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Wood Products takes a look at the trending species, the woods popular in furniture, cabinetry, flooring and more plus the treatments that are transforming old standbys like oak into something totally new and fresh.
The Hardwood Manufacturers Association (HMA) notes an increase in demand for rift sawn white oak kitchen cabinets. Brian Yahn, sales manager for Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry, says rift sawn oak “produces very stable boards that are especially resistant to warping and shrinking” but it also gives a distinctive grain that is “tight, straight and even, that takes neutral or light stains exceptionally well.” The treatment is “not your grandmother’s oak. Today it is being used to create something sleek and modern,” says Yahn. “The cabinetry is clean-lined, efficient and durable yet still exudes a natural, organic quality.”
Other trends noted by the HMA include “white oak cabinets that have been cerused (limed) or wire-brushed and an understated rustic look that’s a little bit country.” The HMA adds that the trend is to keep things light and simple, but not as austere as the minimalist look of a few years ago. An example would be Shaker-style recessed panel doors in blond beech or white-painted maple giving customers “straightforward details, unfussy hardware, and honest materials.”
Yahn says that add-ons such as carved feet, undercounter corbels and crown mouldings, turned legs, raised panels and cutouts are still in demand, but on a smaller scale than styles of a decade ago. Other trends include “cabinetry that looks like fine furniture, using freestanding pieces or kitchen islands that resemble tables,” or a stand-alone armoire made of painted maple for an “easy country vibe” or made of stained cherry or black walnut for a “handsome, heirloom-quality piece.”
Kitchens today are featuring different finishes on different pieces of cabinetry, a trend that avoids the monotony of everything done in the same finish. Yahn said kitchens might feature a “dark-stained cherry or black walnut island and a perimeter of white-painted maple cabinets” or will highlight a piece or section of cabinetry with a distinctive stain or paint color.
Although still highly popular, cherry usage has recently declined slightly in residential cabinetry, notes the National Kitchen & Bath Association's Kitchen and Bath Style Report. “Given its beautiful look, there’s no surprise that cherry wood has consistently been the first or second most popular type of wood for cabinetry, jockeying for the top spot with maple each year,” the NKBA wrote. “While 805 of NKBA member kitchen designers had recently specified cherry cabinetry going into 2010, the figure dropped to 72 percent in 2011 and fell to 69 percent heading into 2012.”
The NKBA reported no single wood species took the market shares alone and maple also dropped in popularity from 77 percent in 2011 to 70 percent heading into 2012. The NKBA reported that a number of “lesser-used woods were being specified” among them oak, walnut, birch and bamboo. Alder’s use going into 2012 was 27 percent, down from 30 percent the prior year and 40 percent in 2010. Oak’s use by NKBA designers was 22 percent going into 2012, up from 11 percent in 2010. Walnut saw an increase from 3 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2011 and 13 percent for 2012. Birch saw a big jump from five percent in 2011 to 15 percent going into 2012.
Other design trends in cabinetry noted by the NKBA’s report included a steady move toward darker finishes for natural kitchen cabinetry. The 2012 report showed that while light natural finishes have been recently specified by 30% of kitchen designers, medium natural finishes stand at 55%, with dark natural finishes at 58%. In 2010, dark natural finishes were specified by only 43% of designers, reports the NKBA.
The 2012 report noted, “Among painted cabinetry, white continues to be the most popular option, as white cabinets have been recently specified by 59 percent of NKBA member kitchen designers, while other colors were specified by only 38 percent of designers.” Distressed finishes are also making a comeback. The distressed look was specified by 15 percent of designers going into 2010; that figure dropped to just 5 percent last year, but has now risen to 22 percent, says the NKBA
High Point Furniture Market Trends
The Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturer’s Inc., (AHMI), a trade association of hardwood lumber suppliers from the 12 states of the Appalachian Mountain region, has been surveying wood usage at the High Point Furniture Market since 1934, tracking wood species and design style trends in home furnishings. The AHMI’s most recent survey, released in November, 2012, found American cherry to be the leader in bedroom, dining room and entertainment centers for the October, 2012 market. It was second to American red oak in the home office category. Tom Inman, AHMI president and survey director, said designers still love American cherry for every room in the home. “We found a trend to more brown tones for cherry with medium and darker finishes rather than clear.”
In Bedroom groups, American cherry led with 14 percent, down from 18 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2002. Red oak’s 2012 share was 13 percent, followed by maple with 12 percent, rubberwood with nine percent, mahogany with seven percent, American walnut with six percent and white oak with five percent. Poplar and pines each had four percent. In the “other materials” category, painted on wood was 12 percent up from seven percent in 2011 and four percent in 2002. Designers reported that for the painted products, they noted an increase in demand for traditional black, shades of white and a few muted colors.
In Dining room groups, American cherry maintained 15 percent of the market for the second year in a row. American red oak moved to second place with 10 percent up from eight percent; American white oak and American walnut each had seven percent; and Rubberwood, Birch and Mahogany were tied for fifth with six percent. Also in the top 10 were American maple, pine and American ash.
American cherry had it greatest increase in all categories in Entertainment Centers and wall units, up to 18 percent from 14 percent in 2011. American walnut remained the same at 12 percent while American red oak dropped from 14 percent to 10 percent in 2012. Mahogany and rubberwood were seven percent; birch, six percent, American white oak, American maple were five percent with pines, ash, and poplar at three percent.
