Wood is an endlessly versatile material that continues to be reinvented and reimagined by new generations of designers. The past year has seen an explosion of wood furniture with adventurous surface finishes that bring unexpected color and texture to this age-old material. Traditional techniques are being revisited while new technology is fuelling the creation of surprising new forms and lightweight hybrids.
1. Jo Nagasaka of Schemata Architects has used a traditional Japanese wood treatment called udukuri to create ColoRing; a collection of neon-stained wood furniture. The wood is polished with a brush made of sew grass that scrapes off the soft tissue and exposes the natural texture of the grain. Layers of leftover paint in clashing colors are then used to stain the pieces, before the timber is polished flat leaving behind dazzling remnants of the paint within the wood grain.
2. Made from Douglas fir, the Diptych furniture series by Dutch designer Lex Pott features geometric cut-out shapes that are made using an inventive sandblasting process. Working with online platform and design label New Window, Pott has devised a way in which to sandblast away the wood’s soft summer rings while leaving behind a see-through framework of winter rings. By covering parts of the wood with rubber stickers during the sandblasting process, Pott can create geometric patterns with solid and semi-transparent wood. “You can see the life of the tree in the wood,” explains Pott. “Good summers give a wide annual ring, harsh winters a thin one."
3. Japanese design studio Nendo printed wood grain patterns onto the surface of their wooden Print chairs to create an intriguing layered effect. New printing technology allowed the studio to make fine adjustments to the scale, density and colors used. “For some seats we layered two different wood grain patterns, and for others printed enlarged, abstracted wood grain patterns onto the existing pattern,” says the studio. “For another design, we scanned the wood’s surface then printed the same pattern back onto the wood at another angle. We also experimented with other materials, replacing the seat base with OSB laminate board for one chair and printing a marble pattern onto the wood for another.”
4. Low-cost and versatile, plywood is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Tacoma, Washington-based craftsman Steve Lawler of Reply Furniture collects scrap plywood to create intricate contemporary furniture. The pieces of collected wood are meticulously worked to create tables, chairs, picture frames and cabinets with beautiful plywood that shows off the natural grain of the wood.
5. Measuring 7.9 feet long and made from a lightweight corrugated plywood material from Canada called Corelam, Benjamin Hubert’s ultra-light Ripple table weighs just 10.5 kilograms yet it can support the weight of a person. The tabletop is made up of three layers of 0.8 millimeter-thick Sitka spruce plywood corrugated together and then topped with a flat sheet of plywood. A curve across the underside of the tabletop provides extra tensile strength, while the legs are made with a sturdy hollow triangular profile. In total the design uses 80% less material than a standard timber table.