Which Wood?

Which wood would you pick if you could pick wood?  There is not only the ‘color’ of the wood to consider when choosing wood furniture, but each species has particular characteristics that make it more suitable to different uses.


Mahogany is finely grained hardwood and has a beautiful reddish brown color. Being highly durable, mahogany resists swelling, shrinking and warping. It’s used for quality furniture such as cabinets, wood facings and veneers.  Since it’s so dense and durable it is also used in tropical locations that have high humidity.  Mahogany tends to also be used for more formal, traditional furniture.


Cherry is also a hardwood that is close grained to resist warping and shrinking.  It tends to be a little more red than mahogany and ages well.  It’s particularly popular for kitchen cabinetry as it is more resistant to sun fade than mahogany.  Cherry isn’t as widely used as it once was, it's expensive and used for smaller cabinets and sometimes a gorgeous flooring.


Oak is also considered a hardwood, but it is not as closely grained as mahogany or cherry.  It doesn’t hold up as well in extremely humid environments, but it does hold a finish well.  It has excellent bending qualities, making it a popular hardwood flooring, along with furniture and some cabinetry.


Walnut is a hardwood that offers a handsome chocolate brown coloring with a lovely grain and holds stain particularly well.  Walnut is not as dense as cherry or mahogany, but is still highly sought after for furniture, cabinetry and doors.


Pine is considered a softwood and it possesses a uniform texture, is less expensive than hardwoods and is easy to work with.  White its texture is uniform, its grain is not, making it less used on fine furniture.  It is perfect for more rustic furnishings, as the knots and variations make it appealing in this use.  Pine also finishes well and resists shrinkage, swelling and warping, but certainly not as well as the denser hardwoods. Pine is widely used in construction, paneling, furniture and molding.


Cedar is a softwood that is known for its sweet odor and it's reddish in color. It is very easy to work with, uniform in texture and is resistant to decay. Cedar is extensively used in chest making, closet lining, decks and shingles.  A cedar chest is known for its natural moth resistant qualities.


Teak is a hardwood and is moisture- resistant.  It resists warping, cracking and decay and is best used in fine furniture, doors, window framing, flooring and general construction.  Teak is particularly well used in outdoor furniture and more humid areas.

Bottom Line

Each wood has its particular characteristics that help it fit right into different décor.  Pine, cedar, teak and walnut tend be used in less formal settings, while the darker hardwoods tend to give a more formal look.  Choose the wood that best fits your environment and décor, and don’t forget to check to make sure the wood you are choosing is solid wood, and not a veneer or less expensive wood that is stained.