Exotic Woods: Pop Quiz!

The April issue of House Beautiful is out now, and the theme running through the entire magazine is wood. Not all of it is online, so you’ll have to pick up an issue to see the many ways interior designers and manufacturers make decorative use of all kinds of wood species.

But one section in particular caught my eye: “Have You Ever Heard of These Woods?” It goes on to display 20 home accessories made from exotic wood from all over the world. For fun, I put owner Mark Gatterdam to the test with a few of them that are pictured in the magazine: How much does he really know about wood?

Tanguile: (Silence). “That’s waay out there.”

Tanguile wood is used in this mirror from Made Goods

Tanguile wood is used in this mirror from Made Goods

Padouk: Yes. “It’s so prohibitively expensive that you make small items with these woods,” such as this iPhone case below, from Miniot:

Reddish African wood. “How do you rout that out?” Mark wants to know.

Reddish African wood. “How do you rout that out?” Mark wants to know.

Acacia: “No.”

Acadia is a tropical hardwood, used here in this bowl by Michael Aram.

Acadia is a tropical hardwood, used here in this bowl by Michael Aram.

Shisham: “Whoa. Don’t know that either. Where’d you get that?”

“The high-contrast grain lends drama to even a simple chair,” HB says, referring to this Chester chair by Made Goods.

“The high-contrast grain lends drama to even a simple chair,” HB says, referring to this Chester chair by Made Goods.

Mango: “In Thailand, they have a lot of mango wood,” says Mark, who by now is on the frequent flyer program to Thailand (see his Thai post here http://www.hardwoodartisans.com/blog/?p=298). “We’ve never worked with it, but it’s a beautiful, interesting, mottled wood – very cool.”

“Designers love it for its naturally weathered appearance,” HB says. Classic urn lamp by Vagabond Vintage.

“Designers love it for its naturally weathered appearance,” HB says. Classic urn lamp by Vagabond Vintage.

Paulownia: “WOW. That sounds like a heavy metal! Uh, no, I’ve never heard of it.”

Phillip Jeffries uses this flexible Japanese wood along with hemp to make wallcovering called Deco Wood.

Phillip Jeffries uses this flexible Japanese wood along with hemp to make wallcovering called Deco Wood.

Sapelli: I pronounced it “sa-PELL-ee,” but Mark corrected me. “Sa-PEE-lay! It looks like ribboned mahogany. It’s a cool-looking wood. When you finish it correctly, it shimmers.”

Stickley makes this end table with Sapelli, and you can see the ribbon effect.

Stickley makes this end table with Sapelli, and you can see the ribbon effect.

Jatobá: “No.”

This vase by Espasso is made from the Brazilian wood, but it’s not very practical – HB says you can only use it with dried flowers.

This vase by Espasso is made from the Brazilian wood, but it’s not very practical – HB says you can only use it with dried flowers.

Tamarind: “Heard of it, never used it.”

This wood was salvaged from road construction in the Philippines, and the pierced cube tables are sold through Suite New York.

This wood was salvaged from road construction in the Philippines, and the pierced cube tables are sold through Suite New York.

Mark says Hardwood Artisans doesn’t work with most of these woods because they are Asian, hard to come by, and extremely expensive. Most Asian woods are not made available for export, he says, because the Asian nations consume most of it themselves.

But we do have our own small line of products made with exotic woods that are a bit easier to come by – a bit.

One customer had a deck made from Ipe wood, and asked Hardwood Artisans to use the leftovers for outdoor furniture. Because the wood, also known as ironwood, is so hard, you can only construct furniture from mortise and tenon, bolts or screws – no glue.

We also use wenge wood in the Urban Reserve Collection – our high-end line. Ebony, the hardest wood in Africa, is used as accents on furniture. “It is so horribly expensive,” Mark says, that they charge by the pound rather than by board foot. “Imagine a loaf of bread that would cost you $150,” he says.

One of our artisans, Dave Leggett, uses scraps of wood such as purple heart and yellow wood to make items such a Mark’s clipboard:

Hardwood Artisans clipboard made from recycled wood

Hardwood Artisans clipboard made from recycled wood

Another artisan, Jose Bravo (we call him Pepe), likes to make jewelry boxes out of wenge:

Pepes jewlery box made from Wenge wood.  Displayed in our Fairfax showroom.

Pepe’s jewlery box made from Wenge wood. Displayed in our Fairfax showroom.

Pepes jewlery box: The Perfect Pair

Pepe’s jewlery box: The Perfect Pair

One customer asked us to do a big job using eucalyptus, and we used leftovers from the project below to make coasters as a thank-you to the client.

Custom t.v. wall unit

Custom t.v. wall unit in eucalyptus

Custom t.v. wall unit in eucalyptus

Custom t.v. wall unit

sideboard

Custom sideboard wall unit

The artisans love to see what they can make when a job is finished using unusual wood. Says Mark: “Whenever we have a project, we always end up with some sort of leftover, and we try to use that leftover in some sort of capacity.”

Mark says in conclusion that “while the exotic imported woods are very interesting in color, density, and grain, they are generally only available in very small pieces due to the way these trees grow and what gets selected for import. It’s not really possible to make cabinets from purpleheart for example, but it sure would be a fantastic case if we could.”

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