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A Timeless Choice: The Complete Guide To Wooden Furniture / Soul & Tables Blog

A Timeless Choice: The Complete Guide To Wooden Furniture

Part 1: A Classic Choice

Whether you are a first-time homeowner, or a long-term homeowner seeking a fresh facelift, the variety of options for furniture is simply bewildering. From a modern layout that utilises stately furniture with sleek lines to complement tones of silver and gray; to a vibrant home with a dazzling array of custom furnitures in diverse colours, a quick online search presents homeowners with countless furnishing options to personify their home.

Amidst a slew of options, here’s one synonymous with quality home furniture in Singapore - that of wooden furniture. Dating back across the millennia to the Egyptians and Greeks, wood is the hard and fibrous material from the trunk or branches of trees. It’s treasured for its sturdy nature, versatility for crafting a wide variety of furniture, and its durability across the years. Wood has become a timeless presence in both homes and architecture, particularly as a wholly natural and renewable resource for construction.

Wooden furniture comes in a diverse range of types, each with their own strengths for different purposes. From sofas to bed frames and coffee tables, the process of making home furniture is an elaborate affair; starting with wood selection, to carving and adding inlays, before adding the finishing touches of polishing and lacquering.

Read on to learn more about the various types of wood commonly used in furniture making, what to consider when picking the right wooden furniture for your home, as well as which types of solid wood furniture best complement the different areas of your Singapore home.

Part 2: All About Wood

Wood is an essential part of our daily lives. There are hundreds of different wood types across the world, and not just for furniture making. There are woods that are perfect for crafting musical instruments, such as guitars and pianos, along with woods that are cherished for their fragrant oils and scents when burnt in incense. Similarly, the wood used to craft solid wood furniture comes from a wide variety of different trees; dependent on availability, cost-effectiveness, and desired characteristics.

Wood used for furniture creation falls into two categories. There are solid woods, which comprise all-natural hardwoods and softwoods; and composite woods, which combine wood byproducts such as sawdust with synthetic plastics.

2.1 Hardwoods

When people think of solid wood furniture, they would likely imagine a stately office or dining table, or an hand-carved elaborate sofa set. These are made from hardwoods, which get their name from their dense and rigid build, compared to other wood options. Hardwood furniture is beloved for its dark colours, unique grain patterns, and durability, bringing a sense of rootedness and reliability.

Hardwoods are derived from deciduous trees that take a longer time to grow, compared to other wood options. Naturally, this leads to higher costs for solid wood furniture, especially when considering a sustainable rate of harvesting trees and time taken to grow new ones. Some of the most well known hardwoods include mahogany, teak, oak, maple, and birch.

Some species of trees, such as oak and maple, are sourced from North American forests, where the temperate climate allows them to thrive. There are also tropical hardwoods, such as mahogany and teak, that grow in the tropics and require additional logistics and transportation.

Mahogany is one of the most renowned examples of hardwood. With its rich reddish-brown colour and attractive grain, it is a classic option for solid wood furniture, especially for custom hand-crafted pieces with intricate details, such as bed frames, sofa sets, and centerpiece tables. It is a popular option with woodworkers as well, as it complements modern finishes and is less liable to warping and swelling compared to other woods. Mahogany commands a high price due to its scarcity, long growth cycle and growing demand, especially in Asia.

Oak is another popular and affordable choice for furniture. Oak lumber has a light-brown/pinkish-red hue with swirling or striped grains, conferring both elegance and warmth into a room. Similar to mahogany, oak is a slow growing tree, as well as being extremely dense and highly resistant to moisture, a particularly useful attribute in humid Singapore. Oak wood furniture is highly versatile, coming in both red oak and white oak options, and are crafted into tables and cupboards, to robust work desks and bed frames.

