The most versatile and naturally beautiful surface to include in your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom is – drum roll, please – wood.
Wood has always been a timeless material, thanks to its ability to add warmth, depth and texture. Recently there’s been a shift in how it’s being used in our homes. Designers are returning to the raw beauty of timber, from full-grain cabinets to wood panelling with a modern spin.
With the help of KBB journo Charlotte Luxford, we’re giving you the lowdown on decorating with wood – from maintenance tips to design ideas. Let’s dive in…
Decorating with wood
“Our affinity for real wood has never been stronger or more necessary,” says Jayne Everett, creative director at Naked Kitchens. “As we spend more time at home, our choices for the environments we create are so much more important. A beautiful run of cabinets in walnut veneer transcends time; it is at the same time ancient and contemporary. An end-grain chopping board is indispensable for any cook, as it’s kind to knives and has natural antibacterial properties – there’s a reason butchers have been using them for centuries. Interestingly, more modern kitchens have the most timber. It’s become the new old.”
Hardwoods such as oak create a high-end finish, while reclaimed timber creates a more rustic look. Rich tones can add warmth and cosiness, while whitewashed or lighter wood such as birch and ply can bring a cool, contemporary
feel. Using brushed wood or a species with a prominent grain can add textural interest.
Despite its versatility, timber can be very prone to water damage, so it’s important to make sure any wood is protected to prevent swelling, rotting and mould.
If you’re opting for wood panelling for bathrooms or kitchens, it needs to be waterproof and easy to clean. So, pretreated wood is the easiest option. If you’re painting it, treat any knots first, then use an oil-based primer and eggshell emulsion to create a tough, durable finish.
Use a suitable clear sealant for a natural look, but be aware that the natural tone can fade over time, even when it’s treated. Cedar, alder, and teak are some of the most popular choices for panelling, as they aren’t too absorbent.
Decorating with wood in the bathroom
Wood has become a top choice for bathrooms recently, heavily inspired by Japanese bathing rituals and the Scandinavian sauna aesthetic.
Vanity units are extremely popular, but wood can also be used for countertops, flooring, panelling, and even bathtubs. However, you need a good-quality hard timber for use on baths and sinks, as well as time to maintain them as they are prone to limescale damage.
Iroko or teak are best for tubs and basins due to being durable to moisture and having a low shrinkage. Specialist manufacturers including William Garvey make wooden baths and sinks, but it’s worth noting these can cost significantly more, so they are investment pieces.
Wood flooring has also seen a resurgence across the home – but before you buy any planks, it’s important to consider the different environments, advises Darwyn Ker, managing director of Woodpecker Flooring. This is especially important in regards to moisture and temperature levels.
“Engineered wood flooring is suitable for both bedrooms and kitchens, but I’d advise laying wood-effect flooring in bathrooms,” says Darwyn. “Solid wood is only really suitable for bedrooms, due to its instability within environments of high moisture where temperatures also vary considerably.”
Timber flooring in a bedroom is extremely practical. It’s easy to clean and won’t harbour dust, making it ideal for allergy sufferers. However, you may want to add a rug to soften the look.
It’s best to see furniture in person and check the description thoroughly. “Many designs are made from cheaper materials and thinly laminated in wood,” says Ryan McDonough, interior design expert at Myjobquote. “This may not be as durable and strong or look as nice as solid wood. Check how it’s constructed, as traditionally crafted furniture will have strong joints rather than glued and screwed components.”
For regular upkeep of your wooden surfaces, it’s best to use mild cleaners that aren’t acidic and don’t contain solvents, as these can remove protective coatings and damage timber. Mop up any spills straight away and ensure that worktops are re-oiled every six months to preserve them.