Design trends come and go, but there are a few design decisions which are timeless.
Weather we realize or not, selecting and deciding on furniture is a multi-dimensional process with many elements to consider. Because, let’s face it, choosing well-designed furniture is an investment which reflects your taste, enhances your living space, offers comfort and maybe even sparks conversation.
The last few years of furniture design has focused on Mid-Century Modern with hints of minimalism. You can blame the popularity of the show “Mad Men” or the 60’s style appealing to our sense of nostalgia but this “trend” if you call it that will stay with us for a while.
No matter what trend is popular now, there are a few design decisions which are timeless.
Enter wood, one of the first materials ever utilized by humans to create the living spaces and furniture, a material so versatile and durable it is still used to this day. According to the United States Department Of Agriculture Forest Service, the demand for wood products in the United States is climbing at twice the rate of population growth. This has greatly contributed to deforestation, a phenomenon which has devastating effects on not just the immediate plants and animals in the vicinity but also the global climate as a whole.
Thankfully, wood is a unique and renewable material which if managed and grown through a sustainable process can substantially reduce the demands on ecosystems. In the next section, we will explore some of the most common types of sustainable hardwoods so you can make an informed decision when making your next furniture purchase.
Oak wood is arguably the most popular hardwood material used in furniture today. Known for its strong and durable properties, White Oak is also naturally water resistant, making it an idea material for indoor and outdoor home furnishing. White Oak is a prominent fixture in the Eastern regions of the US; it can also be found in the forests of Oregon and Northern California.
Uses For Oak
Besides being used for tables, chairs, cabinets, bookcases and other household furniture, Oak is commonly used for storage and aging, adding its unique aroma to different types of wines and spirits including brandy and different types of whiskeys.
Make the best use of reclaimed and recycled oak whenever possible. Avoid Oak from poorly managed regions such as Russia, Poland and the Ukraine.
Pine trees are evergreen and can be found in most forests in the northern hemisphere. Mostly know by pine cones and it’s refreshing scent, most pine is sustainable due to their fast-growing nature.
Uses For Pine
Considered one of the most widely used commercial soft wood in the North American market, pine is used primarily used in high-level carpentry such as chairs, cabinets and cupboards. It can also be used for manufacturing, molding and flooring.
Most Pine in the US market today are grown and harvested from sustainable plantations. Reclaimed Pine is also an excellent, environmentally friendly option.
A staple in Asia, you can also find bamboo in parts of Africa, Australia and the Americas. Bamboo is known for its firm yet flexible texture which can be easily bent and molded into different shapes. Due to the fast-growing nature, most bamboo is sustainable and ecologically friendly.
Uses For Bamboo
Many Asian cultures rely on bamboo for everything, starting from food. Cooked bamboo sprouts or more commonly known as bamboo shoots are a naturally low-calorie source of fiber which are delicious in salad, stir-fries and soups. Young bamboo as the basis for musical instruments such as flutes and other slit drums. Bamboo is also used for flooring, textile and furniture such as stools, chairs and even beds.
Most bamboo is sustainable. Just make sure to double check the components of the (glossy) paint finish.
Known for its reddish-brown color which darkens over time, Mahogany is extremely workable and durable. In fact, some of the first fine furniture made in the American colonies were made from Mahogany.
Uses For Mahogany
From cabinets, chairs, tables to all types of furniture, Mahogany is widely used for fine furniture. People who choose this type of wood are drawn to its classic texture plus the well-aged color.
In some countries Mahogany is classified as an invasive species due to possible soil acidification. Avoid Mahogany from Brazil or Africa as many are considered endangered or vulnerable.
A species native to North America, Europe and Asia, beech is known for its strength, density and pleasant pale cream color.
Uses For Beech
Perhaps because of its pleasant unassuming color, Beech is less popular compared to other types of hard wood. However, it is prized for its strength and hardness making it an excellent material for chairs, tables and other types of furniture.
Beech is generally considered eco-friendly. A typical beech tree grove is also vital to life and serves as habitable home for many difference species. In fact, Beech is considered one of the trees which are crucial to actually improving soil. In fact, Sustainable Beech wood is recommended by rainforestrelief.org as one of the suggested alternatives to more endangered species.
So that’s it, our quick and handy guide to choosing environmentally friendly material when you make your next furniture purchase!