When choosing solid wood dining furniture, you must consider the style of your room when selecting the type of wood to use. Many people eat in their kitchen most of the time and use a formal dining room only for guests and dinner parties. Others have a combined living/dining room, while yet others have no dining room at all, but only dine in their kitchen.
A large traditional rustic kitchen looks great with an oak or pine dining table and a set of solid wood rustic chairs, with or without cushions. The solid wood dining room furniture you choose for your kitchen will be dependent on the way it is decorated. For example, a kitchen paneled with pine will naturally look best with a solid pine rectangular table and a set of pine chairs – perhaps with tie-on cushions attached.
However, if you have a modern kitchen, with a black ceramic hob, chrome fittings and modern décor, then a modern style of kitchen dining table might be preferred, with a solid wood frame, but perhaps a black glass top or, if it must be wood, then oak with rosewood or American black cherry edging. There is a lot that can be done with wood in a modern setting, and it needn’t all be bright and shiny.
Traditional Woods Have Their Place
There is a place for traditional woods in any dining setting, although it is in the formal dining room that the more exotic woods and veneers look their best. A solid polished oak table might seem the epitome of American craftsmanship to some, but it often looks out of place in the modern dining room. That type of dining table looks good in a more traditional setting, where there are similar types of oak dressers and cabinets to offer an overall rustic or traditional look.
For a formal dining room, whether it used regularly or only on those special occasions when the neighbors drop by for a meal or during the festive seasons, including Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day, genuine solid hardwood or veneered dining tables cannot be beaten.
Nothing looks more beautiful to most people than a beautiful dining table with strong carved legs and a dark oak, cherry or walnut veneer on the top that has been polished to a high shine by master French polishers. These guys with their varnishes and rubbers can convert any ordinary-looking surface into a mirror-finished work of art, irrespective of the wood used.
The Beauty of Veneered Wood Dining Furniture
However, it is the woods with the unusual grains, the swirls and whorls of multi-branched trunks that show up so beautifully when used as credit-card thin sheets glued over a base wood, that provide the best table tops – and the best flat surfaces for most formal furniture.
Walnut, sapele mahogany and dark or silky oak are good dark veneers to look for, while if you prefer your wood to be lighter, then ash, American maple and silver beech offer beautiful graining when varnished. Waxing, varnishing or French polishing of veneers tends to enhance the grain and the color of the most beautiful of wood veneers.
When choosing solid wood furniture it is very important that you know the shade of wood you want (light or dark) and also the degree of finish: waxed, varnished or French polished. The latter is more for formal tables that would generally be covered with a cloth when dining. This is because highly varnished gloss surfaces are easily scratched, and require suitable protection when in use.
Stability and Seasoned Woods
Another factor in your choice of wood will be the stability of the piece. Dining tables are generally fairly stable but this can be improved by using a solid wooden framework that is constructed using genuine carpentry joints rather than fixings. There is nothing stronger than dovetails for joining wider slats of wood such as the sides of dressers and drawers, while mortise and tenon joints, pinned or unpinned, are best for the actual frame. Nails and screws can weaken rapidly with age.
The main reason that only well-seasoned wood should be used for furniture is that it will not absorb and lose moisture, and so become unstable through warping and cracking. Nobody wants to have to use beer mats or folded cardboard to stabilize the legs of their wooden chairs only a few months after buying them. It does happen (often just at the end of the warranty period), so don’t let it happen to you!
When choosing solid wood dining furniture you must make sure that you match the wood and its finish with your requirements. A beautifully polished mahogany dining table will look out of place in a rustic kitchen, just as a solid pine or untreated oak dining table would not suit a formal dining setting.