Everything you need to know about our hardwoods
date 16 Nov 2018
We’re delighted to offer our customers sustainably stylish furniture available in an array of sizes, styles and hardwoods. But what exactly is a hardwood, and what are the characteristics that make each one of our varieties so unique? In today’s bLOG post, we’re giving you the low-down on the three hardwoods available at TREE to help you determine which type best suits your style and needs. Read on below!
What is hardwood, and how does it compare to softwood?
Many would be quick to assume that lumber is categorised as either a hardwood or softwood based on its density, but the main difference actually lies in its plant reproduction. Hardwoods are flowering plants (angiosperms), meaning that they bear seeds within a casing like a fruit or nut, and typically lose their leaves annually. While a complex structure of vessels, or pores, efficiently transports water and nutrients throughout these hardwoods, it also causes the timber to grow at a slower rate, and in turn gives way to dense properties – thereby making it harder!
Softwoods on the other hand, are known as gymnosperms, and produce seeds sans any covering that either travel in the wind or fall to the ground. Unlike hardwoods, softwoods lack pores in their structure, and instead are composed of straight linear tubes that give them a comparatively lower density, and therefore softer.
Native to Southeast Asia, teak is a tropical hardwood that not only is favoured for its warm brown tones and beautifully straight grains, but also for its incredible strength and durability. This is thanks to its ability to retain natural oils, which act as a natural protectant against water, dry rotting, and insects. These oils also give way to teak’s weather-resistant properties, making it a popular choice for outdoor furniture and boats (as well as areas with wet and humid climates).
This hardwood’s popularity may have led to concerns of the disappearance of old-growth teak, but it has also given way to an increased number of sustainable teak plantations that are closely monitored. Reclaimed teak provides another source for this sought-after wood, and is typically salvaged from old structures, boats and railway sleepers. You will find that reclaimed teak furniture bears natural markings from old nails and bolts, as well as beautifully weathered surfaces that developed from standing up to the elements – giving each piece a characterful and individual look with a truly unique story of its past to tell.
While teak is a relatively low-maintenance wood, it is important to look after your piece to ensure it can last you lifetimes. Prolonged sun exposure may cause your teak furniture to develop a beautiful silvery grey patina, but if you prefer your piece to look the same as the day you purchased it in-store, we suggest applying a protectant that will help maintain its naturally warm hues. And, if you’re looking to invest in teak outdoor furniture, we recommend opting for a design with slats, which will mitigate the amount of water that seeps into the wood, allow for a quicker dry, and reduce cracking.
Oak is an exceedingly heavy and durable hardwood perfectly suited for crafting furniture, and is favoured for its high resistance to moisture and humidity similarly found in teak wood. There are approximately 600 oak species that sit under the ‘Quercus’ tree family – a Latin name that reflects the wood’s strong and robust qualities. Oak contains high levels of tannin that help protect the wood from insects and fungi, but because it is a compound corrosive to ferrous metals (i.e. that contain traces of iron), you will therefore seldom find this hardwood paired with metal detailing.
Oak is defined by creamy hues and is accented with straight golden-brown grains – a look that is well-loved among our customers as it tends to seamlessly match the lighter flooring seen in many Hong Kong homes. We like to work with European white oak as it’s slightly more golden in colour, while its relatives feature more of a yellow undertone. Consider oak furniture with simple lines and pared-back silhouettes, and you’ll achieve a clean yet contemporary look that lets any natural light in.
Get the look: Nordic bed | Nordic bedside table | Nordic chest of drawers
Last but certainly not least among our hardwoods is walnut, which is found predominantly across the eastern regions of North America. Alongside its durable and hard-wearing properties that make this wood easy to look after, walnut is also rather resilient to environmental changes, and therefore does not expand or contract as severely as other woods might. While it is a tough hardwood with a medium density, walnut is an easy material to work with and often shows predictable results after any cutting, sanding and steam-bending processes.
Walnut is comprised of two layers that vary greatly in colour, but it’s the inner heartwood layer where its distinctive, dark chocolatey tones and swirls of lighter honey hues lie. Its rich tones instantly add a touch of sophistication to any setting, and are perfect for those who are seeking an understated yet elegant look. Unlike other woods that may require a stain for added vibrancy, we recommend applying a clear protective layer to your walnut piece, which will even out its colour while allowing for its bold and beautiful tones to shine through!
Get the look: Circa17 walnut cupboard
Now that we’ve filled you in on everything you need to know about eco-teak, sustainably sourced oak and walnut varieties, we’d like to know: which wood you choose?
Want to know more about how our hardwood furniture gives back to our environment? Check out our sustainability page here.