Teak is yet another popular option for home furniture in Singapore. Hailing from the tropics similar to mahogany, teak is highly prized for its golden-brown hues and incredible weather-resistant attributes. With a closed-pore structure that allows retention of oils and rubber, teak lumber has outstanding water-proofing, making teak wood furniture the staple for long-lasting outdoor tables and furniture, such as picnic benches and chairs. While pricer higher compared to other wood alternatives, the long-term savings and durability of teak more than makes up for the added cost.

Visit our website to learn about how to maintain and preserve your hardwood furniture.

2.2 Softwoods

Contrary to their name, softwoods aren’t actually ‘soft’ at all - they’re as solid and sturdy as hardwoods! Softwoods get their name from their conifer trees - cone-bearing trees that have needles instead of leaves, in contrast to the deciduous hardwoods. With global demand for hardwoods potentially leading to unsustainable practices and rising costs, softwoods are celebrated for their sustainability while still delivering quality.

Common examples of softwood trees are pine, cedar, and fir. Contrary to what one would expect, softwoods form the bulk of wooden furniture crafted across the globe, at approximately 80% of all solid wood furniture. Softwoods have a faster growth cycle, allowing for higher rates of harvesting and lower costs compared to hardwoods. They are a popular option for homeowners on a more limited budget, although hardwood furniture still pulls ahead in durability and longevity across the years. Here are some examples of softwoods commonly used in crafting furniture.

Pine is a classic softwood choice, with its softer nature making it easy to craft and carve into a variety of furnitures. It usually comes in light colours of white or yellow, making it easy to stain for various home furniture options in Singapore. It is strong and shock-resistant, making it excellent for affordable rustic or country-themed home setups. Pine trees grow quickly as well, making it a more environmentally-friendly option for wooden furniture.

Cedar is another popular softwood, due to its quick growth and substantial yield. The Western Red cedar variety is the most common for woodworking, with a pleasant reddish colour, straight grain, and also brings out refreshing scents as an aromatic wood. Coupled with cedar’s ability to handle moist environments, and being resistant to rot and insects, cedar is a great alternative to higher-priced teak for outdoor furniture, such as outdoor tables and seating.

Lastly, fir is another inexpensive option for solid wood furniture. Fir wood comes in a reddish-brown colour, and has a straight and closed grain pattern. While most people prefer pine for its superior aesthetics for furniture and ease of finishing, fir is a great alternative for construction projects, where its superior structure and strength shine compared to pine. A proper coat of paint goes a long way to making fir wood furniture look beautiful and last a long time.

2.3 Composite Woods

Unlike both hardwoods and softwoods, composite woods aren’t solid woods. They are a combination of byproducts from the lumber manufacturing process, such as the pulp from wood fibres; plastic, and adhesives such as resin. Under heat and pressure, these materials bond together and form a durable material for construction.

A major advantage of composite, man-made wood is that they are essentially maintenance-free, highly resistant to fungal and insect damage, and their consistent quality and build. In addition, they often utilise recycled plastics and leftover waste wood, making them an environmentally-friendly option for crafting home furniture in Singapore.

One example is plywood, which is made by adhering slices of thin lumber together to form a sturdy and cost-effective building block. Plywood is great for a variety of purposes, such as sanded plywood for cabinets and shelves, hardwood plywood for load-bearing furniture such as sofas, and sheathing plywood for framing and flooring.

Another wood option is the particle board, also known as a chipboard. It is a hybrid of wood chips and shavings from leftover woodworking, combined with resin to bind them together. Being cheaper and less resistant to moisture than plywood, it is most often used for acoustic insulation, as an inner layer to improve soundproofing of the walls in one’s home.

2.4 Picking The Right Wood

Picking the right home furniture is a complex affair. Here are some things to think about. Firstly, consider the ideal wood for your budget. The range of prices between hardwoods, softwoods, and man-made wood options vary greatly. Quality wood furniture made from hardwood will cost a premium, with well-built hardwood tables easily costing thousands of dollars per piece. Also consider if you want custom carving or engraving intricate designs, which will further increase the price.

