There is something special about timber furniture. Perhaps it’s the meticulous detail and craftsmanship involved in the age-old making techniques. Or is it the appeal of timeless and natural materials that outlast other materials? Whatever it is, timber makes us feel good.
It’s common to accumulate different kinds of timber furniture over the years. This can lead to the conundrum of trying to make all the different kinds of wood in your space harmonise together rather than looking like a confused sharehouse. Southwood owners Val and Maria sat down to chat about their love of timber and the tricks of the trade when it comes to styling timber in a home.
Why do you like using timber furniture when designing spaces?
Val: It’s timeless. Also, I think people have an emotional reaction to timber. They have done a lot of studies on it, looking at biophyillic design and having timber in spaces, it just makes people feel better. We have a connection with nature…
Maria: It’s our way of bringing nature inside. Also, timber is warm!
Val: Yes and when timber is sourced from responsibly managed forests it’s one of the most sustainable products.
Maria: I think the craftsmanship that goes into timber furniture is special. When you see things that are made really well…the details that go into it is really nice. The thing about wood is that it simply makes us feel good… “forest bathing” and tree huggers are onto something!
Do you combine different timbers?
Val: I think every designer does things a little differently, so there’s not one golden rule. I am happy to use different timbers in a design. As long as the timbers are quite different to create a contrast so it looks intentional, then it’s fine for me. I wouldn’t put a beech with an oak…but I’d put an oak with a walnut because they are contrasting.
If you have oak floorboards would you use oak furniture in the space?
Val: Yes, or you could use a darker tone timber. It depends on the look you’re going for. If you do want that very neutral, clean look then you will probably use the same timber but if you want your furniture to pop and you want to buy a statement piece then you would go a darker shade. It’s good to be mindful that every tree is different; so two pieces of the same timber variety can look very different.
Maria: I agree. Also, you could bring a contrasting look together or break up similar timbers by using a rug.
If someone is renovating and they are working through what timbers they are going to introduce to the space, whether that’s in the floorboards, cabinetry or furniture, how would you go about that process? What would you start with?
Maria: For residential, I always suggest to people to choose your floor material first, because that will inform everything else in the space. If you already have furniture pieces that you really like, use those as your starting guide. Although floors are a good place to start, after all, they cover the expanse of your space.
Val: I agree with you, and also with flooring there isn’t heaps of variety…I mean with furniture you have so many options, with different veneers and grains…so you are better off starting with floors.
Some floor timbers are quite hard to work with. Let’s say you have a timber floor that has quite a lot of traditional red tones to it. Keeping in mind that changing the floorboards isn’t always an option, what could you do to freshen the space?
Maria: I would probably go Black Japan finish on it, I wouldn’t go light I would incorporate darker colours.
Val: If you want to keep it natural I would do a matte polish, which would change the feel. A lot of the older houses have timber with a glossy finish; once it’s matte I think it would look a lot more modern.
Maria: The other day I did a dark finish on some very yellow floorboards for a renovation on an old house and it looked great.
What is your favourite timber and why?
Maria: I love American Oak, I’ve loved it for a long time. Tasmanian Oak is beautiful but can appear a little pink. I’m not a massive lover of red timber… I just love the brown tone of oak, it’s so easy to work with.
Val: Probably Walnut at the moment. I love spotted gum for floorboards because it has so much variation so it’s really fun and playful. I don’t mind Blackwood, it has it’s place, it’s just a little more traditional.