A design trend predicted to be big in 2014 is the combination of white or pale rooms and furnishings combined with the warmth of real wood accents. Here in San Diego, that’s not really new, but as interest peaks across the country for this style, it’s bound to be reflected in the furniture you’ll see in our showrooms. Here’s a short primer on how to select wood furnishings and incorporate them in your contemporary home or office.
Wood Varieties and Finishes
Traditionally, most wood furniture was crafted from the types of wood readily available: walnut, oak, pine, maple, ash. Today, the varieties are nearly limitless. While some American manufacturers, such as Copeland, rely on wood harvested from nearby forests to reduce fossil fuel consumption, many look to sustainable sources from other countries. Sustainable plantations across the world provide bamboo, padauk, teak and mahogany used for the manufacture of fine furniture.
A fairly new trend is the use of recycled, reclaimed and repurposed woods. Many of the pieces offered by manufacturer Urbia, for instance, are crafted from old building materials and turned into unique furnishings that are the ultimate in environmental friendliness.
As far as finishes go, a recent focus on organic design was the impetus for wood pieces that are simply weathered, rather than varnished. Last year we saw an emergence of a new type of heat-treated finish referred to as smoked, thermal treated or seared. This process produces furniture with a highly visible and beautifully rich grain pattern. Both of these finishes are perfect, modern complements to a room using a pale color scheme.
Wood Furniture: Density, Color, Grain
At a very basic level, furnishings that are crafted from hard woods (oak, maple, walnut, mahogany, teak etc.) are going to last the longest while softer woods, such as pine and poplar, tend to damage much more easily. Bamboo, which is actually a grass, is also quite durable.
Then there’s the issue of color. Although wood furniture can easily be transformed into nearly any hue with the right finish, it you prefer a more organic approach you’ll want to start with a wood that inherently possesses the right color. We all know that oak is warm and golden-toned but what about other choices? For a red hue, cedar and alder are always popular choices but the rarer padauk is even richer in tone. Purple heart wood, as its name implies, is known for imparting a royal color unmatched by other species. Eucalyptus is a warmer-toned wood of salmon color.
Grain is another important factor. Some woods, such as pecan, have a very distinctive grain that can look “busy”, especially with a light finish that emphasizes the grain. Many contemporary homes incorporate bamboo furniture, because it has no grain and the linear style is very modern. The light color and fine, straight grains of white oak are also very complementary with contemporary furnishings.
Using Wood Furniture in a Contemporary Home or Office
Many people believe that solid wood furniture is better suited for traditional décor. Often, they imagine ornate, heavy pieces stained to a dark finish but as you’ve read, today’s wood furnishings are extremely diverse as far as species, grain, finish and style.
Contemporary style certainly doesn’t have to consist of merely glass and chrome. Wood furnishings are particularly handsome when paired with a leather sofa and play a big part in warming up a modern bedroom. Even iconic mid-century designer Milo Baughman, although famous for incorporating sleek elements of metal and glass, often used wood accents (take a look at his Thayer-Coggin furniture featured in this blog post). Many other furniture companies, such as Cattelan and Copeland, liberally integrate wood in their contemporary designs, as well.
If you need more ideas about how to use wood furnishings in your contemporary home – or just want a visual of the newest styles, finishes and colors available – please visit either of our showrooms.