Secondly, consider where the furniture will be placed. Will it be the centerpiece of your living room, an accompanying piece for your bedroom, or part of a larger set for hosting guests outdoors? Also consider which wood works best for each area in your home, as well as the frequency of use. For example, a decorative outdoors piece that sees less use may be worth spending less on, as compared to a centerpiece for your dining furniture.

As mentioned earlier, some woods such as teak and cedar are superior choices for outdoors furniture due to their weather-resistant attributes, while other woods such as mahogany and walnut have rich and dense brown tones that make them excellent choices for stately pieces indoors.

Finally, don’t forget to do some basic maintenance. Quality wood furniture requires proper upkeep to maintain their varnish and shine. Learning some simple techniques won’t just beautify and help your solid wood furniture look as good as new, it will help them last through the generations. Some general maintenance tips involve regular oiling and waxing of the wood to give a shiny varnish, as well as wiping down with a soft cloth to remove stains and dirt.

Click here to learn more about the optimal ways to take care of various types of hardwood.

Part 3: An Elegant Addition

Now that you know more about the various types of wood, along with their styles and attributes, let’s see how each part of your home can benefit from wooden furniture. We’ll cover five key areas, each with different requirements and ideal home furniture options.

3.1 Living Rooms

As the first place that guests usually step into, as well as where homeowners unwind after a tiring day of work or errands, the living room takes center stage with the highest quality furniture in the home.

Two key pieces of solid wood furniture are the sofa and the coffee table. Sofas have to put up with the constant weight of homeowners, guests, and often young children and pets too. With constant wear and tear, a strong and sturdy wooden frame is essential for a long-lasting sofa set. Homeowners can look to mahogany for its timeless sturdiness and classy dark brown finish, or walnut, another popular hardwood similar in sturdiness and aesthetics to mahogany.

For a more affordable yet reliable option, hardwoods such as oak and maple are perfect for quality furniture. With good aging over time while retaining their durability, these hardwoods are ideal for a sofa that requires durability for vigorous activity, such as energetic kids or playful pets.

For coffee tables, aesthetics is as important as durability, with many people opting for a ‘hybrid’ design of hardwood with other materials, such as a wooden base with a glass top or marble top, allowing for a greater range of variety and styles to suit your home. Popular options for tables include oak and teak as classic hardwood options. You can also consider mahogany if you have already chosen a mahogany sofa too.

Other uses of wood in the living room include side tables, shelving, TV cupboards and cabinets to showcase books and belongings. Many of these comprise both teak and oak wood furniture, beloved for their studiness and attractive grain patterns.

Drop by to see our full range of quality furniture for your living room.

3.2 Dining Spaces

Next to the living room, the dining room is another hub of activity. With home-made dinners being a cornerstone of hosting guests, as well as Singaporeans’ cultural love for a family dinner together, the dining room sees frequent use too. Many modern homes do away with a dedicated dining room, opting instead for an open-concept dining space that is next to the living room. This means that both the living room and dining room are now one big space, making the choice of dining furniture a little more complex for Singapore homeowners.

A classic dining setup includes a dining table and four dining chairs. As expected, the dining table prioritises durability - no one wants to have their table start sagging with a feast of food upon it. As with living room sofas, dining tables are the single most expensive piece in your dining space, and many homeowners opt for mahogany or walnut for the similar reasons as above - stateliness, classy dark-brown colour and straight grain, as well as a durable build. Beyond those hardwood options, oak and teak wood make for excellent dining furniture, striking a balance between cost, aesthetics and durability.

For a more economic use of space, extendable dining tables offer extra space to host guests if required, and can fold away for convenience. Due to this flexibility, these tables tend to come in teak and oak, which are easier for woodwork while still not skimping on quality.

