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Top Tips for Buying Oak Furniture

Ever popular and always beautiful, oak furniture never loses its charm. Whether you’re considering oak furniture for your dining room, living room or bedroom, here are our tips for finding the perfect pieces for your home.
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Why buy oak furniture in the first place

Resilient to life’s knocks, oak is one of the most durable woods around, making it a great choice for family homes. Carpenters and woodworkers find oak easy to work with – and this has an impact on the price you can expect to pay for oak furniture. It’s often a more affordable choice than elm or maple.

Oak is also reasonably resistant to moisture and humidity. This means it won’t generally expand or contract significantly when the temperature or the level of humidity in the air changes.

All of this means that oak furniture is a good investment. Select your oak dining table, oak wardrobe and oak nest of tables with care, and you likely won’t have to replace them any time soon.

Choosing between solid oak furniture and oak veneer

Choosing between oak veneer and solid oak furniture usually comes down to budget.

With oak veneer furniture, very thin strips of real oak are applied on top of other, more affordable wood. It’s a great way to bring the look of real oak into your home at less cost.

Solid oak furniture is made of real oak, through and through, and is more expensive. However, as oak is quite a common wood and one that’s easy to work with, even real oak furniture can be fairly affordable. And even though solid oak is more expensive, if you choose the right piece it’ll last a lifetime and beyond. Oak really does stand the test of time – this is why much of the antique furniture you’ll see for sale is made from oak.

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Picking the right style of oak furniture for your home

Above all, oak is versatile. Whatever your personal style, you’ll find beautiful oak furniture to match. Think pale or blond oak for your Scandi style bedroom or dining room furniture. Or smoothly textured oak in rounded or tapered shapes for mid-century modern inspired oak dining table and oak sideboards. Or thick and open-grained oak with metal accents for an industrial style oak coffee table. Or even painted oak for French country-style dining sets with turned legs and carved oak dining chairs.

One piece of advice: while we love the eclectic look – a mix of different styles of furniture within a single room – pairing simple mid-century modern lines with heavier antique style pieces, for example, tends not to work well. With oak furniture, we recommend you stick to a single unified oak furniture look in a room.

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Making sure your oak furniture is well made

As with any piece of furniture, be sure you check the construction of the oak furniture that you’re thinking of buying.

Check that joints are secure and don’t have any gaps. Make sure that upper surfaces of an oak sideboard or oak TV unit, for example, are level, and that the sides and tops of pieces like oak bedside tables don’t have indentations or damaged areas caused by rough handling. Carvings and decorative elements should be uniformly finished, and hardware like door and drawer handles and hinges should be symmetrical.

You can expect to see minor damage from use in old or antique oak furniture, where they’re considered a sign of character, but these features should not be present in brand new oak furniture.

Carefully examine the oak’s grain

Grain and knots are natural features of oak furniture, and part of the essential charm of this lovely wood. While oak typically has a close grain which makes it easy to care for, the grain

will vary from piece to piece, so make sure that you like what you see before you buy. The grain in should always be noticeable, even if the piece of furniture you’re thinking about is stained or has a protective varnish.

And once you’ve brought home your oak furniture, look after it well

While oak is one of the most durable woods around, you should still treat your oak furniture with care and respect. Naturally-finished oak should be wiped clean with a damp cloth then dried using a soft duster. Avoid sprays, silicone wipes and polishes, and abrasive cleaners. If your new oak furniture is waxed or oiled, be sure to follow the manufacturer's care instructions.

Be prepared for your oak furniture to change over time. This mellowing process is due to the effects of the sun, light, heat and moisture and is unavoidable. In the meantime, however, be sure to do what you can to protect surfaces from heat and spills by using table mats and coasters, and by regulating light and temperature.

Treat your beautiful new oak furniture well – and it will be yours to enjoy for a lifetime.

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