I think the first DIY project I needed to find the perfect stain for was when we built and installed DIY Ceiling Beams in our bedroom. I searched Instagram and Pinterest for real-life examples of popular slightly cool-toned wood stains and neutral wood stain options and how they looked on pine. Ultimately I purchased several different cool-toned and neutral wood stain options and tested them on scrap wood and none of them were just right on their own — I wanted a neutral wood stain with slightly cool undertones that did not look blueish, that wasn’t too light or too dark, to coordinate well with our slightly cool-toned wood-look floors, but still neutral enough to allow me to decorate the room with other neutral wood tones.

So I mixed every possible combination of Minwax Classic Gray, Varathane Briarsmoke, and Varathane Weathered Oak and many other popular slightly cool and neutral wood stain options and found what I think is the perfect recipe for my home! I have gone on to use my neutral wood stain mix on several other projects, including my coffee table build and matching sofa table in our formal living room.

You should know that stains will appear differently on different kinds of wood (pine, poplar, oak, etc.) and they will even absorb differently on different boards of the same kind, depending on the grain of the board, the temperature & humidity outside, and the saturation of the stain. For that reason I think it is best to prep and stain all of the lumber needed for one project at the same time, to give the best chance of having a similar and cohesive finish across all of your wood. I have only ever tried my neutral wood stain mix on pine (common board).

My Go-To Neutral Wood Stain Mix Recipe:

  1. Apply wood conditioner.
  2. About a half hour later, I add the first thin coat of Minwax Classic Gray stain with a staining pad, wiping it off as soon as I put it on.
  3. About two hours after that (here in sunny Southern California, or as long as it takes for the first layer of stain to be completely dry wherever you are) I add the second thin coat of Minwax Classic Gray stain, and immediately follow that up with a thin coat of Varathane Briarsmoke stain, wiping it off as soon as I put it on. The Briarsmoke stain deepens the color, and covers the grain slightly.  

Here are the Product Links for My Slightly Cool-Toned Stain Mix:

Minwax Classic Gray Stain.

Varathane Briarsmoke Stain.

Staining Pad.

Wood Conditioner.

If you decide to try my neutral wood stain mix, I’d love to see! Tag me in your photos on Instagram @AmandaFallonHomes =)