Which wood is right for your furniture

When choosing to commission fine furniture, it’s not just about function or the space for which it is intended, substrate choice can also play a big part. With so many different types of wood, where do you start?

Which wood is right for your furniture - Ashton Bespoke
Which wood is right for your furniture - Ashton Bespoke

Solid wood favourites

There are is a great deal of choice in solid wood, so we thought we’d list out some of the most popular:

Maple – A durable hardwood that makes it an ideal choice for dining room tables or dressers.

Oak – A dense substrate known for its beautiful open grain, furniture in oak will last forever.    

Cherry – Popular because of its straight uniform grain, cherry polishes up well.

Walnut – Beautifully coloured rich substrate that carves very well so works well for ornate furniture.

Birch – Light coloured, this species with its durability and clean grain makes birch a popular choice.

Pine – Lightweight and inexpensive, pine has a rustic look that appeals for country living.

Bamboo – Popular due to its sustainability, the soft blonde colour works well for contemporary furniture.

Open grain versus closed

These are terms furniture makers are familiar with, but it’s worth discussing what this means aesthetically. Open grain wood such as oak or mahogany means that the pores are visible whereas maple or cherry are smooth and much more closed. Depending on how the wood is finished, there are techniques and coatings that can be used for open grains to leave them showing.

Engineered wood for fine furniture

There is a tendency to think of fine furniture being made in solid wood but engineered solutions finished in veneers work incredibly well.  As well as potentially generating a cost saving there are other pluses to using MDF, plywood or particle boards. Composite wood is more moisture resistant and therefore a good practical choice for kitchens and bathrooms. Once finished with a veneer or painted then aesthetically it ticks the box too.


Type of veneer

With skilful and delicate processing, clients can choose from a truly beautiful array of veneers. A veneer can give a more uniform finish and they are less prone to cracking and expanding. It can also tick the eco-friendly box as veneers stretch out the yield from a piece of wood. Some examples below:

  • Birch
  • White oak
  • Teak
  • Cherry
  • Anegre
  • Sycamore

Once you have selected your veneers you then can choose how it is cut either figured, quarter or crown cut. The type of cut impacts how the final veneer can look giving clients lots of versatility.

Finish

How clients want their furniture to look and feel on the surface is very personal. There is of course still a place for lacquered and stained finishing, but the trend of showing wood as it should be celebrating its natural beauty is showing no signs of abating into winter 2020. Add in an on-trend vase of dried flowers set against neutral walls and the overall feel is back to nature. Whichever choice clients make the result is a truly unique piece of furniture that will last a lifetime.

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Fireplaces that tick the eco box

The weather has cooled, and our thoughts turn to cosy nights in our living rooms warming by the fire. The traditional log burner has always been a focal point of the house but what if you can’t have the necessary flue in situ for the smoke? And with increased concern on the sustainability of timber, are there in fact cleaner safer alternatives?

Fireplaces that tick the eco box - open fireplace

What are bio fireplaces?

This is a solution for people who want an alternative to wood burners. The smoke from wood burners is a contributing factor to particulate pollution. Bio fireplaces use environmentally friendly fuels that burn clean meaning there is no need for a chimney or flue and they also don’t require a power or gas connection. This means that as a solution, bio fireplaces give much more freedom with the design and location in the home.

Why choose a gel fire

With environmental and sustainability concerns increasing, clients are turning to gel fires as an alternative to the traditional wood burners. Wood itself is considered carbon neutral in that it emits the same amount whether burned or left to rot. It’s the usage side in terms of providing logs for a wood burner and whether they come from a sustainable source that has eco implications. Gel and bioethanol fuel sources are created using the by-products of other materials thus reducing waste. A gel fire is also the perfect solution for a small space or apartment living as there are no smoke emissions.

difference between gel and bioethanol fires

With a bioethanol solution you end up with a soundless fire whereas gel fuel crackles due to the salt content simulating wood fire. The other main comparisons are shown below.

Gel Fuel
Bioethanol Fuel
MaterialMade from isopropyl alcohol, water and salt
Plant based, fermentation of crops such as wheat or corn
DurationApprox 400g will burn for 2.5hrsAround 1 litre of fuel will give 5 hrs of burn time approx
ByproductsNo soot or ash. Water vapour & carbon in permitted levels
No soot or ash. Water vapour & carbon in permitted levels
Control of flamesFlame size cant be regulated in that it is on or off
Flame can be regulated through use of a lid
HeatSubtle warmth, not primary heat source
Subtle warmth, not primary heat source


Gel fire built into furniture

We were recently commissioned with making a TV unit for a client that incorporated a gel fire as part of the design. This was an exciting challenge for the team with the dual nature of this piece designed to be the focal point of the room. The main doors were constructed using Portland Grey Silkwood veneers and were finished with a surround trim in satin brushed brass. The doors either side of the fire were coated in bronze effect metal lacquer. Underneath the fire itself the stone slab and plinth were made from Cerlasio Ossido. Though all may not be as straight forward as it seems. When introducing a fire into a piece of furniture, there is a critical factor that must be considered: heat transmission. Therefore, the area around the fire must be built with fire rated materials, including the finishing lacquers and innovative design to prevent or achieve as minimal heat transmission as possible. The overall effect was both beautiful and inviting.

