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18 Types of Furniture Wood You Can Use to Create a Muji-inspired Home
Shopping for new furniture for your house? Or looking to add some wooden furniture to the Muji-themed art gallery you have in mind? If you're unsure about the type of wood that’ll create the look you want, we're here to help you make the decision.
While there are many types of wood you can choose for furniture, not all woods are made equal. Each has its own unique grain and colour, so it's important to choose the right type of wood that matches your needs and preferences.
Check out these 18 types of furniture wood that you can use to add some charm to your home!
- Types of Hardwoods for Furniture
- Rain Tree
- Types of Softwoods for Furniture
- Properties of Hardwood vs Softwood for Furniture
- FAQs about Types of Furniture Wood
Types of Hardwoods for Furniture
Hardwoods come from deciduous trees and are typically denser and stronger than softwoods. They’re the preferred material for furniture that’ll see frequent use. They can also be used for decorative pieces, such as cabinets and mantles.
Each one has a different grain, colour, and pattern. Here are some types of hardwood you can consider to add beauty to your home.
Colour: Light yellow, golden brown, reddish brown
Grain: Interlocked and sometimes wavy
Angsana, also known as Pterocarpus indicus, is commonly found in Singapore and can grow up to 40 metres. You can easily spot it with its dense dome-shaped crown and yellow flowers.
It’s a rare, tropical hardwood that is usually used to make furniture and homeware such as cutting and serving boards. Its uniqueness is in its colour range as it can come in a light yellow, golden brown or reddish brown colour. You never really know what you’re getting so if you’re into a bit of a surprise, this one’s for you!
Colour: Light brown, light yellow
Grain: Open-grained (large visible pores) with some brown streaks
Ash trees are medium to large trees that can be found across Asia, North America, and Europe. They provide habitat and food for many creatures such as birds and squirrels.
The wood from ash trees is known for its strength and durability. It’s used for making
a variety of furniture from bed frames to sofas. The hard, smooth texture makes it easy to work with and the beautiful grain is perfect for adding a decorative touch.
However, ash wood also has a downside: it emits an unpleasant door. This can be too much to bear for carpenters who are working on it!
Colour: Light brown, dark reddish brown
Native to Southeast Asia, balau is a tropical hardwood that is prized for its durability. It’s excellent for outdoor furniture and heavy construction. Depending on its treatment, it can also be known as Yellow Balau or Red Balau.
The treatment process for balau can be very extensive. It’s difficult to dry evenly, which means the wood is susceptible to cracking or warping. Fun fact: this strong hardwood was used to construct the Yougal Boardwalk in Ireland and Titanic Belfast in the UK!
Colour: Light cream, medium/tan brown
Beech trees have been made famous by Game of Thrones. The popular series featured the Dark Hedges of Northern Ireland, a famous road lined with beech trees that were planted in the 18th century.
Wood from these iconic trees is strong and dense. They’re typically used for flooring and making small to medium-sized furniture. Although it’s one of the least expensive hardwoods, it may be susceptible to rotting and moisture, making it the least used wood for outdoor furniture.
Colour: Pale white, reddish brown, yellow
Grain: Straight and sometimes wavy
Birch trees are typically found in cold climates and are well-known for their distinctive white bark. The most common species is the Yellow birch which can grow up to 24m tall.
In the 60s and 70s, birch wood was frequently used in home furnishings and cabinetry. Today, it’s mainly used for plywood, shelving, and crates. Aside from these practical functions, different parts of the tree have also been used in food production.
The birch sap is used to make syrup while the bark is the main ingredient in Birch beer (a soda similar to root beer).
Colour: Light yellow brown with a distinct green tinge
Grain: Shallowly to deeply interlocked
Originating from Indochina and North Malaysia, Chengal trees can grow over 60m. The species is critically endangered due to illegal logging.
Chengal wood is much sought after for housing, furniture making, and boat-building. It’s naturally durable and very resistant to fungi and termites. Being able to last many years without warping, it’s also a popular material for wood decks.
The Chengal Pasir tree near Halton Road was believed to be the last of its kind in Singapore. Unfortunately, it was felled without permission, leading to the extinction of the species in the country.
Colour: Light pink, reddish brown
Cherry trees can live up to 100 years. Sadly, they usually don’t make it to old age as their trunk is prone to rotting. As such, most trees are cut down after 50 to 90 years.
The reddish-brown hardwood has a uniform texture. It’s moderately durable with medium strength. Because the wood is firm and sturdy when dried, it’s very easy to stain and finish. It’s widely used in flooring, cabinets and furniture.
