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Burl Wood Furniture: What Is It & Why It Deserves All The Hype

Castlery   |   Dec 4, 2023

When you think of luxury furniture, there are a few common materials that pop into your mind - marble, velvet, and genuine leather. But lately, we’re seeing a resurgence of burl wood, a popular material used in furniture making in the 1920s.

In this article, we explore the natural marvel of burl wood, unraveling its distinctive features and how to incorporate this into your home.

What is burl wood?

Burl wood, also known as burled wood or bur, is a growth deformity in trees that results from stress or injury, such as damage from disease, insects, or physical trauma. The tree responds to these stressors by producing irregular growths like swirls and knots on the trunk, branches, or roots of the tree.

These unique formations, often hidden beneath the bark, become highly prized for their intricate patterns and rich colors. These unique patterns make each piece of burl wood distinct, and the natural variations ensure that no two pieces are identical.

Burl wood is often used to create high-end furniture, decorative accessories, and fine sculptural crafts. The wood's natural beauty makes it a popular choice for creating statement pieces.

Types of burl wood

There are several types of burl wood, each originating from different tree species. Here are some notable types of burl wood:

Elm burl

Elm burl wood is known for its light to medium brown color and irregular grain patterns. It has a distinctive appearance and is often used in crafting furniture where its unique patterns can be showcased - like tables, chairs, and cabinets.

A burl wood side table with a lamp and trinket bowl. The Mika Burl Wood Side Table is made with elm burl veneer and poplar burl veneer.

While it may not be as hard as some other hardwoods like oak or walnut, it still provides a solid foundation for furniture.

Poplar burl

Poplar burl is known for its distinctive grain patterns, swirls, and irregularities. The patterns are often characterized by tight clusters of knots and whorls, creating a visually interesting and unique look.

A coffee table with a glass tabletop and burl wood sculptural base. Similar to Mika, the Cupid Burl Wood Coffee Table also has an elm and poplar wood veneer sculptural base that doubles up as storage.

Oak burl

Oak trees, including both red and white oak species, can develop burls. Oak burl wood is known for its prominent and intricate grain patterns, often featuring tight swirls and knots. It has a durable and sturdy nature, making it suitable for furniture and accessories.

Walnut burl

Walnut burl wood exhibits a rich dark color with deep, complex grain patterns. Walnut wood is known for its stability and resistance to warping. The wood is often used in crafting high-end furniture, veneers, and decorative items, showcasing its luxurious appearance.

Maple burl

Maple burl wood is distinguished by its light color and fine, intricate grain patterns. The wood may display a mix of colors, ranging from creamy white to reddish-brown. Maple burl is popular in creating decorative veneers and turned objects.

Redwood burl

Redwood burl wood is characterized by its warm reddish-brown hues and unique swirls. The wood has a distinctive fragrance and is often used in crafting bowls, furniture, and other artistic pieces.

Cherry burl

Cherry burl wood is prized for its reddish-brown color and tight, intricate grain patterns. It is often used in fine woodworking, creating items like cabinets, tables, and turned bowls.

Amboyna burl

This exotic burl wood is renowned for its vibrant red color and intricate, chaotic grain patterns. Amboyna burl is often used in crafting high-end furniture and decorative items, such as knife handles and musical instrument components.

Cocobolo burl

Cocobolo burl wood comes from tropical hardwood of Central American trees and is prized for its deep, rich color spectrum, ranging from orange to dark brown. The wood often features a combination of straight and swirling grain patterns, making it popular for creating high-quality objects, handles, and small decorative items.

Why burl wood is so highly sought after

Burl wood has gained popularity in the world of interior design due to several unique characteristics and benefits.

Adds refinement to your home

Burl wood is often associated with high-quality and premium furniture due to its rarity and exclusivity of certain varieties. This contributes to its status as a luxury material. With the rising trend of quiet luxury homes, burl wood is the perfect choice for those seeking prestige in their home decor.

