How Does Wood Furniture Age?

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04 Dec 2020

If you know anything about hardwood furniture, you probably know that the piece you buy isn't going to look the same in a few years. Like leather, wood is a natural living material.


Inevitably, it ages and changes over time. Thankfully, and similarly to leather, high-quality wood furniture ages like a fine wine - only getting richer and more beautiful with time.


But how exactly does wood age? We talked to Cindy, our Store Manager in Middleton to break down four types of hardwood and how they age, plus maintenance tips.





Starting with one of the most popular wood types at the moment, walnut. Walnut is a beautiful dark brown hardwood that has dark brown and sometimes purple streaks.


It grows in Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio. The sapwood (the outer layers of a tree beneath the bark) is creamy white, and the heartwood (the dense inner part of a tree) is dark brown with purplish tones.



How does walnut age?


Cindy explains, "All woods over time will oxidize and change as they're exposed to light. Walnut acquires a beautiful, rich patina that can have silvery undertones in its iridescent grain. It becomes a bit more golden."




"Cherry," Cindy says, "is a gorgeous flat grain wood that starts lighter and takes on a beautiful reddish tone."


It grows in Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia. The sapwood is creamy white, and the heartwood is red/pink to reddish-brown.



How does cherry age?


Cherry, in addition to walnut, is photoreactive lumber, which makes the aging process much more dramatic than oak, maple, or other woods. Over the course of 6 to 8 months, deep amber colors will start to come out. The aging process is what makes cherry such a beautiful and rich hardwood option.


Cindy explains, "One thing to note about cherry when you're going through the aging process; you want to be sure to move around anything you put on the piece, like a vase. If you leave a vase on while it deepens, you'll see a ring. But, don't worry - The ring will disappear as the table oxidizes, and it will all tone out."




Maple is a lighter-toned hardwood that grows in Northern New Hampshire and Northern Vermont. The sapwood is light/white, and the heartwood ranges from light to dark reddish-brown.


It has a fine texture and is generally straight-grained but is prized for it's fiddle-back, tiger striping, burl, and birds-eye figuring which is often used for decorate purposes on tabletops and door faces.



How does maple age?


Over time, maple will turn more golden, getting warmer with age.




Oak is another light hardwood that features a lot of varied graining. There are two types of oak, white and red - white being, unsurprisingly, lighter and less warm-toned than red oak.


How does oak age?


Cindy says, "White oak will turn golden, whereas red oak has a more red tone in the beginning and over time becomes richer and warmer."



Maintenance tips


As your furniture ages, it's important to keep care in mind. As straightforward as caring for your wood furniture may be, there are some simple tips to avoid damaging it in the longterm.


She notes, "If you have an extension table with a leaf, you may want to take the leaf out occasionally so it ages at the same rate. Similarly, rotating your wood furniture will help it age evenly."


It's important to note that bright, direct sunlight contributes to the fading and bleaching of wood, so it's not ideal and is different than the patina of aging. We encourage you to protect your solid wood pieces from very bright sunlight by pulling the shades down or closing the curtains.


Purchasing a piece of furniture with a stain? She explains, "If you get a dark stain like espresso or black, you probably won't see a lot of color variation over time. However, if the stain is lighter, the aging process will show up over time." Staining of any color will even out the tone of the wood.


Read more: A Guide to Wood Finishes: Paint, Stain, and Natural



Final thoughts


The aging process may sound scary, but it's not! "Wood furniture just becomes richer and more beautiful as it ages. All of the color tones add depth and warmth to your home."


Concerned about adding in a new piece when your old furniture has already aged? Patience is key. Cindy says, "Your new piece is going to start a slightly different shade, but eventually, they'll all look great together."


Have more questions about natural wood furniture? Our Design Consultants are experts in their field and can answer any questions you might have along the way. Come into a showroom or sign up for a virtual design consultation to get started. 


Circle Furniture Care Guide