The resurgence of oak in the furniture category is all in how the wood is finished, from wire brush treatments to gray-tones and neutral stains that neutralize the yellow cast and mitigate some of the high contrast in the grain, according to Fusion Designs.
“Oak furniture is trending,” said Marcus Bontrager, president of Fusion Designs, a leader in solid wood, domestically produced case goods, “but it’s not the traditional golden oak looks that people have long associated with country style and a trip to grandmother’s house. At the High Point Market last month, we saw increased interest among dealers and designers in oak furniture groups finished in new and unexpected colors and textures.”
“While red oak has been a staple in our product line for decades, the species fades in and out of popularity with consumers,” said retailer Bobby Watson, president, and co-owner of Hoot Judkins Furniture, a 60,000-square-foot store specializing in solid wood, American-made furniture in Redwood City, CA. “Oak furniture is once again on the upswing in terms of sales and popularity, and it’s because manufacturers like Fusion Designs are getting much more creative in their finishing. Even much lighter finishes, not natural, but stains and colors like cashew are proving very desirable to shoppers who are seeing oak in a whole new light.”
The key, Bontrager said, is pairing neutral colors like grays and browns with transitional styles. “Our dealers tell us their customers are gravitating now toward finishes and silhouettes that are more design-focused.”
Indeed, Fusion Designs’ new Emma bedroom group, crafted in solid oak with a cider finish, received high marks from dealers in High Point. “We introduced the oak group in response to requests from our dealers who were already enjoying success with our Cedar Lakes collection in oak with a neutral stain. They were hungry for more looks in this vein,” he said.
Bontrager believes current economic conditions may be contributing to the renewed interest in oak. “An American hardwood, oak is understood to be an incredibly durable surface. Consumers perceive oak, in flooring to furniture, to be an investment that will stand the test the time.” To ensure that it does, Fusion Designs employs a catalyzed varnish finish that Watson called “the most durable in the business, bar none.”
Given the supply chain issues that plagued imported goods during and following the pandemic, the retailer also noted that there is very little price difference today between imported case goods and quality solid wood American-made furniture in hardwood species like oak that consumers recognize. “That makes the higher-quality, American-made products a much better value,” Watson said. “As a result, we’re finding that demand for American-made solid wood furniture has never been higher, and last month, was in fact the largest in our store’s history.”