Natural beauty

Burl wood celebrates the inherent beauty found in nature's anomalies. The irregularities in the wood grain tell a story of the tree's history, creating a connection to the natural world that resonates with many individuals.

The way burl wood is formed - from trauma and stressors - also adds some drama to the wood, making it appealing to homeowners.

Distinctive aesthetic appeal

Burl wood's intricate and unique grain patterns, swirls, and knots make each piece of furniture a work of art. The distinctiveness of these patterns adds character and a touch of natural elegance to any space.

Its timeless appeal ensures that it remains relevant and desirable for generations, making it a long-term investment in home decor.

How to style burl wood

The versatility of burl wood makes it a favorite among interior designers and homeowners alike. Although it can be striking with its unique grains and patterns, it still has the ability to seamlessly blend with various design styles.

For example, you can combine burl wood with neutral colors like white, gray, and black for a sophisticated and contemporary look. Mix in other materials like metal and glass to create a beautiful contrast.

A glass coffee table atop a rug in a living room. The Cupid Burl Wood Coffee Table features a glass tabletop that adds sophistication and modernity. Also pictured: The Mika Burl Wood Side Table and Marlow Curve Sofa in Chai Revival.

If you’re into a rustic look, opt for earthy tones like browns, greens, and warm neutrals to enhance the natural and organic feel of burl wood. Pair the burl wood piece with other woods like acacia or walnut for a cozy vibe.

Alternatively, your burl wood side table, coffee table, or sideboard can become a captivating centerpiece in a room if you use neutral colors like whites and creams to let the piece stand out.

How to care for burl wood

To ensure that your burl wood furniture maintains its allure over time, proper maintenance is essential. As with most wooden furniture, the care and maintenance are the same with burl wood.

  • Regular cleaning: Dust your burl wood furniture regularly using a soft, lint-free cloth. Gently wipe the surface to remove dust and prevent it from settling into the grain.
  • Avoid harsh cleaners: Refrain from using harsh chemical cleaners or abrasive materials that can damage the wood's finish. Stick to mild, wood-friendly cleansers or a mixture of mild soap and water for occasional deeper cleaning.
  • Polishing for luster: While this is optional, periodically polish your burl wood furniture to enhance its natural luster. Apply a good quality wood polish in the direction of the wood grain for optimal results.
  • Humidity control: Environments with varying humidity can cause mold and mildew growth. Maintain a stable humidity level with humidifiers.
  • Protection from sunlight: Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can fade and damage the wood. Position your burl wood furniture away from windows or use window treatments to filter or block UV rays.
  • Avoiding sharp objects: Take care to avoid placing sharp or abrasive objects directly on the wood surface. Use coasters or placemats to prevent scratches or dents.
  • Handling spills immediately: Accidental spills should be addressed promptly to prevent staining or discoloration. Use a soft cloth to blot the spill and avoid rubbing, which can spread the liquid and potentially damage the wood.

Burl wood furniture celebrates nature's artistry and testament to the enduring beauty found in imperfections. The allure of burl wood continues to captivate, proving that true beauty often lies in the unexpected. Embrace the charm of burl wood furniture, and let nature's masterpiece become a focal point in your home, telling a story that spans generations.

FAQs

What is burl wood veneer?

Burl wood veneer is a thin layer of burl wood that is sliced or peeled from a burl log and applied to the surface of furniture, cabinetry, or other wooden items as a decorative layer.

Is poplar burl wood common?

Poplar burl wood is less common than some hardwood burls, but it is valued for its unique grain patterns and affordability. It is versatile and used in making various furniture, such as our Mika Burl Wood Side Table and Cupid Burl Wood Coffee Table.

Which tree species produce burl wood?

Burl wood can come from various tree species, including elm, oak, walnut, maple, cherry, redwood, and many others. Each species imparts distinct colors, patterns, and characteristics to the burl wood.

Why is burl wood furniture expensive?

Burl wood furniture can cost more than other types of wood due to its rarity and exclusiveness. Its unique aesthetic appeal also contributes to its higher price.

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