Wood is one of the most appealing and versatile materials at a designer’s fingertips. It is renewable, attractive and cost effective with an abundance of different species available around the world. It is flexible enough to create the most intricate to the simplest designs. It is also a trend that will never fade.
With the Australian Timber Awards, we are seeing more diverse and innovative designs with the use of wood. The awards are an annual national competition, showcasing outstanding timber designs in the design industry. The aim of the awards is to promote timber as a varied material with a proud heritage. Check out the Australian Timber Awards 2012 Magazine for more information.
In interiors, there are many characteristics to consider when purchasing wood or wood furniture. Here are some tips and things to look out for when choosing your wood:
Hardness: When furniture is produced, there are both hardwoods and softwoods used, whereas hardwoods are flowering trees and softwoods are conifers. Although most hardwoods are harder than most softwoods, there are exceptions. In most cases, hardwoods are a better investment because the wood is harder to obtain. However, this is not always the case. A more practical way to identify wood is by its grain and colour.
Wood grain and color: The cell structure of a tree determines the grain that you are able to see. If the cells are large, the texture of the wood is slightly rough and a filler may be needed to smooth the finished piece. If the cells are small, the texture is smooth and don’t require a lot of finishing. Oak, walnut, ash, mahogany, rosewood, and teak are all open-grained woods. Beech, birch, maple, cherry, satinwood, gum, and are close-grained woods.
Things to consider:
1. How old the piece you are purchasing, and what is its purpose? Some types of furniture are made with specific woods — ash, for instance, is widely used in bentwoods — and most new furniture is made with woods not used for older furniture. Consider the care and upkeep of your piece and research what is necessary to keep it in the best condition.
2. What is the colour? Although colour and intensity can vary from wood to wood, the quality should not. Some woods have very distinctive colour characteristics, such as rosewood. If the colour is off or looks sickly, the quality of your furniture will be, too.
3. Is the wood open- or close-grained? Are the pores evenly distributed, or are they concentrated at the growth rings? Is the grain straight or wavy, mottled or swirled? These factors will determine the quality and longevity of your piece.
There are many wood design resources available online, including Wood Solutions and Timber.net.au, with helpful information such as details on species, application, technical data, sustainable uses, forest management, fire safety, finishes and more.