Rustic furniture has seen a boom in popularity over the last decade. Contemporary rustic work is no longer sole purchased for one’s cabin or to be used as porch ware. Often, such furniture is used to tie elegant rooms together, or as a distinctive, attention-drawing centerpiece. This change in aesthetic is due to the recognition that this type of furniture, no matter the style in which it is built, is a unique art form. Whether the piece is mechanically turned on an assembly line or designed by a lone craftsman in his or her workshop, it is a piece of art. While one should always look for quality craftsmanship in a piece, such as good dovetailing, solid joining and sturdy construction, it is often the details of the materials of construction that make a piece truly distinctive.
In furniture of this style, the selection of wood is of paramount importance. There is no best type of wood for which to look. Rustic furniture companies will use whatever fits their budget or a specific order, while smaller craftspeople will often use what is local and available. Woods that are commonly used in furniture construction include maple, oak, cedar, hickory and pine. There is a myriad of reasons why someone would choose one over the other, strength, color, grain, etc. It is not unusual to find recovered woods, such as barn wood and driftwood in use, as well, as they create their own refinement. Additionally, specific tree features, such as roots and burls, often find their way into furniture, creating a distinctive appeal.
While gorgeous materials like tiger maple or mahogany impart characteristics due to their uniquely patterned grains or distinctive sheens, some of the best pieces of rustic furniture are crafted from lesser quality materials or wood that bears damage from its life in the forest. Some woods, such as ambrosia or wormy maple, are desired specifically because of its flaws. In this case, tiny holes in the wood created by worms that burrowed through the tree while it was alive. Look for pieces with knobby limbs, exposed and high lit knots, or scars and discolorations. These marks of distinction can provide unique beauty to a piece, even if it was hewn and turned to exacting standards in a large, commercial mill. For this reason, two chairs that roll off the same assembly line, made from the same materials and built to the same tolerances, can look drastically different. This is a very good thing, because the beauty of a piece of rustic furniture lies in its uniqueness.