Timeless, sustainable style is just one of the benefits of wood

You know the feeling: walking into a room that just works. It feels welcoming and appealing, and you want to spend time there. It’s ‘the aesthetic’, but unironically. Whatever that room’s specific style, it will almost always contain wood.

Wooden floors, furniture, cladding and accessories are all mainstays of interior design, with good reason. The incredible diversity of shapes you can achieve with wood and its ability to transform completely with different finishes make it the ideal material for interiors. 

Best of all, you’re not locked into one look forever. Take floorboards as an example. From a practical perspective, they’re a good choice: warm and comfortable underfoot, good insulative qualities, pretty easy to keep clean and maintain. 

Straight out of the shop, they’re perfectly suited for a huge range of home styles from Scandi and mid-century Modern to Country and Heritage. Take an extra step and paint them creamy white and suddenly you could be in the Hamptons. Add a dark stain and you’re nailing an Industrial vibe or echoing an Italian palazzo. The only limits are your imagination and budget.

Timber wall treatments share this adaptability. The same cladding can have a cool Retro feel when left natural, be edgy and Industrial when sanded back roughly, or glow with Coastal chic in a light-filled paint colour. The different chapters of your family’s story through the decades can all have the one background, transformed with little more than a sander and a paint catalogue. 

As for furniture, timber’s chameleon qualities are more constrained by design –an Adirondack chair isn’t fooling anyone if you slap a high-gloss finish on it, though it will be a witty addition to a sleek Modernist room. But the warm, natural comforts of wood mean that a majority of pieces transcend style, which is why a vintage table doesn’t look out of place in a 21st Century kitchen – and why we’re still paying top-dollar for 1970s timber lounge sets.

There are solid reasons for this: wood has been part of our lives since the earliest humans, and we are hard-wired to find it comforting. Forest & Wood Products Australia’s  research shows that wood-rich interiors replicate the benefits people get from spending time in nature, including lower stress and increased levels of happiness and self-esteem. Plus, the conscience boost of knowing your choices are locking up carbon for the life of your furniture or home. 

Wood is also a healthier and safer building material than most. Unlike many of the plastic-based furnishings and finishes in the modern home, solid timbers don’t off-gas harmful chemicals and they can be maintained with very natural finishes, often made from food-grade materials such as vegetable oils and beeswax. 

In a worst-case scenario wood is a resilient material. After floods, it will dry out and, counterintuitively, it doesn’t burn very well. It takes a lot of heat to convince wooden homes and furnishings to catch fire and it is much more likely they will char without actually igniting, which is why some solid wood and log homes survive during major fires when more modern homes nearby are lost and others burn more slowly, allowing time for occupants to escape.

So, whether you’re furnishing a rental from op shops or planning your new home design, start your thinking with wood. It’s an adaptable, sustainable material that will do any job well but, more importantly, it will keep rewarding your choice for decades to come, long after half the trends gracing our Insta feeds now have become hopelessly dated.

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