This is an article on how oak furniture is so versatile.
Oak is in my eye one of the most versatile woods you can use for furniture there is, It has been used for hundreds of years for furniture and most people relate old furniture as being made in oak, there has been over the last 10 to 15 years a huge revival of people wanting oak furniture, but as it has been mostly imported from China and Indonesia the fashion has been in reach for a huge amount of people, this is because it was mass produced and shipped over in vast quantities, this made it accessible for a great number of people, some of it was quite good quality and a lot not so. I have now been in the trade for more than 20 years and have seen the trade go through a few changes, when I first came into this as a cabinet maker / French polisher the fashion was for most people to have their oak furniture in a medium to dark oak and distressed to look old ( reproduction Antique furniture ) then gradually I could see things changing over the years with the furniture being ordered was getting lighter, companies were producing colour’s to suit the mood of the fashion, my showroom at one point was mostly dark oak reproductions, then over the years as I was replacing different pieces in the showroom, and these pieces were getting lighter, this was to suit the mood of the purchaser.
Now as oak is such a light wood it’s great for us the French polisher , we can polish the furniture to almost any colour, from natural to almost black if required, the imported furniture coming into the country was almost all natural to start with just sprayed with a lacquer finish. But now as this import furniture has kept coming into the country and with the fashion changing gradually over the years even this has now started getting darker.
This I feel is where the market has now been is not far of being flooded , it will carry on as the life of this furniture will be good, but not great. As the quality is not there in the first place when it comes to having repairs of broken legs or just having it re-polished it just won’t be worth it for the customer as the cost of the repair will be far greater than the furniture itself, I see this now with a lot of furniture. So having something of higher quality in the first place means the after sales should be better if the first purchase was correct, i.e. Handmade Bespoke Furniture. This would not always be the case as there will always be an element of people who shouldn’t be in the trade, at this moment in time though I feel that if a company is still trading after the furniture trade being in a down cline for the last 15 years due to the imported furniture and the current financial climate we are living in that any furniture company still trading should be ok, me for example , over the last few years nearly 75% of the work we have been making has been to customers that have bought from me before, this is great for me as I then know that the work we produce is to such a high quality it should help me stay trading through the rest of my working life, all this is partly because oak furniture is so versatile, it moves with the times, it can be light in colour and design, it can be heavy in colour and design, it can look modern and old, it looks good as a light oak bed or a heavily distressed dark oak refectory dining table or free standing kitchen furniture.
The trade I feel is coming back, reproduction antiques are now being placed in home design books once again, the fashion is changing and I hope I will be here to see it through for many more years to come.
By James Nunn, French polisher, cabinet maker and furniture designer.