Styles may come and go but what is certain is that wood will always be sought after as a material for the home. In fact, wood is experiencing a contemporary revival because of its timeless nature. With global interest in craft, collaborations between traditional craftsmen and designers are on the rise, making wood the material to watch. From the traditional woodworking enclaves of Asia, to the industrial workshops of Brooklyn, a new generation of designers is celebrating wood in all its natural glory.
Even in the world of modern designer furniture, wood has held its own against contemporary counterparts like plastic and steel. Michael Thonet’s iconic bentwood chair, one of history’s most successful mass-produced products, paved the way for an era of democratic design.
Since the early 20th century, designers have long hailed the virtues of modern wood-based materials like plywood and veneers, making wood accessible to a wider population. Some of the most iconic pieces of the 20th century, like the Eames Molded Plywood Chairs, celebrate wood’s capacity to be bent and shaped into sumptuous pieces.
An age-old material, wood has never lost its appeal. But its unique qualities are perhaps increasingly relevant today. Malleable, strong, lightweight and, more crucially, renewable, wood is the sustainable material of choice for our eco-conscious world. Its simplicity and naturalness fulfils a modern need to be closer to nature. And as traditional woodworking skills become increasingly rare, the appeal, and value, of owning a unique piece of handcrafted furniture has only grown. Wood continues to bring forth a world of fascinating possibilities, be it expressing the delicacy of Japanese cypress, the unpredictable grain of suar, or the opulence of European walnut.
From soft timber used as mouldings to hard logs carved into hardy furniture pieces, here are seven common types used to make furniture:
TEAK (Far left and right): A tropical hardwood mostly grown in South-east Asia and usually brown to dark gold in colour. Extremely resilient to winds, teak also contains natural oils that makes it a popular choice for outdoor furniture.
OAK (middle): Unlike other types of wood, this has a grain that’s evenly spaced out. It’s commonly used for flooring, thanks to its sturdiness and distinctive look.
CHERRY (top and bottom): A cheaper alternative to walnut and more malleable than oak, cherry wood is commonly used for cabinets as its susceptibility to scratches makes it unsuitable for high-activity surfaces like flooring. Cherry ages well, developing a richer colour over time.
ROSEWOOD(middle): Prized by Asians, this hardwood scores high on the beauty scale. It’s appreciated for a dark core that gets lighter in colour towards the edges. The reddish hue of the wood enhances the appearance of the furniture.
PINE (top and bottom): Another softwood like cedar, pine is a favourite among carpenters as it is easy to shape. Although it ages well, developing a weathered patina that complements a country-style decor, it is susceptible to scratches, due to its softness.
CEDAR (top): Part of the conifer family, this wood has a sharp scent that is fragrant to humans, but repellent to insects, which explains its common usage for chest drawers and wardrobes. A relatively soft wood, it is nevertheless durable enough to handle moist environments without rotting.
WALNUT (bottom): This is one of the costlier hardwood options. Finding a sizeable block of walnut is rare, which means it tends to be used as a decorative headboard or a mantel piece. The grain lends itself to intricate carving.
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Article by Meryl Koh and Adeline Loh, originally appeared in The Peak.