You might say we’ve entered a Brown Era. The newest architecture often features browned tones of many hues. Replacing traditional brick and siding exteriors are homes and nonresidential buildings using neutralized shades of stucco and stone. The newly popular stone now in mass use is either natural or manufactured, often set in rubble or ashlar patterns. This multi-material style has a Craftsman influence on the outside that often extends to the inside as well.
In an original Craftsman home wood was the preferred finish treatment.
Wood on walls, on floors and on ceilings made the interior spaces
feel cozy with a friendly cave-like intimacy. Furniture by Gustav
Stickley also was of simple but strikingly handsome wood designs.
Emphasis was placed on high-quality craftsmanship—hence the
Often the wood was joined with few or no metal screws or pins, but
rather with mortise and tenon joints. One excellent example of this
home is the David B. and Mary Gamble House, of Proctor and Gamble,
built in 1908 in Pasadena, CA, and designed by Greene and Greene
architects. This trend-setting house is still considered one of
the finest examples of a wood-finished Arts and Crafts home, and
can be viewed online (just type the house name into your favorite
search engine for various sites).
The color scheme of Craftsman homes was steeped in brown tones.
To relieve the potentially oppressive look, Stickley furniture was
covered with complex and sometimes colorful fabric representing
the work of British surface designer William Morris. Today this
style is thoroughly ingrained in contemporary architecture and design—not
a passing fad, but a long-term design trend.
UPDATING CLASSIC STYLES—THE LOG CABIN
Other styles are reemerging that may look familiar to those who
have lived through a few decades. One of the enduring classics is
the revival of nature-inspired Scandinavian Modern interiors. These
homes are a warmer and more livable variation of the Mid-Century
modern. Scandinavian interiors often feature a wood plank ceiling
and wood or plain plaster walls. Small living spaces combined with
long cold winters in Scandinavia lead to window walls that let nature
In many Nordic families, a second home was a small log cabin—used
in the summer as a place for resort and to grow a large vegetable
garden, and in the winter for a private ski lodge. The log cabin
as America came to know it is a gift from these nature-loving people.
Combined with natural wood-framed traditional sash windows and carpeting
(warmer than customary tile or brick underfoot), the elements of
a Scandinavian log cabin make life today comfortable and in harmony
with nature. Add wood blinds to control light and temperature and
occupants can enjoy even more of the visual beauty of wood.
Wood overhead tends to advance the ceiling and make it look lower.
It also gives a sense of security. Surrounded by wood on the windows,
this feeling of security plus the wood-grained beauty is a winning
TRADITIONAL LIVES ON
Another style that is home for wood began in the 15th century in
Florence, Italy. Here the Italian Renaissance was born, which ran
through Italy, then Europe and has had an impact on Georgian and
Traditional styled home interiors ever since.
Wall paneling, done well, is one of the most handsome of the treatments.
The wood-paneled room created a rich environment with raised panel
walls, rails (vertical members) and stiles (horizontal members),
or in other, less formal combinations.
As early as the 1750s wooden blinds with wide tapes were used in
America’s grand mansions. That mark of elegance has endured
to today. Wood blinds are still seen as an upscale treatment. Today
they are priced to be affordable and still maintain their prestige.
Wood on walls and windows together packs a double punch of rich
depth. Being surrounded with warmth and texture seems to insulate
against the buffetings of a hostile outside world. Inside is a different
world of safety and security, peace and intellect.
Another at-home look for wood blinds is the Western theme that can
be created anywhere. In the top photograph on the next page, a ski
lodge theme is established through a skillful blend of rough elements
such as stone, peeled log walls and unstained cedar window trim.
These combine to create a particularly comfortable setting for the
natural effect of blinds.
There is something quite remarkable about experiencing a log interior.
The insulation factors are extra high and the result is a quiet
and very secure atmosphere. For ski lodges as well as private log
homes, the best approach for windows is wooden blinds to finish
or carry out the theme of substantial wood. The rustic elements
are today a much sought-after theme, even for suburban homes.
Perhaps the reason why wood in this kind of setting is so deeply
appealing is that it removes the occupant from 21st century reality.
It feels as though no time has passed since the pioneer days (except
for the 21st-century conveniences). The result is a type of secure
relaxation—feeling safe and at peace with the world.
FAUX WOOD ALL AROUND
Wood is appropriate in any interior, but the wood paneled walls
seen in the first three photographs are not always within the budget.
An alternate suggestion is the look of wood without the cost. There
are many applications in which wall coverings with a faux wood effect
is just the ticket. The look is versatile and a handsome background
for a variety of furnishing styles.
A FEW NOTES ABOUT WOOD
Sometimes a customer will ask questions about the type of wood that
is presented in a sale. Here are a few items to consider as you
compare notes with your source.
• Types of Wood. Wood products are divided into two general
categories: hardwoods and softwoods. Hardwoods usually are harvested
from deciduous or leaf-bearing trees that loose their foliage in
the winter. These include the fruit and nut-bearing trees such as
cherry, pecan or oak. Mahogany is a hardwood and alder is a semi-hardwood.
Hardwoods have a tight grain and are dense and sturdy because they
grow more slowly. They are more difficult to work, but are more
resistant to scratching or denting. They are heavier because of
the fiber density, and are more costly.
Softwoods come from coniferous or cone- or needle-bearing evergreen
trees such as pine, fir and cedar, for example. They are less dense
and are lighter weight. They are easier to work and are often seen
in country-style interiors where the effect is slightly worn. They
are less costly and are used for wood blinds and shutters.
• Faux Products. Imitation or faux woods are most often plastic
or polymer based products used for inexpensive one- and two-inch
blinds and shutters. There are many quality levels. At the bottom
are products that might warp and are not considered durable, while
top-quality vinyl shutters and blinds will rival the look and durability
of real wood with less cost.
• Finishes. Finishes are brushed, dipped or sprayed onto the
surface of wood products. Prefinishes are treatments that prepare
the wood including sanding, filling holes and, where a lightened
effect is desired, bleaching.
Stains are transparent colored pigments that allow the grain to
be seen through the color. Stains can color a lesser expensive wood
to imitate a more costly hardwood. Pigmented stains are more translucent.
Paint obscures the grain, but still allows the surface texture to
be visible, and is used on both smooth and rough products. Most
paint is applied solidly until opaque and only the texture indicates
the origin of the material. Some is applied as a base coat with
a glaze over the top, or by a darker paint color or stain, which
is partially wiped off or removed leaving a streaked effect. This
is called antiqued. Another technique is to sand off areas of paint.
Unstained or unpainted woods are termed natural, and may contain
only a final finish.
Final finishes seal the wood against water or soil damage. These
include lacquer, varnish, polyurethane varnish and lacquer. New
polymer finishes have particularly appealing features for wood blinds.
These include soil repellant finishes to enhance ease of cleaning.
Other newer, patented finishes enhance the durability of soft woods,
making them far less susceptible to dents and scratches.
J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at
Brigham Young University. She has authored several books including
Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction,
3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular
correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion,
education and merchandising.