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Is cedar a warm color?

Cedar is generally considered a warm, natural wood tone that can add comfort and elegance to interior spaces. When determining if a color is warm or cool, decorators look at its place on the color wheel. Warm colors like cedar, red, orange and yellow, are on the warm side of the wheel, while cool colors like blue, green and purple are on the opposite side.

What Makes a Color Warm or Cool?

The main factor that determines if a color is warm or cool is its hue. Hue refers to where the color falls along the visible color spectrum. Warm hues are those that contain more yellow, orange or red. They remind us of things like fire, sunlight and heat. Cool hues contain more blue, green or purple. They evoke associations with water, ice and the sky.

Color warmth also relates to wavelength. Warm colors have longer wavelengths, while cool colors have shorter wavelengths. Longer wavelengths are associated with lower frequencies and more energy. This energy comes across to our eyes as visual warmth.

Where Does Cedar Fall on the Color Wheel?

Natural cedar wood has a rich reddish-brown hue that clearly falls on the warm side of the color wheel. It contains strong undertones of red and orange, the warmest colors on the wheel. While the color can vary slightly based on the individual wood grain, cedar always retains its warm, inviting tone.

Some specific varieties of cedar illustrate its warm hue:

  • Red cedar has a distinct reddish tint.
  • Yellow cedar contains golden undertones.
  • White cedar is more beige than cool-toned white.

All types of cedar wood gain their color from natural pigments present in the living trees. These organic compounds provide cedar’s signature warm, earthy color.

How Designers Use Cedar’s Warmth

Interior designers frequently incorporate cedar into homes because of its cozy, welcoming color and texture. Its warm reddish-brown tone provides several decorating benefits:

  • Brings warmth into cool-toned spaces with blue, green or gray color schemes
  • Complements and accentuates existing warm colors like terracotta, peach, cream and white
  • Provides a rich, luxurious background that lets other colors pop
  • Contributes a natural, organic feel that connects to the outdoors

Cedar can be used in many areas to add warmth. As accent walls or ceilings, cedar’s richness gives a cozy lodge effect. Cedar furniture introduces warmth and texture. Chests, beds, tables and bookshelves in cedar can ground a space with their inviting color. Cedar shingles and siding lend exterior curb appeal with natural, energizing warmth.

Pairing Cedar with Other Colors

Cedar’s flexibility allows it to fit into color schemes across the spectrum. Here are some popular color combinations using cedar:

  • Cedar and navy: Cedar’s energy balances navy’s cool tones
  • Cedar and sage green: Earthy cedar naturalizes modern green
  • Cedar and brick red: Matching depth and richness warms up the space
  • Cedar and mustard yellow: Complementary tones provide a bold, vibrant feel
  • Cedar and sky blue: Cedar wood adds cozy contrast to airy blue

Cedar can also pair beautifully with metallics like steel gray and brushed gold that reflect its rich color. Whether used alone or with other colors, cedar’s inherent warmth shines through.

Cedar in Art and Culture

The warm, organic qualities of cedar wood have made it significant across many cultures. Here are some examples:

  • Native American totem poles are traditionally carved from red cedar.
  • Cedar chests and closets are a common heirloom due to cedar’s aromatic oil and moth-repelling properties.
  • Cedar was used to construct King Solomon’s temple in the Old Testament of the Bible.
  • Japanese shrines and baths frequently incorporate hinoki cypress, a golden-toned cedar.

Cedar continues to be a popular material for traditional saunas and sweat lodges. Its ability to produce intense heat and steam aligns with the warming properties of the wood.

Science of Cedar’s Warm Tone

The chemical composition of cedar wood results in its signature tawny color and visual warmth. Here are some key scientific reasons behind cedar’s color:

  • Contains tannins – these phenolic compounds impart a brownish pigment.
  • Has oils like cedrol that provide yellowish and orange hues.
  • Lignin in the wood oxidizes to produce warm, reddish tones.
  • Aging and exposure magnify the warmth through further oxidation.

The particular balance of these color-producing substances gives each cedar species its characteristic warm shade, ranging from intense red to softer beige.


With its strong red and yellow undertones, cedar clearly qualifies as a warm wood. Its place on the color wheel reflects the energy and heat associated with warm hues. Cedar’s rich color and natural beauty make it a popular choice for bringing warmth into home design. Whether used for furniture, accents or architecture, cedar’s cozy radiance can make any space more inviting.

Cedar Type Origin Color Tones
Red cedar Eastern North America Deep reddish brown
Yellow cedar Western North America Golden brown
White cedar Eastern North America Tan beige

This table shows some common cedar wood types and their characteristic warm hues ranging from deep red to beige tones.