Cherry wood gets better with age; the colour deepens as it matures, developing a rich, warm hue that is highly valued by furniture makers and collectors. Much like fine wine, it becomes more lustrous and beautiful over time.
Colour: Reddish brown
The Mahogany tree is native to Central and South America. Wood from this species is also referred to as Genuine Mahogany, American Mahogany, or Honduras Mahogany. It's frequently used in furniture and musical instruments.
A cheaper option, African Mahogany, is a common substitute for those looking to cut costs. As the name suggests, the tree has origins in Africa and Madagascar. Though the wood is less durable than American Mahogany, it has a similar appearance and good working properties.
Colour: Creamy white with a reddish tinge
Several things probably come to your mind when you think of maple trees. It's the source of maple syrup for your pancakes and also the national tree of Canada.
Maple is one of the strongest hardwoods which is very resistant to scratches. It's often used for kitchen cabinets, flooring, and dressers due to its extreme durability. Because of its light, creamy colour, maple can be stained or painted to match any décor.
Colour: Light to medium brown (white oak), pinkish and reddish hues (red oak)
There are over 500 varieties of oak trees and each one has its unique characteristics. In general, they have a long lifespan and can live up to thousands of years. The Pechanga Great Oak in California is believed to be the oldest oak tree in the world. It’s estimated to be around 2,000 years old!
Oak is known for its remarkable properties. It’s strong, dense, and resistant to fungi and insects. These qualities make oak wood the ideal candidate for construction and furniture making. Because of its durability, white and red oak are the most widely used species in homes.
Colour: Walnut to dark chocolate brown
Rain trees are a common sighting in Singapore. Originating in Tropical America, they were first introduced to Singapore in 1876. They have a distinctive umbrella-shaped crown that provides good shade.
The wood is durable and resistant to termites. Aside from solid wood furniture, they’re also used to make mosaics, carvings, and handicrafts. One reason for their popularity is their rich colour which resembles walnuts.
22 rain trees along Connaught Drive have been classified as Heritage Trees. Planted around the mid-1880s, they have witnessed many historic events that took place in the area.
Colour: Deep, ruddy brown to purplish-brown
Grain: Straight, sometimes interlocked or wavy
Highly exploited to manufacture elegant furniture, musical instruments, and oil, rosewood has become an endangered species.
Rosewood, known as “hongmu” in China, was used by imperial elites in the past. Due to its history, hongmu is associated with wealth and success. This led to high demand for hongmu to create luxury furniture, contributing to its scarcity.
There’s no denying that the natural oily quality of rosewood gives it a gorgeous shine reminiscent of royalty. Whether used to create an elegant dining table or an intricately carved headboard, rosewood always adds a touch of luxury to any setting.
Africa is China’s largest supplier of rosewood. In an effort to prevent rosewood from extinction, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has suspended trading of the wood in 16 African countries.
Colour: Golden brown to yellowish white
Grain: Straight, sometimes interlocked or wavy
Teaks are tropical hardwood trees native to Asia. India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and Malaysia produce some of the highest quality teaks in the world.
Because of its high resistance to rot and bugs, teak is used in making outdoor furniture, boat building, and carpentry. When the tree is first cut down, the wood has a golden brown hue. Over time, the colour changes to become silvery-grey in tone, giving it a distinctive aged look.
Colour: Light yellow brown
Grain: Straight to slightly wavy
Native to Singapore, Southeast Asia, and Northeast India, the Tembusu tree can be recognised by its creamy white flowers and dark brown bark.
Tembusu wood is strong, heavy, durable, and termite-resistant. These characteristics make it suitable for bridges, furniture, and heavy construction. They also make excellent cutting and chopping boards that can last for years!
The Tembusu tree is featured on the back of Singapore's $5 note to represent the country's vision of becoming a garden city. 10 Tembusu trees are currently listed as Heritage Trees, and the first one to be designated is the Tembusu located in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Colour: Light to dark brown
Walnut trees can grow up to 30m tall and yield walnuts for more than a century. Major species include the Black walnut and English walnut which can be found in America.
The wood colours vary depending on the part of the tree they come from. The sapwood ranges from pale yellow to rich white while the heartwood offers a rich, dark brown colour with hues of purple.
Due to their strength and hardness, they’re typically used in cabinets, furniture, and flooring. However, they can be quite expensive because the trees tend to grow slower. The demand far exceeds the supply, resulting in a high price.
Types of Softwoods for Furniture
Softwood refers to wood that comes from coniferous trees such as fir, pine, and cedar. They’re typically lighter and less dense than hardwood.