As for dining chairs, many modern homes go for a mix of soft fabric, painted wood, or leather-backed wooden chairs, along with the traditional all-natural wooden layout. Teak and oak wood make perfect choices, as the chairs will experience constant movement but still need to maintain their durability. Other options for dining chair materials include maple and ash, a type of hardwood that is similar to oak. For additional seating to host more guests, wooden benches and stools constructed from oak and teak are ideal to complement your main dining set.

Visit our website to learn more about our dining furniture options in Singapore.

3.3 Kitchens

House-proud Singaporeans often pride themselves on a well-furnished kitchen. But beyond a well-stocked larder or refrigerator, or having prized cutlery and silverware; it’s important to have a proper kitchen setup to store them safely, and to feature them aesthetically as well.

Good kitchen furniture isn’t merely functional, but should also complement the overall theme set by both the living room and the dining space. Some thought should also go into considering if the choice of wood also complements the flooring, which may also use wooden tiles or other flooring options.

Kitchen cabinets see regular use, especially with families that often have homecooked meals together. A great option for hardwood is maple, given its affordability, creamy colour and fine grain, as well as ease of staining to produce attractive wood finishings. It suits a variety of styles in many homes too. Other options include walnut, beloved for its dark brown colours and elegant finish to a kitchen, as well as oak, associated with more traditional rustic styles while being a sturdy choice.

Visit our website to learn more about our kitchen furniture options in Singapore.

3.4 Bedrooms

While bedrooms naturally require privacy and rarely host guests, wood still plays a practical role in providing durability, especially for bed frames that see daily use and bear the weight of multiple people. In addition to bed frames, wardrobes also experience constant usage, as homeowners sift through their clothes and belongings, along with nightstands which often have decorations and contain various belongings, making the choice of bedroom furniture as important as that of other areas in the house.

Mahogany wood is a solid and classic choice for the bed frame, due to its rich brown colour, sturdiness and classiness, and longevity, since bed frames are rarely replaced. Another popular choice is walnut, with its rich shades of brown, as well as its similar attributes to mahogany.

For a more affordable choice, teak and oak wood provide a similar level of quality, while still allowing for added versatility for the bed frame, such as added storage to store more belongings and maximise space usage.

As for wardrobes, modular wardrobes are growing in popularity due to their customizability based on one’s storage needs, as well as being compact and affordable. While many of these wardrobes are made from man-made woods such as plywood and compressed wood, hardwood options such as walnut and oak are available, providing added durability.

Other bedroom furniture includes nightstands and drawers. A good nightstand is made out of hardwoods such as teak and oak wood, due to their affordability and reliability. Walnut is another option, with a slightly higher cost as well.

Visit our website to see our full range of bedroom furniture in Singapore.

3.5 Gardens & Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor spaces are the perfect place to host guests and unwind, be it over drinks, barbeques, or alfresco-style dining. Garden furniture such as lounge chairs, patio furniture, and picnic benches are perfect for hosting guests while enduring the elements. A key difference between indoors and outdoors wooden furniture is the natural weather-resistant qualities of the chosen wood, in contrast to utilising varnish as a coating to protect against occasional spills.

Teak wood furniture thrives best in this role, given its weather-resistant properties and hardiness, enabling it to stand up to both rain and shine in Singapore’s tropical weather. In addition, it looks elegant and hardy, as well as has its own oils within the wood to prevent it from drying out or cracking. Naturally, teak is the perfect choice for crafting outdoor tables, along with sofa seating and benches to host guests.

As mentioned above, a more budget-friendly option for garden furniture is the softwood cedar. It has natural weather-resistant properties and exudes a pleasant aroma, helping to convey that ‘outdoors feel’ while keeping insects at bay.

See our full collection of garden and outdoors furniture, crafted for Singapore homes.

Conclusion

With its timeless nature and durability, solid wood furniture is more than capable of holding its own against modern plastic and fabric options for home furnishings. Now that you’re aware of the various types of wood and their strengths, you can make a more informed decision when shopping for your next piece of wooden furniture.

Visit Soul & Tables today and see our full range of quality furniture that’s perfect for every Singapore home.