Wood can add natural warmth and character to any room in the house: designers

Posted by Rumin Mann
July 13th, 2010

What’s old — centuries old, even — is suddenly new again in home design. Wood, that ancient staple of interior decorating, has been getting fresh attention in every room of the house.

Designers are mixing salvaged barn doors with new synthetic flooring that looks strikingly like the real thing. At the same time, faux wood-grain wallpaper and upholstery offer a nod to nature without hiding their artificiality.

Designer and HGTV host Genevieve Gorder calls wood “the one medium that is eternal.”

“It’s been in interiors since the beginning of time and it’s sitting in our front yards,” she says. “There’s nothing else like it.”

Gorder, along with fellow designers Candice Olson and Vern Yip, judges the work of fledgling designers each week on HGTV’s “Design Star.” When we asked these experts which style ideas have their attention right now, all three mentioned wood.

Wood is both natural and trend-proof, Olson says, and can bring a much-needed warmth and timelessness to modern rooms. Even people who love modern style, she says, don’t want a home “where everything looks like George Jetson lives there.”

Likewise, in more traditional rooms, wood is being used in ways that add a dose of edgier style without clashing.


Years ago, Olson saw an entire wall of stacked wood in a building in Europe. The image stuck with the Canadian designer. She eventually created her own variations, arranging chopped logs from fallen trees within frames that are 15 centimetres deep.

Lumber, especially the low grades that might otherwise be discarded by builders, can be used the same way.

Gorder loves the look: “Really inexpensive,” she says, and “really powerful.”

Whether dominating a whole wall or serving as an accent, these pieces of wood can be arranged to form a smooth surface or poke out from the wall at different lengths, creating a pattern.

The contrast between order and chaos is central to the appeal: Essentially, “it’s a pile of sticks,” Olson says, but laid out “in an orderly, modern, refined way.”


Several years back, Yip drew praise for designing a room with one wall covered in planks. “Anytime you have an entire wall of one material, wood or something else, it’s so striking,” he says.

It caught on. Wood flooring is now being used to cover walls and ceilings. Old wooden platforms, says Yip, can also be hung up as art.

That showcases a beautiful wood’s texture and colour, Olson says. “It’s almost like it gets wasted on the floor,” she says.

A wall or ceiling done in a given type of wood doesn’t mean you must use that type of wood elsewhere in the room. Mix old and new woods in different shades and textures, says Gorder: “If you just keep matching, it looks like a bad pantsuit.”

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This photo provided by Brandon Barre shows a room makeover by Candice Olson for her HGTV series "Divine Design". Wood, the ancient staple of interior decorating, has been getting fresh attention in every room of the house lately. (AP Photo/Brandon Barre)

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