Trend report: pushing the boundaries of wood
Design staple and timeless material, wood has never been so up-to-date. Folded, molded, superimposed, twisted, streaked or evocatively layed, it always remains ultra-contemporary. We’ve chosen to explore the phenomenon by decrypting this trend.
A little history
A little wood here, a little wood there, wood is more present than ever. It’s surprising how it can take on so many traits! Punctuated by combinations of materials such as delicate caning, translucent acrylic or robust steel, it manifests in numbers of ways. Wood surely has more than a few tricks up its sleeve! Backed by a multitude of processes and techniques, its many uses are on the rise. But the methods used to shape wood are not new. For example, at age 20, Michael Thonet (1796-1871) was already making his first experiments on wood bending. The iconic “No. 14” chair was born at that time. At the beginning of the 20th century, the shift towards Art Nouveau stimulated the production of bent furniture. We can relate that era to Le Corbusier’s rendering of the same chair, but shaped with metal.
Wood folds to our liking
Even today, the fusion of the utilitarian object and the work of art by the manipulation of wood fibers is as common among cabinetmakers as the handling of pigments by artists. We tame wood in search of movement and fluidity. According to how it is manipulated, wood can bend without breaking or splitting. This process is called wood bending. In order to make wood flexible, three main methods are used: steaming, grooving or glue laminating (also known as glulam). The bent wood then makes it possible to obtain curved wood, which can even appear completely round. Very appreciated in design, this torsional capacity allows us to create out-of-the-ordinary objects shapes, sometimes created with solely one piece of wood. This allows for so much creative freedom! Through these explorations, craftsmen and woodworkers have each developed their own method to give captivating curves as well as a smooth and seamless finish to what appears to be an inflexible material. One thinks in particular of renown local furniture artist Kino Guérin who’s a great example of how artists today are, with the help of new technology and techniques, using wood in unfamiliar ways, continuously pushing its boundaries above the limits of the most fertile imaginations. Today, more than 50 years after the Eames brothers revolutionized the manufacturing of furniture with their plywood molding technique, computerized control is now bringing wood bending in the digital age. Along with it, other materials, processes and alloys, such as 3D printing, graphene and hydrogel, are also changing the face of furniture.
Part of furniture, lighting as well as of decorative items of all types, wood has not yet said its final word. Over the last few years it has been ever more present through interior design trends and the collective desire to get closer to nature. With a contemporary twist, and with its grain and natural texture, wood bestows authenticity and character to our living spaces. A simple coffee table nowadays becomes as airy as a flying carpet, and a light fixture as graceful as a feather. In search of sustainability and durability, and with the rise of the maximalist style, we are looking to purchase furniture that will age well while still showing some pizazz. In search of vitality, and perhaps tinted by ecological and biophilic urges, we seek to connect with nature, celebrating the fusion of traditional craftsmanship and innovative design. It is therefore not surprising that wood exercises so much fascination today.
What’s new in interior design? We can always answer: wood! Never have we used it with so much versatility and creativity. Perhaps vintage with walnut or teak, or perhaps rustic-chic using oak or pine, whatever the style, wood remains totally modern and adapts to all decor style. Massive and robust or with linear finesse, we truly enjoy incredible variety of species, guiding its unique grain and natural asperities.