No matter what else you put in a room, the textiles, the accessories, the window treatments - even the paint on the walls - the thing that mostly defines any room is the furniture that we choose to put in it. And when we're making a decision that big, there are more than a few things to consider. Usually, the first things that grab our attention about furniture are the colors, the upholstery and the style or era of the design.
All of these are important features that deserve our attention. But there's one more. One of the major elements that will determine the durability, visual appeal and overall value of furniture is the material from which it's made. And when it comes to long-lasting, beautiful furniture with a timeless appeal that will increase in value over the years, there are few materials that have as much to offer as walnut.
Walnut is an excellent choice for making traditional-style furniture. It has also made its way into some more intriguing and modern designs. Walnut is a durable hardwood that maintains a beautiful finish for years. And it's been part of some of the most iconic furniture designs in history. There's no question why walnut has been a favorite material of furniture and interior designers alike for generations. The only question is which piece of walnut furniture is right for you. The following hints will make finding and buying that perfect piece that much easier.
What is Walnut?
Walnut is a hardwood, meaning that the tree loses its leaves in the fall and winter. English and black walnut are the most common types used in furniture making. The grain of the cut wood is straight, although it becomes wavy as you get closer to the roots. The color of walnut can vary dramatically, from very light to very dark brown.
The middle of the walnut tree produces the darker wood and the outer layer of the tree, just beneath the bark, produces the lighter wood.
Why Buy Walnut Furniture?
Walnut is a strong, hard and durable wood that carves well and holds a good shape for a number of years. It is an excellent choice for ornate furniture that requires intricate woodworking, such as a mantelpiece or headboard. It frequently was used to make cabinets and other pieces of furniture in 17th and 18th century Europe because of its qualities. Contemporary furniture is more often made with walnut veneers rather than made of solid walnut because of cost.
Walnut furniture can easily last a lifetime. All it takes is the proper care and maintenance. Larry Frye, the executive director of the American Walnut Manufacturers Association, in Zionsville, Ind., claims that the durability of walnut is the primary reason that it has remained a popular wood for furniture makers worldwide, according to the Oakley Woods Web site.
What to Look For
Walnut should have a straight grain, which a clear coat of urethane will accentuate. Stains may make the grain less noticeable. Finish is simply a matter of taste. Wood furniture with wavy grain or burls may be covered with a walnut veneer to improve its appearance.
However, some walnut furniture is also covered with a walnut veneer. Most people cannot tell the difference between solid wood and veneers. Ask the salesperson for assistance if this distinction is important to you.
Getting a Good Price
Solid walnut furniture tends to cost more than some other wood furniture. Decide whether the material and construction of the furniture are more important than the appearance.
If purchasing solid walnut furniture, look at vintage consignment shops and antique stores. The walnut furniture you find may show some wear and tear, such as nicks or water stains, but a woodworker can usually refinish the item. Also, consider furniture clearinghouses. Items that haven’t sold well in chain stores and department stores may end up in a clearinghouse, where it may be sold at a steep discount.
If appearance is more important than the materials, consider purchasing furniture made with walnut veneers. Pay close attention to the construction of the furniture. The veneer should not buckle or separate from the furniture.