From the Cabinet Shop: English Brown Oak

Successful rooms are more than well proportioned spaces. Scale and context within the larger home are important as is the capture of a particular view through a window or door. The even distribution of natural light that comes through the windows and doors helps to determine our comfort in a space. We fill our spaces with furniture and cover our floors with rugs in an effort to humanize empty space. We then personalize our enviroment to make it our own. Our choices range from those that shape raw space to the selection of materials that will define the character of those spaces. Somewhere along the line that represents the continuum of decisions, a material selection has to be made that sets the overall tone for each room.

The use or function of a room will determine whether or not a single material takes primacy or if the materials need to balance one another. Think about a bathroom and tile and stone decisions weigh most heavily. A Kitchen, on the other hand, usually requires a balance of several selections. In a Library, the cabinets and bookshelves create the bones for the space. In choosing those finishes then, the millwork decision goes a long way towards determining the personality of that room.

The personality of a room is often a reflection of the personality of the client; occasionally a client has preferences but more often than not, we’re asked to make material selections that are appropriate in terms of both function and character. I selected English Brown Oak recently for a clients Library because of it’s inherent character. Oak works well (meaning a cabinet maker can work with it) and for a client interested in the texture that a relatively open grained wood species delivers, oak is an appropriate choice. Although a great many interiors and a considerable amount of fine furniture has been produced from both American red and white oak, English brown oak is unique in color and it is the color of this specie that is its specific signature.

All woods show a variety of color. Unfortunately, when finished, most American oak has a tendency to look either pink or green – unless it’s been stained so dark as to look the color of espresso. In fact, a great amount of oak furniture produced in this country was “fumed” – actually ammoniated – in an effort to disguise some of its natural character and give it a color closer to the rarer honeyed tones of English Brown Oak. Naturally brown with a color range that moves from honey to walnut, the color of English Brown Oaks is a result of a fungus that attacks something like one in five hundred European oak trees. No damage is done to the structure of the wood but the color is enhanced.

While it’s true that rare things have their own value, if you’d like to invest in a wood selection that is beautiful in its natural, neutral brown color and if you’re looking for a wood that will subtly age to a darker and richer tone, you should consider English Brown Oak.