The Natural Look
Each piece of natural wood has its own distinct features—its own face—its own unique character. It’s no wonder that natural wood finishes have adopted their common reference: character wood.
People have been using natural wood in their homes since the dawn of civilization. It warms our insides, dazzles our eyes, and brings us closer to nature. To top it off, it acts as a powerful and sturdy building material that keeps our homes living on, well into the centuries.
There are dozens of character woods to chose from. However, with dozens of styles comes an infinitude of design possibilities. From the complexity of chestnut cabinets to the boldness of a knotty pine backsplash, character wood exceeds merely furniture and floors. A delicate French oak or a burly walnut makes for a great addition to any kitchen’s character!
The 4 Faces of Character Wood
There are four main different parts of a tree from where character wood derives. Each part of the tree provides its own customized aesthetic quality and accommodation in the designing process. However, if one looks deeper into the many waves and grains of character wood, one will dive into much more than just unique aesthetic value; they will delve into the natural wood’s unique story.
Have you ever pondered at a tree and noticed eye-like features running up its rustic trunk? Those are called burls. They are extremely condensed knots that a tree exhibits after a period of stress; drought, a storm, or maybe the relocation of a domesticated tree.
Correlative to their dense strength, burls or “knots” can be difficult to work with. They are commonly incorporated into custom-crafted furniture or accessories. The JWH Design & Cabinetry Team has taken on the challenge of building custom “knotty pine” cabinets in this wooded, lakefront home in upstate NY. The right amount of warmth and durability make this an ideal material to add character to the kitchen and baths in this special vacation spot.
The point where a tree’s trunk splits into two—or more—directions is called the crotch of the tree. Crotch wood is a heartily brawn gorgeous display. It is challenging to incorporate this form of character wood into a kitchen design. The finger-like figures are reluctant to be manipulated in shape or size. The pure natural essence of crotch wood, however, is enough to make anyone want to take on the tedious task.
Character wood coffee tables are frequently seen because they are smaller and easier to craft. Nonetheless, some designers take it a step further and incorporate these wood into hardworking surfaces like island tops. It doesn’t matter what shade the wood is, or what color scheme surrounds the space. One thing will be for certain: the natural beauty of a wood countertop is an astounding site, indeed!
Spalting Out Color
Have you ever found yourself lost in a mesmerizing daze when peering into the dark black grooves flowing through a piece of character wood? This deep and vivid color comes from a process in the wood called spalting.
When a tree is alive, it is prone to becoming infested with fungi. This fungus transforms the color of the grain in the tree’s lumber. Sometimes transformations manifest as luminous streaks throughout the wood’s texture, while other times it blackens the grain to an exquisite char. Each piece should be appreciated for its individuality.
Figure it to be Curly
Another form of character wood shines in the texture—especially cherry maple. When the texture of the wood proves to be inconsistent or has a curly figure character, many home design opportunities arise. The touch to the skin is one special part of the curly figure experience, but what catches the eye is the inconsistency of light. Since curly figure character wood has a bumpy, canyon-like surface—although slight in size—when one moves about the room, the light will shift and mutate in with the surface’s many grooves.
Character wood adds even more impact when repeated within the space. The contrast of a lighter stone floor and limestone countertop keeps the room feeling light and inviting.
Character Wood the JWH Way
The JWH Design & Cabinetry Team loves incorporating character wood into cabinetry designs, decorative beams, countertops and even custom furniture. Our Millshop in central PA has access to many species of reclaimed woods, often being rescued from local barns. Whether it be sleek countertops or a daringly rustic backsplash, we can customize any piece of wood to your specific liking.
Currently, our Millshop “Sample of the Month” is a breathtaking character chestnut that will compliment any room’s setting. Kitchens, libraries, even bedroom cabinetry takes on a whole new look when incorporating character wood. If you can quite imagine your spaces looking so great, check out these fabulous spaces from House Beautiful.