Wood has stayed in our hearts and homes for centuries. And yet, its versatility remains timeless. The look and feel of a wooden piece of furniture are known to transcend time and geography.
"Whether made into a wooden pillow or table, wood with excellent grain is a guarantee of splendid poems, and the composition of perfect documents.”
And why not? Wood is well and alive. Yes, it expands and contracts. It has a life of its own, even when it is a striking piece of furniture that adorns your home. There are many reasons why wood is still the go-to material for furniture. Wood brings warmth and earthiness into your home. The varied textures, colors, grains, and fibers conspire to create a vivid microcosm of nature. There is a kind of structural integrity to a wooden piece. Whether one opts for hardwood or softwood, the strength and durability of wood remain unmatched. Wood is easy to maintain. Wood adds elegance and charm to any setting. Nothing can beat the sophistication of a well-aged piece. It is one of those rare materials that look good regardless of the place and design- be it vintage, contemporary, rustic, modern, etc.
A well-carved piece of wooden furniture transcends time, and it is indeed an heirloom passed down through generations. When sourced responsibly, wood is dependably sustainable. If you are buying a piece of antique furniture, it remains viable since it demands no new sources.
When we talk of wood, especially in the context of antique and heritage pieces, we mean solid wood- the most superlative form. With no hollow spaces in its composition, it is the best for furniture. Solid wood has higher durability and consistency compared to other wood varieties. This comes at a cost premium, but the longevity of solid wood is something to go by. Some examples of solid wood include Rosewood (Sheesham), Satinwood, Ebony, Teak, Mahogany, Pine, and Mango wood. Solid wood can be hardwood or softwood. Hardwood is usually denser than softwood. It originates from deciduous trees, while softwood comes from evergreen trees. Both have their unique qualities. On the other hand, engineered wood involves binding together wood strands and fibers with adhesives under heat and pressure. This heterogeneous combination makes for more options in terms of look and contributes to the durability of the wood. However, it does not match the durability and sustainability of solid wood. Lastly, there is veneered wood that is a thin layer of solid wood bonded with adhesives to a cheaper surface hidden below. It is best used in combination with solid wood just for the finish and cannot be reused.
The Wood Table: Navigating choices
For durable and long-lasting furniture, one must go in for solid woods. Their combination of beauty and durability is just unmatched. There are a lot of nuances when one talks about different kinds of woods. Firstly, there is the intrinsic quality of the wood itself. Is it hard or soft? What are the properties of the wood? Is it water-resistant? These factors gauge their use. Then come the aesthetic factors. One of the most striking ones is wood grain. Keep in mind the alternating regions of relatively darker and lighter wood. This is due to the journey of the wood spanning through many seasons. Finishing and polishing bring out the inherent aesthetics of the wood. Different types of polishes complement varieties of wood. Wood polishes protect surfaces from moisture, humidity, and other environmental factors. This further enhances the life of the wood. Wood polishes can be surface or penetrating ones. The former leaves a strong and thick layer on the surface of the wood. These give the wood gloss and protect it from external elements. A penetrating wooden finish is generally oil-based and bores into the wood. The application of these is effortless.
The collector's guide to buying antique furniture
1. Look for the story: Try and get some information about the historical relevance of the style. With old furniture, you may look for period pieces. Knowing about the category and the original use will add a layer to the experience of purchasing it. Go beyond the obvious to the specifics of the piece. What story does it tell? Where is it from, and where was it used earlier?
2. Inspect: Take a closer look at the hardware. Check for damage. Wood ages like fine wine. However, you must look out for any damage that could mar the piece.
3. Well-weathered: Wood will expand and contract over time due to fluctuations in temperature and create shrinkage cracks. While naturally weathered wood can add a great feel to your interior!
4. Visualize it creatively: Many beautiful pieces of furniture may have outlived their purpose. For example, travel trunks may not be used while traveling anymore. However, they would make for a statement center table! Old furniture need not be classified as junk. It requires a little bit of working on, and a lot more imagination to visualize the possibilities that it holds. You are sure to find a piece that fits like a glove in your current lifestyle!
Maintaining wooden furniture
Temperature variations, moisture, and humidity are some of the factors that impact wood. It has the potential to damage furniture, especially inlaid or veneered pieces. Central heating dries the air, and the moisture needs replacing. Here are some ways in which you can maintain your wooden furniture well:
1. Dust regularly: Use a soft, dry, or damp cotton cloth to wipe any dust off.
2. Sunlight damage: Prolonged sunlight exposure may cause spots in a specific area. Check the placement of the piece to ensure it is protected. You could use a tablecloth or cover if required.
3. Weather extremities: Extreme heat or cold may distort the original texture of the surface.
4. Protection from moisture: moisture causes the growth of Mildew and Fungi. The ideal humidity level is around 50 to 55%. Hence, depending on this, humidifiers or dehumidifiers can be used in the room. Unless your furniture gets wet and stays wet, this type of damage is not always a severe problem. However, if it is in areas prone to water damage, be alert.
5. Oil and wax regularly: This maintains the sheen of the wood.
6. Insects and creatures: Wood is subject to attack by both animals and micro-organisms, including insects, rodents, and fungi. Termites and other insects can severely damage wood by eating channels beneath the surface. The best protection is to monitor your furniture regularly. In addition to regular cleaning, in rare cases, you may need to call a professional pest elimination agency.
7. General Care: Be mindful of not scratching the surfaces while handling or moving the furniture.
Whether you are looking at buying wood for new furniture or refurbishing an old piece of furniture, knowledge about different types of woods and their maintenance will help you make informed decisions. And the final tip? Always buy what you love!
 Liu Sheng, Ode to a Fine-Grained Wood, Chinese text from the second century, B.C.