Audrey extension table in walnut Copeland Furniture
Audrey extension table in walnut. Photo courtesy of Copeland Furniture.

With the sleek and functional designs of the midcentury, it’s easy to see why wood is such a popular material for Midcentury modern furniture. With so many types and finishes, how can you tell what the best choice will be?

We spoke with Ben Copeland of Copeland Furniture to get some tips on how to find the perfect wood piece for your home and care for it to make it last. “We are a U.S.-based manufacturer of contemporary and modern case goods,” Ben says. Their company specializes in wood furniture for the bedroom, dining room and office. “Some of our designs are midcentury in origin and others are 21st century modern, but people relate to it as midcentury,” he says.

Contour bed with shelf nightstand in walnut Copeland Furniture
Contour bed with shelf nightstand in walnut. Photo courtesy of Copeland Furniture.

History

The Shakers were the original modernists. “They had a motto: beauty rests in utility and form follows function,” says Ben. They used American black cherry wood to make their furniture, and Danish modernists were interested in their designs. “The Danes didn’t have a view of cultural variance, so they didn’t know what they were importing,” Ben says. “They called it American furniture.” Old growth teak became a popular choice for the Danes, as it was closest in texture and color to American black cherry.

Catalina round extension table in cherry Copeland Furniture
Catalina round extension table in cherry. Photo courtesy of Copeland Furniture.

Popular Types + Finishes

“The most popular types of wood in the midcentury were old growth teak and American black walnut,” says Ben. As a U.S.-based manufacturer, Copeland Furniture sources locally as part of their business model and relies on the American black walnut to recreate their midcentury designs. Watch for where the wood is grown, as the same type of wood grown in a plantation is going to be different than when it is naturally sourced. “You can find reproductions made out of plantation-grown teak that has different visual characteristics,” Ben says. “It’s not as desirable, as they tend to have a grayer hue with more visual defects.” The same goes for American walnut, as Asian-grown walnut is less visually appealing. “Plantation-grown wood is not as true to the intensions and aesthetic of midcentury,” he says.

Exeter table in walnut Copeland Furniture
Exeter table in walnut. Photo courtesy of Copeland Furniture.

Care + Maintenance

Caring for your wood furniture will vary based on its finish and production. The care instructions for Vineyard furniture would be different than solid wood furniture. “If the piece is authentic midcentury, the finish is probably oil and wax, which requires high maintenance,” Ben says. “You can’t let moisture get on the table, and you’ll most likely have to strip the finish and start over.”

Resin-based finishes or catalyzed lacquer tend to be more maintenance free. “After 10 to 20 years of hard use on a dining tabletop, you’ll have to find someone to sand and refinish it, but it will last a long time,” Ben says. Copeland Furniture uses a pre-catalyzed lacquer on their furniture, which holds up well leaves no concern for moisture.

 

If you’re in the market for a new piece that will stand the test of time, visit copelandfurniture.com and pick from their handcrafted selection of wood credenzas, chairs, tables and more.