In recent years, materials have got star billing in the interior design world. Designers have started letting them speak for themselves with natural finishes, simple shapes and bright, bold colours. Here’s our quick overview of the main materials to look out for:
It’s a safe bet that wood will always be part of people’s homes. It’s solid, hardwearing, looks beautiful as it ages and can be crafted into a huge variety of shapes - just a few of the reasons it’s so timeless.
Natural, unfinished woods have a clean appeal that makes them a strong fit for Scandi-influenced or minimal rooms. Making a virtue of the raw beauty of the wood and its grain and knots, unfinished wood gives a natural contrast to glam metallics, coloured metal and coloured plastic, but can be hard to clean as natural wood is porous - invest in specialist wood cleaners and use cloth to get rid of stains.
Oak comes from the oak tree, AKA America’s national tree, known for its acorns, distinctive leaves and solid, strong nature. This slightly dense wood comes into its own thanks to its decorative rich, grained finish which can look stunning when made into curved furniture.
Plywood is crafted from thin layers of wood, their grains placed in opposing directions and glued together for strength. This method helps the wood stay stronger and can help to resist warping and bending over time as well as splitting when drilled into.
Plywood can be worked into sculptural, curved forms more easily than natural wood, making it ideal for pieces like chairs, tables and magazine racks. In its natural state, it can be cleaned by using wood cleaner, though it often comes varnished or treated.
MDF is made from wood that’s been crushed down and recombined with a binding agent for strength, durability and an even look. It’s usually much lighter and affordable than solid wood, so makes a good basis for adding a veneer or coating to. MDF and plywood are used in similar ways.
Veneers are thin layers of wood applied to heavier pieces of wood. The result is that you can get a more expensive looking finish for less money (because you’re using less of the wood), but also because veneers are relatively thin they can be moulded into all sorts of curves and shapes for a stunning look. Larger furniture pieces are usually much lighter when finished in veneer than solid wood.
Something would be amiss if we didn't mention the huge amount of colours, tones and finishes that can be applied to wood, from clean, modern pine to the dark and moody walnut woods that are a hallmark of mid-century style:.
Plastic has a long history when it comes to furniture, with some of the most iconic chairs, lighting designs and tables from the 60s and 70s crafted from plastic, and its bright colours and endless shapes being a hit ever since.
Plastic is durable, easy to clean with household cleaners and relatively lightweight too. The nature of the material means it’s available in a huge range of tones and it can be used to craft ergonomic, soft shapes - like the seats of our Eames Inspired chairs. You’ll find plastic most commonly in chairs, tables and lighting fixtures.
Open any interiors magazine, website or Pinterest board and we bet metal will show up somewhere. Not only is it tactile, versatile and hardwearing - as well as timeless - but metal comes in an enormous range of finishes.
At one end of the spectrum are stainless steel, chrome, copper, silver and gold-toned pieces, all of which will bring a glam accent to a room or piece of furniture. Elsewhere, darker metal tones like gunmetal, pewter and raw and distressed metal will help create an industrial or utilitarian-style look.
Fabrics include soft cotton, wool and everything in-between. These have a major part to play in almost every home, appearing everywhere from sofas to dining and armchairs, cushions, rugs and throws.
Cotton, wool, linen and even synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester each have their own upsides and downsides. Wool can feel rich and luxurious - and especially cosy when used on a rug - but it can be more expensive to clean and too insulating in summer. Cotton is a good compromise, being easy to machine-wash, soft and durable. Wool and linen are often used to give an attractive textured finish (think marled, tweed and felted fabrics).
Nylon and polyester might sound off-putting to some, but modern takes on these fabrics can look just as stylish as natural fibres and are easier to spot-clean, less expensive and hardier, meaning they’re great for kids’ rooms or commercial and office spaces.
LEATHER & FAUX LEATHER
Both leather and faux leather can add a rich finish to an interior, whether they’re used on a large corner sofa or just a chair pad.
Leather ages beautifully the more you use it, developing a patina and deeper colour over time. It’s available in a huge range of colours and finishes such as suede but watch out with using leather in damp rooms or in places where you’re likely to spill things (such as kids’ rooms or dining rooms).
That’s where faux leather may be a more practical option - modern faux-leather can look indistinguishable from the real thing and is much easier to wipe down.
Glass isn’t just for windows and drinking out of - we love glass lighting, which can look elegant and refined on one hand or clean and eye-catching on the other.
And with the resurgence of mid-century style over the past few years ago, glass table tops have come back in a big way and can look really statement-making. Look out for coloured glass lighting and sophisticated smoked glass table tops.