Modern decorating is now more open to interpretation than ever before, with styles, techniques and finishes suited to accommodate every taste and any room idea. In decades past, one thing most anyone could agree on was that unfinished wood was considered one step shy of home-ready. But at international design expositions like ICFF and Salone de Mobile in Milan, there’s a new wave of unfinished wood making the rounds. Design houses are embracing natural wood in greater numbers than we’ve seen before, partly thanks to the tremendous influence of the Scandinavian aesthetic.
Nordic and Scandinavian styles owe much to the natural wood look, with strong, serene pieces that echo the landscape. Any modern space can gain a touch of steadfast authenticity with the right wood pieces in place. Look for wood furniture that is manufactured to high standards and with sustainable practices, like these beautiful seats from Fin, a Seattle-based design studio that uses biocide- and preservative-free wax/oil to protect their products without an overly finished look.
Raw wood tones aren’t necessarily relegated to the unfinished pine look you’ll find in any Swedish DIY flat pack. Rather, beautiful woods like beech, ash and even walnut are being presented with only wax or light oil finishes to bring out the natural wood grain. In some cases these protective finishes aren’t even shiny, so there’s no old-fashioned waxy look.
Of course, natural wood furniture doesn’t necessarily have to be wood only. While many pieces are constructed purely of wood to showcase the design and manufacturing skill, there are endless other materials that appear in their best light when paired with the right wood. From molded fiberglass shell seats, to leather, to ironwork, wood looks good with just about anything.
With sustainably produced oak as its main component, this sideboard from Ethnicraft marries industrial and traditional materials in a wholly modern way. And though the black parts of the cabinet are finished (with a water-based oil pigment), they complement the raw, unfinished face in a fresh way. Metal legs add to the substantial feel of this piece, but the proportions let it stay light enough for modern spaces.
Naturally light colored woods complement a modern aesthetic with a typically Nordic vibe. Paired with light-colored upholstery or leather, it’s a soft, muted look that is easy on the eyes. In a dark painted room, furniture like this can be a bright spot when accompanied by lots of natural light and appropriate light fixtures, but beware the delicate pieces aren’t overwhelmed. In a neutral or white space, even the lightest wood can stand out. These chairs by Ercol also buck tradition with their pared-down but recognizable shape; a nod to formal English seating with a decidedly modern twist.
Don’t be scared to mix and match wood tones in the same space. Because there’s no artificiality to raw wood, you can get an authentic and natural modern look with different kinds of wood next to each other. Keep it close to the same tones for the most seamless impression, or go for high contrast by including one large darker piece among your lighter furniture. In a well-designed home it’s always a good thing to keep color temperature in mind; that is, pair warmer woods with warm colors or keep cooler shades together. Too much deviation in your color palette can lead to a hodgepodge look.
Incorporating the raw wood look into your home is all about balance. Add color as you please in a palette that brings out the wood you’ve chosen, and bear in mind that texture and warmth are all part of the package. The details are up to you.
To see more raw wood furniture and decor options suitable for your space, check out our variety of natural wood designs.
When she’s not polishing up promotions as a Web Content Specialist, Kelsey is practicing how to properly pronounce Danish, if only to be able to say “home is where the ‘hygge’ is.” Aside from Scandinavian design, she spends a lot of time thinking about organic gardening, mini farms, honey bees and England.