Editor’s Miscellany: Wonderful Woods

July 18, 2013

By Kyle Hoepner 

On another day I might go on about the more flamboyant tropical woods used in twenty-first-century residential interiors: wenge, purpleheart, anigre, zebrawood, Macassar ebony and the like—gorgeous in their way but, as my grandmother might have put it, “a bit pushy.” But today…today I’m in the mood to celebrate some of our more traditional or home-grown woods. More unassuming, perhaps, but no less beautiful for that.

Several kinds feel quintessentially New England:

Mahogany, as in this William King chest at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts…

Photo from pem.org

Oak, particularly quarter- or rift-sawn, as in this door boasting classic linenfold carving in a Tudor-inflected house by Wadia Associates of New Canaan, Connecticut…

Photo from wadiaassociates.com

Walnut—combined in this case with local granite and quarter-sawn oak in a Vermont house by architect John MacDonald

Photo by Sam Gray. Click to see more.

Cherry, as in this Vita dresser by Maine furniture maker Thos. Moser

Photo from thosmoser.com

Teak, in keeping with our region’s long nautical tradition (taken inside by designer Kathleen Hay to make a witty Nantucket stair)…

Photo by Michael Partenio for New England Home. Click here to see more of this house.

And, of course, cedar both indoors and out.

Cedar-clad living room on Martha’s Vineyard, by Maryann Thompson Architects.
Photo by Steve Turner, from onekindesign.com.

Cedar siding on Cape Cod, by Zero Energy Design.
Photo by Michael J. Lee, from zeroenergy.com

But we shouldn’t forget the beauty of other types of wood, just because they’re used less frequently or are not so closely identified with our own six states.

When it comes to fruit woods, for example, cherry’s not the only game in town: check out the apple wood wrapping on the stove hood and island of this spectacular Vermont kitchen conjured up in collaboration by architect David Kaselak, interior designer Jennifer Palumbo and kitchen designer Donna Venegas.

Photo by Jim Westphalen for New England Home. Click to see more of this house.

Some months back I was particularly taken with the soft sheen of these simple yet luscious alder cabinets, created by Seattle-area architect Jim Olson for a house in Mexico (interiors by Terry Hunziker).

Photo by Pieter Estersohn, from the November 2012 issue of Architectural Digest.

And even our local woods can be treated in ways that transform. Harrisville, New Hampshire, furniture maker Peter Sandback bakes red oak to obtain a rich, toffee-colored surface for his nail-patterned tables.

Photo from petersandback.com

Meanwhile Tod Von Mertens, based not far away in Hancock, New Hampshire, oxidizes locally sourced maple to give a characteristic color-cast to his sleek steel-and-wood creations.

Maple ellipse coffee table; photo from todvon.com

Unfinished pine is perhaps the greatest Cinderella of woods. As a simple stack of two-by-fours it may not look like much. But in the right hands that selfsame pine can create spaces that make a nod toward modesty, sure, but are anything but plain. Jacob Albert of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects designed this library cum guest house, tucked away on a lake in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Photos by Greg Premru. Click to see more.

The beauty of wood: chances are you can see it not far from wherever you sit right now. Why not take a few moments to lose yourself in the gorgeousness of its grain?

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