Softwood is used in a variety of applications, including construction, furniture-making, and paper production. Because they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to work with, they’re popular among woodworkers.
The cedar tree is native to the western Himalayas and Mediterranean region. Though there are different species of cedar around the world, the Eastern and Western Red Cedar are most commonly used in woodworking.
Cedarwood is naturally resistant to rot and insects, making it an ideal material for outdoor furniture. In addition, the pleasant aroma makes it a popular choice for closet linings and chests.
The world's tallest Japanese cedar, Sugi no Osugi, is believed to be more than 3,000 years old. It was declared a national monument by the Japanese government in 1952.
Colour: Orange to reddish-brown
Fir trees are known for their tall, straight trunk and lush, green needles. They can be found in many different parts of the world, from North America to Europe. They typically grow in mountainous regions, where they provide shelter and food for animals.
Fir is also relatively easy to find and harvest, making it a more affordable option for many furniture makers. The tree tends to grow very large, producing lots of usable lumber.
Like the pine tree, fir is also one of the top choices for Christmas trees. Their pleasing, symmetrical shape makes them ideal for decorating.
Colour: White, pale yellow
Pine trees are one of the most popular types of Christmas trees which can be found in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
This strong yet lightweight wood is easy to work with. They’re abundant in supply and are relatively inexpensive, making them the ideal choice for budget-conscious shoppers.
Pine wood has a long history of being used as a symbol in different cultures. To Native Americans, they represent longevity and wisdom. In China, this evergreen tree is associated with solitude, virtue, and long life.
Properties of Hardwood vs Softwood for Furniture
As their names suggest, hardwoods are harder and denser than softwoods. They’re also more resistant to scratches and dents, making them the winning choice for high-quality furniture that will be regularly used.
Softwoods, on the other hand, are lighter and less dense. Due to these properties, they’re easier to cut and shape, making them a good choice for beginner woodworkers.
|Origin||Deciduous trees||Coniferous trees|
|Density||Usually higher than softwoods||Tends to be lower than hardwoods|
|Tracheid*||Most hardwood species consist of vessels. Only a few contain tracheids.||About 90% of the cells in softwoods are tracheids.|
|Suitability for furniture||
*The tracheid is a cell in the xylem tissue which transports water and minerals from roots up the stem.
FAQs about Types of Furniture Wood
Which type of wood is best for furniture?
When it comes to furniture, hardwoods are the gold standard. They’re more durable than softwoods, meaning they'll last longer and be more resistant to wear and tear. Of course, all of this comes at a price.
Hardwoods are more expensive than softwoods but if you're looking for furniture that’ll withstand the test of time, they’re the clear choice.
What type of wood is expensive for furniture?
Expensive woods include sandalwood, rosewood, African blackwood, pink ivory, and ebony. While these woods may come with a higher price tag, they’re sure to add a touch of luxury to any home.
How can you tell if wood furniture is good quality?
When it comes to identifying high-quality wood furniture, there are a few things you can look out for.
Good quality wood furniture should be made from solid wood instead of veneers. Veneers are thinly-sliced wood that measures about 3mm thick. While they can create a similar appearance to solid wood, they aren’t as strong or durable.
Over time, they can peel away from the underlying wood, leaving the furniture susceptible to damage.
Another way to tell if you've got a quality piece of furniture is by checking to see if it's levelled with the floor. Poorly made wooden furniture is often mismatched or poorly fitted, resulting in wobbling.
The type of furnishing used can reveal a lot about the quality. Good quality pieces should be scratch resistant. To find out, use your fingernail to gently draw a line on the unexposed area and check if there's any visible dent.
You can gauge the quality of construction by taking a look at the joints. Wood furniture of good quality contains joints that are dowelled or screwed. Re-enforcing blocks are also used on corners.
If there’s any indication that the joints may have been nailed, stapled or glued together, it’s a sign that the piece of furniture was poorly constructed.
What's better: MDF or plywood?
Both materials have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, making it difficult to choose one over the other. Here are some factors to consider when choosing between the two.
Though the costs vary according to the thickness and grade of the material, Medium Density Fiberboards (MDF) are generally cheaper. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, MDF is the winner.
In terms of strength, MDF loses out to plywood. It’s softer and more likely to split under pressure. Plywood has better flexibility and can be bent lightly. In addition, they won’t warp, expand or contract under extreme temperatures.
Plywood resembles real wood as it’s made using wood strips. The higher the grade, the smoother and more attractive it is. On the other hand, MDF doesn’t have any visible grains like natural wood. If you prefer a raw aesthetic look, then plywood may work better.