by David Wilson, Creative Director
I recently saw a slogan in a major furniture retailer’s window that said: “No wood veneer here!’” They might as well have declared: “No real furniture making done here!”
No matter how hard we try to inform people about the craft of furniture making, the myth still persists that veneered furniture is somehow inferior to that made of solid wood.
So we’d like to settle it once and for all – solid wood isn’t always best.
In the main we use solid timber where structural integrity is the most important factor and veneering where stability and gob smacking beauty is prime.
The quality of a piece of furniture is down to the design and the making process, not the choice between veneer and solid wood.
Here are a few facts about wood veneers that might surprise you
Wood veneers are currently hugely popular with upmarket interior designers. Many of the most exclusive fashion stores and hotels are “discovering” wood veneers and using them as an art form.
In reality, wood veneering has been popular with upmarket furniture designers for centuries. You would be hard pushed to find any really important piece of historical furniture that does not incorporate veneer and Chippendale’s finest pieces, which are worth millions of pounds, are cacophony of veneer and marquetry.
Veneers were shunned in the Arts and Crafts era as there was a move towards stripped down simplicity. The difficulty with this style is that it is limiting in the opportunities it offers to designers and is widely thought of as a dull era for design.
Which is better – solid wood or wood veneer?
If the furniture is well designed and properly made using techniques such as mitering and mortice and tenon joints, the choice between solid wood and veneer is an aesthetic one. Some people prefer the patina of solid wood and, depending on the furniture’s purpose, they may want to be able to sand, stain, paint or wax the piece over the years.
Wood veneers are very much on trend at the moment because of their unique design features. They are used in top hotels, designer fashion stores, yachts and luxury homes. As a natural product, each slice of veneer is unique and the patterns that arise from certain species of wood are truly beautiful.
Wood veneer doesn’t mean the furniture is low quality
Visitors to our shop in Leeds are often surprised when they find out that a piece of furniture they are admiring is made using veneer. They appreciate its quality but when they find out it isn’t solid wood they start to question it.
Sadly, there is a misconception that veneered furniture is poorer quality than solid wood when, in reality, bad furniture can be made of either. It isn’t the veneering process that determines the quality, it’s the way the furniture has been designed and crafted.
As artisan furniture makers we enjoy working with wood veneers because they actually tend to be more stable than solid wood. Yes, it may seem hard to believe but the boards that we attach our veneers to are very sturdy and less prone to movement and warping than solid wood.
Veneering also allows us to work with burr wood, a wonderful richly grained material that’s ideal for decorative veneers. In its solid lumbar form burr wood is prone to splitting because of the nature of the grain but veneering allows even the most unstable timber to be used confidently in furniture manufacturing.
Wood veneer isn’t a cheap alternative
As furniture designers we love the effects that can be created by layering sequenced veneers. This is a real art form and demands skill and precision. In the right hands, this layering process can result in some stunning furniture pieces. This is one reason why veneered furniture can be so expensive. The price of the furniture is not dependent on whether it is solid wood but on whether the materials chosen are fit for purpose and, more importantly, how they are used as part of the design. The talent and creativity of the designer, the aesthetics of the piece, its timelessness and durability are all factors that contribute to its overall quality and price
Wood veneer is a sustainable choice
Most veneers originate from hardwood trees and the process of thinly slicing the wood to create a “face” that will adhere to a sustainable base is an economical and ecologically sustainable method that can generate extensive furniture making material from even the smallest piece of timber. The furniture designs that are created are so special that they will undoubtedly be cherished for many years, adding to their sustainable value.
How to use wood veneers in your home
We are frequently commissioned to create individual pieces of bespoke furniture using decorative wood veneers. From side tables and console units to entire fitted kitchens and bedrooms, veneering allows us to design something striking and unique.
For the more adventurous, rustic wall panels can be used to create a dramatic room interior where texture and colour take centre stage.
We are delighted that wood veneers are back in vogue and we will continue to use them creatively in our furniture designs.