Although wood has played a central role in home building and interior design for centuries, in recent years metals and plastics have often been seen as aesthetically superior, linked to popular movements such as minimalism and Art Deco. However, the tide seems to be turning: not only are environmentalists encouraging the use of cross-laminated timber, or CLT, in building new skyscrapers, but interior designers are discovering anew the amazing versatility and warmth of this natural material. The wealth of varieties, textures, tones and finishes offer almost endless possibilities, while the fact that no two trees are identical ensures that any wooden feature in your home will be unquestionably unique.
Types and textures
Traditionally, designers would use only one wood throughout a room, matching rich mahogany furniture with fitted mahogany panels for a cohesive look. Alternatively, you could coordinate the tones while varying the textures, by selecting different woods of a similar colour. Birch, maple and pine, with their fresh, light tones, can enhance the dimensions of a smaller room, although maple’s reddish tint is also particularly effective in bringing out the caramel tones of birch.
For a more modern approach, you may wish to follow the recent trend for contrast by matching white walls with black walnut flooring. The wood’s natural lustre reflects light back into the room, while the monochrome shades have a powerful visual impact. Contrasting woods can also heighten the drama of a space: lacquered antique furniture appears revived when offset by pale wooden panels.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, reclaimed wood has a unique history and a characterful weathered appearance. Some of the finest reclaimed wood is taken from barns and period manors, and its stately grandeur contrasts well with contemporary interiors and chrome fixtures.
Expand the space
Horizontal and vertical panelling can create optical illusions; vertical panels draw the eye upwards, while horizontal lines draw the eye across, so consider whether you want to emphasise the height or width of a room before making a decision. Vertical panels are the traditional choice, best placed in rustic or coastal properties, but horizontal panelling can be used to create a sleek, modern effect, especially if the wood is enhanced by a polished veneer.
Laser-cut wood panels evoke a traditional Arab aesthetic, mimicking the enchanting mashrabiyas, or intricately carved wooden screens, that historically adorned palaces and public buildings. Designs cut into a thin piece of wood allow light to shine through, creating ideal screens or partitions between rooms. Fitted into windows, they cast dappled light across a room, and can be installed behind glass for homeowners residing in cooler temperatures.
A beautifully made wooden piece in the right location can act as the ideal finishing touch to your home decoration. If your cellar is your pride and joy, commission a bespoke oak wine rack to display some of your finest vintages, carved from a single trunk and designed to follow the natural contours of the tree. Innovative designers have produced astonishing chairs from single trees that can instantly elevate a space, whether you place yours in a bohemian lounge or a spacious conservatory.
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