What Should I Look For When Buying Oak Living Room Furniture?

You know you have reached a certain age when you come to pondering this question. By the time you get around to shopping for oak furniture, you are no longer in the market for concept furniture, or retro 1960s plastic freeform designs in your home. Oak is so clearly a design choice for a more settled and grown-up consumer, not only because of its lasting beauty, but also because of its often prohibitive price. So, having conceded that you are now in the market for oak living furniture, you must decide which type of oak you will opt for.

Solid v Veneered Oak

The first choice you must make when buying oak living furniture is whether to buy solid or veneered oak. Solid oak is much more expensive, but will also last much longer and withstand the rough and tumble of family life better than veneered wood, which is made by gluing very thin (1 – 2 mm) slices of oak to plywood or other cheaply-made base board. Veneered wood has been found by archaeologists in Ancient Egyptian tombs, so you are not buying a utility product of low value when buying veneer – in fact the process makes much better use, ecologically and economically, of an oak tree than using solid wood. Imagine how many 2mm slices can be sourced from a tree, compared to 50mm boards. Buying veneered oak is not only a cheaper option for you, but is also kinder to the planet.

Should I Care Where The Tree That Made My Furniture Grew?

Solid oak living furniture will present you with a serious choice to make, after you have considered oak v oak veneer. European? American White? American Red? Let’s consider the price of the raw materials… Buying American White Oak “planed all round” 244mm x 20mm x 3 metres will set you back £34.20 from a leading British lumber supplier in February 2012. Buying European White Oak in the same dimensions will cost you £45.00. As you would expect, you must pay for the transport costs of imported timber, so you will pay a premium on timber which did not grow on your own landmass. Those costs can be extrapolated up to your finished furniture item. Countries where labour is cheap can produce finished furniture for much lower prices: China, India and Brazil produce tens of thousands of tons of oak for the furniture industry, and cheaply saw and assemble their cupboards, tables, chairs and units for the living rooms of the developed world for a fraction of the cost of hand-made or bespoke furniture in Europe or the US. You may have to factor in your own environmental concerns – Forestry Stewardship Council ordnance will carry its own guarantee of the “Chain of Custody” of the wood, but, again, unfortunately, you will pay more for ethically produced wooden furniture than if you buy from a discount wood stockist.

  • Photograph of Veneer Waves by designmilk Via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  •  License: Creative Commons image source

This article came to life when guest blogger R. Draper was shopping online for high quality Oak living furniture from online retailer National Furniture UK.  Draper started thinking about the choices you face when shopping for this kind of furniture, and once complete kindly gave us this article to publish.

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