Painted, natural, real or fake, wood as an interior finish can make or break a space, these are some of the very varied, but surprisingly common, questions and queries that have come up over the years.
1) Don’t be afraid to mix timbers. Now I'm not saying throw any timber anywhere and call it a day, but with equal parts consistency and diversity it can work. Keep all the horizontal plains the same, then you can use a different timber on the vertical, then if you fancy, throw in a third with some of your furniture. Obviously what I've described is a very timber heavy house/sauna, but regardless of the proportions of timber being used, consistency in where it’s applied is key.
2) Timber floors. We want them, but if you're in the "I can’t afford it" camp then don't feel bad for going with a laminate. They have seriously come leaps and bounds over the years. A couple things to consider however.
Don’t just assume that laminate is cheaper. You would be surprised at what genuine options are out there. Companies like UKflooringDirect have some seriously well priced products if you can’t bear going for a fake.
If you do choose to go for a laminate, go with a colour or finish that looks as natural as possible. Now I know you're probably thinking that "natural" is a pretty board term when it comes to timber, but what I mean by this is stick with tones that are true of wood, so no specialist finishes, washes or anything too fussy. The more techniqued, showey-offey or unique a laminate is, the more artificial it will read. You've bought a synthetic timber floor babes, don’t make it the star of the room.
The 3 images below should tick any light, medium or dark box you might have.
Light Wash | Natural Oak | Walnut
3) Sticking with laminate, if you don't have any restrictions with what thickness plank you can install, go as thick as budget will allow. The thicker the plank, the better it feels underfoot. As there is a bit of weight to the plank, you will avoid having floaty floors.
4) The dead giveaway these days with a laminate is the length of the plank compared to a real timber floor board...a real timber plank is most often 2.2m long where as a laminate version is generally only 1.4m. So if you don’t want to be reminded that you’ve gone with a timber lookalike every day, try your best to conceal these shorter lengths. Rugs, runners, etc can do wonders to deceive the untrained eye.
5) Timber tiles...to be honest, these are really only best when you spend a bit, and thb at that stage you should just go with real wood. However if you do opt for a timber tile, this is my 2 pence.
Never do a timber-look tile on a vertical surface. Only on flat. So no timber tile splashbacks or shower enclosures please. This goes for any synthetic timber actually. Like laminates, the shorter length of a timber-look tile will always work against you. To counteract this, go even smaller on the tile. So for example a herringbone pattern, formed with smaller rectangular tiles, is a better route than going with a regular straight format tile, which only fails to imitate real timber floor boards.
Make your grout lines as slim as possible. One thing about real wood planks is that the joints are a hairs breadth apart, so fat grout lines are just going to further detract.
6) Swinging back around to the mention of herringbone patterned floors. If you are doing either real timber, tile or laminate, the difference between a Herringbone and Chevron pattern my look pretty similar, but Herringbone is a classic. Chevron is having a bit of a moment I will admit, but I'd say always opt for herringbone as it won't date.
M.Elle Design | Day Trip Studio | Banda Property
7) Moving on to painted timber. Don’t think that just because you're finishing it off with a lick of paint it doesn't make a difference what's underneath. With skirting’s for example, pine is literally a nightmare over time. Its soft, it dents and the knots start to show. Rather opt for a treated MDF board. Might be a little bit more spenny per linear meter, but trust me it makes a difference.
Don’t be nervous about having wood skirting in a bathroom either. Water resistant MDF with a few good licks of paint will stand the test of time. Obvi I'm not saying use this in a shower, but my God it's a better look than tiled skirting.
8) On to walls, if you’re introducing a bit of timber panelling, regardless of the profile you're after, the direction in which the grooves/strips/panels run makes a difference.
Vertical cladding = cottage.
Horizontal cladding = beach vibes.
Diagonal cladding = re-evaluate life choices.
9) Speaking quite generally here, but on a budget you’re probably going to end up choosing painted joinery of some kind in bedrooms and kitchens. Adding in a snippet of wood however does make things feel a little more artisan. We like this. The majority of the time, the internals/carcass/guts of your kitchen or wardrobe will be made from a melamine or something similar. If you didn’t really think about it, you'd probably just keep this white and carry on with life. However if you are getting your kitchen made for you, there is very little price difference (if any) to have these internals in a wood-look melamine. Match this to the other wood tones in the room and bam! The insides of your wardrobes match the floor.
Obvi if you can make the budget stretch, go for a real wood for your internals. The real thing is always best here guys.
10) Sticking with kitchens, it's a hard no on fake timber worktops. Real wood worktops have a place. They require maintenance, but they do work. Same goes for using fake wood on your door and drawer fronts. Just don’t. You want to try and avoid using a timber substitute anywhere things get handsy.
Repeat after me. “Fake is fine underfoot, but a synthetic within reach is sacrilege.”
11) Speaking of sacrilege. Nothing detracts more from a piece of upholstery, cheap or bespoke, than light timber legs. ALWAYS ask for the legs of your sofa, armchair, ottoman, WHATEVER it is, to be in a mid-brown colour at the very least. Don’t worry if you have light timbers elsewhere in the room, just don't go natural beech* legs.
*About 90% of suppliers use beech for sofas because it's cheaper than solid oak, and because it’s cheaper it looks cheaper. Trust me.
12) Sticking with furniture, don't match the wood of your dining table to the wood of the dining chairs. You might as well head off to oak furniture land and buy a matching suite…seamless segue to promote a previous post. If you are starting from a blank slate, check out #thesuitespot on how to avoid your space feeling like it’s all been painted with the same brush. Remember I mentioned diversity above? Diversity plays a big role in helping add personality to a room.
I realise that most of what is mentioned above pertains to synthetic timber products, and that’s mainly because I feel that when you use the real thing, you can’t really go wrong. Nobody can tell you which type of a wood finish is right or wrong for your space without physically being in it, but there is definitely a shift in selecting finishes that are as natural as possible, and choosing finishes that retain their natural character. So yes, whilst I say that you can’t really go wrong, if you don’t try over complicate timber, you can definitely get things more right.
Christian Bense | Union3 | Gallagher London
Check out my INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST for more