

  10. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Cassandra,

    I would recommend looking at the Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Tints this is a hard wearing and durable finish that leaves a natural look and feel to the wood. It requires two thinly applied coats and comes in a range of colours.

    We also have some helpful videos on our You Tube Channel. The link shows a video about application of the clear oil, but the principle is the same, just ensure you stir really well to mix the pigment evenly through the oil. I hope that helps and if you have any further questions do feel free to ask.

    Kind regards Sam.

  11. Laura Collins Says:

    I have bought a eucalyptus table finished in a brown stain. I would like to make it black instead either solid or opaque I don’t mind but I would like it to last if possible. What would you recommend?
    Thanks, Laura

  12. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Laura,

    Thank you for your inquiry. I would need to know what is currently on the table before I can recommend another product, unless you are planning to strip it back to bare wood. There is a small test that you can do to check. In an inconspicuous area of the table, perhaps turn it upside down, put a couple of small drops of oil on the surface (olive or vegetable from the kitchen would be fine) and leave for around an hour.

    If the oil remains unmoved then you are likely to have a varnish on the surface, if it moves or soaks in then there is probably and oil or wax on the surface. Once this is established I will be able to advice you further. Do let me know if you have any further questions.

    Kind regards Sam.

  13. Chris Holley Says:

    Hi
    I have a MDF portable floor which I use for flamenco dance performances in pubs and halls. I’d like to colour it black. What would you recommend? It needs to be durable and not slippy.
    Chris

  14. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Chris,

    You could look at the Manns Classic Stains in Black to get the colour and then a hard wearing varnish such as the Manns Extra Tough Pro Floor Varnish to seal and protect. We cannot guarantee that this will be durable enough to with stand regular high traffic with heeled shoes. It may need a refresher coat every so often. And always try a test area first, particularly with black finishes. Please feel free to let me know if you have any further questions.

    Kind Regards Sam.

  15. Jay Rees Says:

    I have knotty pine flooring in the bedroom which I would like to stain black and finish, what products and process would you suggest?

  16. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Jay,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Black is a very popular finish and when done right can have a real impact on a design space. I would recommend a couple of products to look at to get the colour. Morrells Light Fast Wood Stain can give quite an intense colour finish and is easy to work with. It would need a top coat product to seal and protect.

    Also to look at the Manns Trade Light Fast Wood Dye which I would expect to have a more intense black as it will have a higher pigment content. Again it would need a top coat seal and you could consider a Holzol Floor Oil. This is a clear oil that will penetrate the surface of the wood and protect. I would strongly recommend test areas first to ensure that you are getting the look that you want.

    I hope that helps and if you have any further questions please do let me know,.

    Kind Regards Sam.

  17. Andy Davenport Says:

    We have several pieces of 70s TEAK furniture, nest of tables, for example. They have been polished from time to time but not painted.
    We are now looking to recycle them by painting them, most likely in black. Is it better painting or staining and what kind of finish could we get?
    Many thanks.

  18. Sam Taylor-Casey Says:

    Hello Andy,

    To prevent adhesion problems you will need to sand back to bare wood, any polish or wax on the surface can cause problems for new treatments. Which product to use will depend on the sort of black finish that you are hoping to achieve. So if you want to still see the grain of the wood then the Osmo Wood Wax Finish Transparent will colour and protect but is unlikely to be a strong dark black.

    You can intensify the black by applying a black stain underneath. The Morrells Light Fast Wood Stain would be good for this.

    Alternatively, if you would like a solid black opaque finish then you could consider the Manns Classic Interior Paint. This is only available in 5 Litres however. Have a read up of the products and feel free to let me know if you have any further questions.

    All the Best Sam.

  19. Tom Says:

    Good afternoon,

    love the website and the comments so far.

    I’m looking at sprucing up the banister in my 1930s house. I’m thinking of painting the spindles white but unsure of the banister – I’m tending towards black.

    Would you recommend staining the banister and then finishing it off with a wax?

    Cheers,

    Tom

  20. Samantha Taylor Says:

    Hello Tom,

    Thank you for your enquiry. If you are applying to bare wood then a Water Based Stain will colour and still show the effect of the grain. The stains are very versatile and can be intermixed to create a new colour, lightened by adding water or a number of coats applied to intensify the colour.

    This can then be over coated with an Oil or Varnish to seal and protect.

    If you take a look at these products and feel free to come back to me if you have any further questions.

    kind regards Samantha.

  21. Brenda wyllie Says:

    I have black Matt furniture what can I put on it to protect it thanks

  22. Samantha Taylor Says:

    Hello Brenda,

    Thank you for your enquiry. I do need to know a little more about your furniture before I am able to advice on a product. If you would like to email me with details of what type of wood it is? What is the current finish varnish or oiled ? And hopefully I can narrow down some suitable products for your to use.

    Kind regards Samantha.

  23. George Young Says:

    Hi,
    I have a large pine table top which has been sanded back to bare wood and sealed with clear Danish oil…however I would like to apply an intense but translucent black finish…what do you recommend ?
    Many thanks

  24. Samantha Taylor Says:

    Good Afternoon George,

    Thank you for coming to us with your question. You could have a look at the Osmo Wood Wax Finish Intensive there is a black finish with in this range that still allows you to see the grain and the natural texture of the wood.

    As there is already Danish oil on the wood, for the best result you might want to remove this first as application to bare wood will always give a better result. If you do not wish to remove the oil then you will need to carry out a test area first in order to see that the wood will absorb more oil. If the wood is saturated an will not absorb further oil then it will dry on the surface of the wood and not give the desired protection.

    Test areas are vital to ensure you like the look that will be achieved, the wood that you are applying to will impact on the final colour. If there is anything
    further that I can help with please do not hesitate to get in touch via our contact us
    page.

    Kind regards Samantha.

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