The looks that defined the 1970s include bell-bottom pants, disco, and feathered haircuts. But one particular interior design trend from that era that’s making a groovy comeback this year is burl wood, an example of transforming nature’s imperfections into one-of-a-kind furniture and accessories.
Burl wood pieces may be bohemian in nature, but they can actually complement a variety of decor styles, especially midcentury modern and transitional. That’s why we’re so excited to lean in to this trend.
What is burl wood?
A burl is a distorted growth on a tree usually found on the trunk. It’s believed that burls form in response to some type of trauma to the tree, such as an injury, mold, or virus. Artisans use the unique swirl mutations of burl wood to make everything from tables to clocks to chairs. The most common burl woods used are maple, walnut, redwood, oak, and cherry.
“Burl wood furniture has a natural, warm, organic texture that is truly beautiful. It looks and feels luxe, and has this level of sophistication and elegance, yet it can still feel edgy if you pair it with the right furnishings,” says Lizzie Green, owner and head designer of Popix Designs, a boutique interior design studio in Malibu, CA.
The unusual patterns and grains of burl wood mean no two designs are alike. So if you’re looking to add a statement piece, consider bringing on the burl in your home. Not sure where to start? We gathered some decorating tips from experts who know exactly how to pull off this white-hot trend.
Decorating with burl wood
Burl wood is treasured for its uniquely patterned, beautiful appearance. But furniture pieces in burl should be used judiciously, says interior designer Kendall Wilkinson of Kendall Wilkinson Design, in San Francisco.
“Having one piece in a room as a focal point is the best way to showcase this natural wonder,” she says. If you have a traditional or contemporary aesthetic in your home, try to have the design revolve around a single piece.
Try burl wood in the living room…
A burl wood coffee table can showcase rich colors and add a natural feel and unique touch to any living space.
“A burl wood coffee table is one of the most common ways to add this type of wood into your decor,” says Kelly Maxwell, a custom furniture maker at Littlebranch Farm, in Nashville, TN. He sells one-of-a-kind creations like the maple burl wood coffee table above ($2,875, Littlebranch Farm).
For something that looks a bit more contemporary, we also love this round coffee table ($999, CB2). Want an earthy option that doesn’t break the bank? Try this wood-slice coffee table ($179.99, World Market).
… or the dining room
Tired of the standard wooden dining table? Add visual interest and sense of history to your dining space with a burl wood table.
Green says burl wood is easy enough to incorporate into any space and can be mixed with lots of different styles.
“You can get a refined, polished burl wood dining table and pair it with some cane dining chairs, or chairs with brass legs to get a more contemporary look,” she says.
For a more refined take on the burl wood look, try the sleek dining table ($699, CB2) seen above.
Looking for something that was actually made in the 1970s? This vintage pick ($3,400, Chairish) is pricey but timeless.
Add style with burl wood accessories
Looking to ease into this trend? Decorative items can really liven up home decor, such as burl wood picture frames ($65 and up, Williams-Sonoma), puzzle boxes ($32.95, Etsy), or turned bowls ($135, Etsy).
“There are many lovely antique boxes and bowls, as well as more contemporary crafts that make use of various species of the wood,” says Wilkinson.
Green recommends placing a burl wood tray ($129, Carlyle Avenue) on a coffee table to hold remotes, candles, or magazines.
“A mirror that has a burl wood frame ($423.97, Wisteria) is another easy way to bring the beautiful material into your home,” says Green. “Burl wood is quite timeless and will enrich any interior style.”
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