Fireplaces that tick the eco box
Fireplaces that tick the eco box

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Monaco Project

At Ashton Bespoke we commit ourselves completely to all our projects but when they have multiple elements to consider and in addition the installation is overseas, then our team really do rise to the challenge. For us it’s not just ensuring all the aspects of the project are carefully planned, it’s also the execution and making sure everything is shipped correctly.

Living and dining area

In the living room, we were charged with a TV unit. In conjunction with the designer and the client we agreed all the materials for the cabinet. The internals were made from a fumed oak veneer, external top in a fumed eucalyptus finished in high gloss, with doors and side panels in fumed chestnut veneered at 30 degrees giving an arrowhead effect with solid patinated brass surrounds to the doors. The dining room featured a niche cabinet with fumed oak internals and open shelving above in fumed eucalyptus with a high gloss finish. Finally, encapsulated in a fumed oak framing with 20% sheen lacquer finish. The doors again in fumed chestnut, veneered at 30 degrees giving an arrowhead effect, solid patinated brass surrounds to the doors and each open shelf finished the piece exquisitely.

Bedrooms

For this project we had three bedrooms to furnish. The master bedroom wardrobes had main internals in Xylocleaf board material with externals in a deep grey veneer, high gloss finish, doors had an inset chrome detail plus central smoked mirror. We also constructed a gorgeous dressing table, with the top in a faux leather with drawer fronts finished in gloss coloured lacquer. For bedrooms two and three, the main internal carcass was again made in Xylocleaf board material with external niche shelving and the outer framing in fumed oak finished with 20% sheen lacquer. The doors had a small matt black outer framing with a special designed central wallpaper panel. In bedroom three, we incorporated external niche shelving and outer framing in wenge veneer finished in high gloss. The doors were beautifully illuminated with a crazed pearlescent high gloss lacquer.

Feature pieces

On every project there are pieces that are just a joy to realise and this one was no different. We took great pleasure in making a breakfast bar with the top and side panels in fumed chestnut finished with gloss lacquer finish. The under-counter back panel was made from luxurious onyx stone that had incorporated back lighting to showcase and bring the breakfast bar to its full potential. The other stand out aspect of this Monaco project was a hallway feature wall. Consisting of a fixed panel and a concealed cupboard door with a thin matt black framing, this piece was beautifully set off with bespoke handmade antique mirrors.

The logistics

At Ashton Bespoke we have experience with overseas projects, enabling us to consider and understand all requirements necessary in completing this Monaco installation. The knowledge & foresight resulted in smooth transportation of all the pieces, facilitated by a project manager and fitters experienced in handling the associated needs and challenges that can occur on site, the outcome: a straightforward installation and a satisfied client.

Monaco Project Ashton Bespoke

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What do planning changes mean to the high end market

In July as part of his measures to boost the economy, Boris Johnson announced changes to the current planning laws which came into effect last month. The overhaul to the planning system had been long awaited and arguably overdue. The adjustments to regulations include allowing many commercial buildings to change to residential use without a planning application. The aim is to speed up the planning process for contractors and developers so that vacant residential and commercial buildings can be demolished and quickly turned into new homes.

London

The nation’s property market always looks to the capital for boom or bust patterns. With everything that has happened, the changes for the pubs, restaurant and theatre scene in the city have been massive. The property market however boomed post lockdown with many people using the time to think about their lifestyle. According to data from LonRes, property sales in London’s prime areas were down by as much as 24 per cent. But whilst foreign investment in the capital was down, sales at the higher end of homes over £5M were in fact up in July 2020 from the previous year by over 30 per cent.

Planning changes within the high end market - London high end homes

Rest of the UK 

The impact of stress on our lives with the fast pace of city living plus concerns on air quality are prompting buyers to look at relocating to the countryside. The pandemic has given so many of us pause for thought and the idea of a life on the coast or in the countryside has meant a massive spike in searches for these properties. Londoners who have been told they won’t be back in the office for the rest of the year have leapt at the chance to leave the city and get more value for their money in a rural property.

Opportunity

Now that some businesses have taken the decision to permanently relocate their staff to home working, there is much prime office space now up for grabs. The change to planning laws last month will make development easier than ever with a relaxing of regulations around commercial use. If the current building doesn’t suit, the changes have also made it easy for developers to demolish and start again. There is plenty of job creation with these kinds of projects and savvy contractors and developers will be ramping up the acquisition of land and disused buildings.

Planning changes within the high end market - construction

New world

We are by no means through the pandemic so with everything in flux, it remains to be seen whether buyers will want to live in cities. With that and Brexit looming, these are uncertain times. But whether it’s the city or a complete life change and move into the country, for many the events of 2020 have presented opportunity. For the high-end residential buyers that has meant the freeing up of capital in many cases for better value properties and more to spend on interior design. With many searching for rural and coastal destinations, the high-end property market is most definitely buoyant. Watch this space.

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