Home office, a “hot category” a few years ago due to the popularity of home computers, declined due to rising tablet sales. Home office sizes have been affected by this trend, too. American red oak was top in this area with 17 percent of the surveyed pieces. American cherry was next with 12 percent, down from 19 percent in 2011. Also in the top five were Mahogany and American maple with 11 percent and American walnut with seven percent. The next most used woods included birch, American white oak, rubberwood and alder.
Popular Woods on the Web
For another gauge of popular woods, we tracked the interest in Wood of the Month columns featured on WoodworkingNetwork.com over the past year. Here’s a list of the most viewed species, in order of interest.
Ziricote, (Cordia dodecandra) led the pack with 844 hits. Visually, ziricote it is a showstopper, easily machined and finished the wood is popular for a variety of uses, especially as a veneer for architectural woodwork. Guitar makers love the look and sound of ziricote.
Beetle-killed pine, also known as denim pine or blue pine was the second most viewed WOM. Lodgepole pines (Pinus spp.) have been among the hardest hit species but the growing market for beetle kill pine products has given cause for hope among many along with a new green wood with a slightly blue tinge.
Red Grandis came in third. This up and coming wood varies in color from pink to white cream to light rose but its claim to fame likely belongs to the fact that it is certifiably green. It is the trademarked name for hardwood from a plantation-grown Eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus grandis) that boasts FSC certification.
Cherry, (Prunus serotina) a classic and classy fine furniture wood, has the number four spot. Greg Harden, president of Harden Furniture, say cherry’s popularity is due to its grain and color, including dramatic cathedrals, a subtle straight grain and a rich reddish tone. “It also is a great wood for some of our more casual/rustic collections and the natural defects such as pitch pockets and pin knots are not too overwhelming – just enough defect that the lumber is still stable,” he added. Cherry’s other uses include architectural millwork, cabinetry, flooring, musical instruments, and boat interiors.
The oaks were well represented in our informal poll with red oak (Quercus rubra) in fifth place and white oak (Quercus alba) in 10th. Red oak is enjoying a great run for domestic flooring and is a popular export species. Andy Johnson, regional editor of the Hardwood Review, cited a recent survey by the National Wood Flooring Assn., which found red oak’s market share climbed from 31 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2012. White oak jumped from 19 percent to 24 percent, putting their combined market share above 60 percent.
Sixth-place Pacific Coast maple (Acer macrophyllum) is also known as big leaf maple, Oregon maple and the soft maple of the Western U.S. and Canada. It is a popular species in the Pacific Northwest, second to red alder among native hardwood species in abundance and commercial use. Uses include cabinetry, furniture, mouldings, floor, countertops, picture frames, gift boxes, and more. Highly figured big leaf maple is used for electric guitar bodies and other instruments.
Vibrant, colorful koa, the pride of Hawaii where it grows on all of the major Hawaiian Islands, occupies the seventh spot. Koa only grows in Hawaii and its population has been damaged by a variety of factors, among them logging, cattle grazing, insects, and rats, which strip the bark from immature trees. The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and other groups are working hard to restore koa forests. Koa is an important commercial timber and also an important part of Hawaii’s natural ecosystem.
Pau marfim (Balfourodendron riedelianum), number eight, is also known as guatamba, guatambu, moroti, farinha, seca, pau liso, kyrandy, quillo bordon, yomo de heuro and ivorywood. It’s an almost featureless wood with pale yellow color and little difference between the sapwood and heartwood. It is a tough, heavy, and dense wood with uses that include striking tool handles and oars. In its native Brazil and surrounding countries, pau marfim is used for furniture, construction and turnery and also as a substitute for maple in flooring. Selected logs are sliced for veneer, used in cabinetry and furniture.
Padauk, nine, is a popular name for a variety of species including African padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii), and closely related species Andaman padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergiodes) and Burmese padauk (Pterrocarpus macrocarpus). African padauk is considered a world-famous dye wood and a popular choice for high-end cabinetry, furniture and interior joinery. It is also used for heavy-duty flooring and is an excellent choice for turnery and carving. African padauk is a popular choice as a guitar wood, for it looks good and sounds good, says admirers.
White oak, 10 (see red oak)
European beech,11, (Fagus sylvatica), is often called the blank slate because it is a clean slate or blank canvas that can be transformed into a variety of designs, styles and colors, said Doug Martin, president of North American sales and marketing at Pollmeier Inc. European beech is a strong, durable hardwood with a close-grain, similar to maple. European beech is sustainable, adds Martin, which is an important feature to many users today. End uses include cabinetry, casegoods, residential, office, hospitality and educational furniture, flooring, tools, pianos and joinery.
Paldao (Dracontomelum dao), 12, is also known as dao and originates in Southeast Asia, Phillipines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Its uses include furniture and cabinetry, architectural woodwork, yacht work, aircraft interiors, interior joinery, flooring and musical instruments. The wood is typically brown, sometimes with irregular dark brown to black streaks. It is a large tree, up to 120 feet in height, with clear straight boles 65 to 80 ft. in length.
Vavona burl also known as redwood burl (Sequoia sempervirens) is from the Northern coastal region of California and parts of Oregon. It is rare and yields an especially dramatic and varied collection of figures. Uses of redwood burl include inlay and marquetry because the wood is usually small dimensionally.