Wood is gorgeous. It’s hard to imagine a home interior without it. Wood brings beauty, richness, and depth to any interior. It adds warmth, character, dimension and interest. Only nature itself can match the grounding effect it has on our souls.

And the more you understand about the unique characteristics of wood, the more fascinating it becomes. Each grain pattern is its own work of art, with one of a kind intricacies showcasing the splendor of nature’s work.

Knowing which woods will create your desired experience, is an important part in the selection of modern furniture. Having a little knowledge about what gives wood its looks, can help you make the right choices, and get the look you desire.

Here are 9 factors that contribute to the look of wood in modern furniture:

1-Wood fundamentals.

Everyone knows wood comes from trees, and the annular rings tell us the age of the tree. But you may not know these rings are the baseline for how wood will ultimately look when it’s cut.

Wood grains

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

The wood behind the bark of a tree is called “sapwood”. It’s typically much lighter than the wood that’s closer to the center of the tree. That’s called “heartwood”. Heartwood is desired because it provides more consistency from cut to cut in the look of the wood.

But ask any wood cutter, and they’ll tell you it’s impossible to deliver 100% heartwood. Artisan woodworkers either cut out the sapwood, or dye it so it matches.

It’s rarely left natural in custom furniture, as most customers would be surprised by its lighter color.


2-Wood properties.

Hardwoods come from deciduous trees, versus softwoods from trees with cones. High quality furniture is always made from hardwoods.

High-end furniture designers weigh numerous factors when selecting woods. They consider its hardness, stability, how it carves, how it finishes, and the way it wears over time. These properties all play into how the wood will look in its finished form.

3-Consistency is difficult to achieve.

Every tree is different. That’s what makes wood so incredibly beautiful. However, it presents a challenge to furniture designers who need to deliver consistency in their products.

exotic hardwood variance

Photos: Macassar Ebony variance. Courtesy of Figurewood Sales & Spectrum Hardwoods

Macassar Ebony from two different sources.

The natural variance in trees is more dramatic in some wood types than others. Most of the exotic woods are very inconsistent in grain and color.

The end look can vary quite significantly. For example, the two images shown here are both Macassar Ebony, but from two different sources.

This is one reason the exotic woods are used less frequently in custom furniture.

Other wood types are more consistent, but, even so, some modern luxury furniture lines dye their wood to assure consistency.

Some, like VIOSKI, prefer to keep it natural, to see the true beauty of the wood.

4-Cost is always a consideration.

Wood is expensive. Many of the exotic and more inconsistent woods are very costly. The more common woods like oak and walnut are still expensive, but do cost less, and they have far less variance. Cost and consistency, along with their properties, are why they’re used most often.

5-Wood types help define the furniture era.

Through the history of furniture design, wood types have helped define the look of the era. Dating back to the 17th Century, walnut, maple and cherry characterized the style of the day, all the way through the Queen Anne period in the mid-1700’s.

wood in furniture through history

Photo: Mission Style Desk in Oak courtesy of TheSpruce.com

Mahogany was introduced with the Chippendale era, and carried through Rococo, along with rosewood.

Oak became a primary player in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with the Eastlake, Colonial, Art Nouveau, and Mission styles.

Woods shifted up again with the Mid Century Modern Movement.

wood in mid-century modern

Photo: Cherry was popular in Mid-Century Modern, aging to an orangy brown

Maple, cherry, and rosewood became the signature woods.

Cherry was quite popular, and aged to an orangy brown.

In Europe, beech defined the MCM era, with the blond look of Scandinavian Mid Century Modern.



Fast forwarding to today’s modern furniture, oak and walnut are the primary woods used. Wenge is also sometimes utilized, along with exotic veneers.

American Dark Walnut represents the evolution from Mid-Century Modern to New Century Modern furniture design. It’s warm, rich, medium brown in color, and it goes with everything.

6-Wood cuts determine the look.

There are many ways to saw a tree and each shows the grain of the wood quite differently.

Flat cut gives the wood cathedrals and grains. It gives it personality.

new-century modern VIOSKI Aiden Console

Photo: VIOSKI Aiden II Console beautifully showcases quarter cut walnut with its simple, straight lines

Quarter cut wood has an amazing straight grain pattern that lends itself to specific designs. Cut on a radial angle, the grain lines subtly show the curve of the tree rings.

Rift cut is narrow with a very straight grain pattern on the face of the board. The most expensive cut, it’s cut radially from the edge of the bark to the center of the tree.

As Jeff Vioski points out, “wood has a completely different look when its cut on an angle. It turns it into a much more modern look.

wood in modern furniture

Photo: VIOSKI Brenton Table in rift cut White Oak, in a natural finish

It takes white oak from what you typically see across middle America, to a far more modern aesthetic.”



7-Natural or Stained?

One of the principles of New-Century Modern is to stay as close to nature as possible. Seeing the real character of the wood is not only beautiful, but it grounds us in its natural beauty.

That’s why collections like VIOSKI prefer a natural finish. Using no stain–so it’s as close to a matte finish as possible. For those who prefer the look of dark wood, VIOSKI and other high-end modern furniture lines offer a rich espresso stain.

8-Wood Veneers?

Veneers get a bad rap, but there’s definitely a place for them in high-end luxury furniture. Certain pieces require their use. Such as, consoles.

VIOSKI David Console

Photo: VIOSKI David Console in Macassar Ebony veneer

This is true whether using more dramatic woods like Zebra Wood or Macassar Ebony, or more common woods like rift cut white oak, flat cut oak, quarter cut walnut, or flat cut walnut.

9-Craftsmanship matters.

Whether the piece is solid wood or top-quality veneer, how it is cut, shaped, fitted, matched for grain, gives the piece its integrity.

Impeccable handcraftsmanship makes all the difference in these finishing details. Artisan hands elevate each piece to real and honest beauty.

There’s lots more to know about wood in modern furniture. And the more you know, the more likely you’ll get the look you’re after in modern furniture design.

We’d like to learn what you know about wood and how you use wood in modern furniture and interior design. Share your ideas @ vioski.com/blog.

VIOSKI is an experience of artistic expression brought to life in timeless furniture design. Unique in style, charismatic and sensual. Each piece is masterfully created to be simple yet complex. Proportional yet fluid. Handcrafted in California, by master artisans who devote themselves to extraordinary quality. VIOSKI is new-century modern.


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