There are numerous natural wood types used in furniture, ranging in density, color, grain pattern, and price. The more informed you are about the wood used in your furniture the easier your shopping process will be. It will also give you a greater sense of connection to your furniture.
Wood is, after all, a living material. By nature, it is varied, unique, and has its own story to tell. We decided to create this guide so that you would have all of the need-to-know information about wood furniture in one place.
The first thing to keep in mind when thinking about wood furniture is that wood is a living material. Its characteristics will never be uniform, and perfection should never be expected. A tree, and therefore wood, is constantly adapting to the environment it's growing in.
Not only is this natural but it's beautiful! Although you can't expect "perfection" from wood furniture, we believe this is where the beauty lies. In every mark, mineral stain, and color pattern, there is a story.
The natural marks in wood, called pitch pockets, occur when a tree encounters insects and other living beings in its lifetime. As the years' progress, the tree adapts to the trail they leave, creating a mark. These marks, along with mineral streaks, provide beautiful contrast in natural wood products.
Tiger striping is a distorted grain pattern that looks exactly as it sounds, like the stripes of a tiger. Is there an antique in your home that's been passed down through generations? A bookcase with a distinct mark your grandmother gave you?
When you buy a piece of natural wood furniture you're buying a decades-old story; a story that starts as a sapling and continues on in your home and the homes of your children.
Hardwood: Mahogany, Walnut, Oak, Ash, Birch, Maple, Cherry
Softwood: Pine, Poplar, Acacia, Spruce, Cedar, Fir, Rubberwood
Hardwood is, as the name suggests, a harder wood and is more durable and long-lasting than softwood. Hardwood trees are slow-growing and produce a denser wood, and are, in general, deeper in tone than softwood trees.
Softwoods, on the other hand, are less dense and are not as durable as hardwoods. They are sometimes used as backing or on the insides of case goods.
Although we're talking strictly about natural wood here, a quick word on Particleboard and Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) as these are commonly found in the modern furniture market.
Both Particleboard and MDF are engineered wood composites made up of leftover fibers from hardwood or softwood. MDF is extremely sturdy and can be functional in certain furniture pieces like bookcases and media cabinets where its strength is put to good use.
Particleboard, on the other hand, is much less dense and is a composite of wood chips and glue or resin. It's an affordable option that is much more prone to damage and breakage.
A Veneer will vary in quality and is made by placing a thin piece of premium hardwood over a manufactured wood.
Estelle Bar Stool in Walnut
Choosing a wood type will mostly come down to style and preference of color and finish. For an airy, light look Maple or Ash are great options. Walnut has become increasingly popular over the past few years and is a wonderful option for a modern or contemporary home.
Cherry tends to lend itself to a more traditionally styled home. If you're looking for a textured, industrial look you might look for driftwood or reclaimed wood. There are also usually options for the finish of the piece.
A matte finish tends to give the wood a natural and raw feel, versus a shiny glaze which will look more polished and refined.
Wood changes color when exposed to sunlight, so be sure to rotate and move around rugs, place mats, chairs, and anything else that sits on top of the wood. This will ensure that the color stays uniform.
The most important thing to keep in mind when considering wood type in furniture is quality. We pride ourselves on working with manufacturers who sustainably source and craft hardwood furniture that's built for generations.
The best way to get a feel for what type and finish of wood speaks to you is to check them out in person. Our Design Consultants have an extensive knowledge on wood furniture and can steer you in the right direction.
Check out our Complete Guide to Furnishing a Dining Room.
Author: Julia Maiman
Julia is a writer, blogger, and believer in the smell of old books. She has been crafting stories since she could put pen to paper. She is also a lover of dogs, traveling, and Led Zeppelin.