Things to Know About Purchasing Live Edge Furniture
Live edge wood furniture is very popular right now, and we at Rustic Red Door want to help you find the perfect pieces for your home, office, or business.
What Is Live Edge Furniture?
To avoid any confusion, though, let us say upfront that the live edge is not "alive." Live edge simply means that the original, living contour of the wood has been left intact, rather than it being milled into a straight plank. A live edge piece maintains the natural beauty of the forest by visibly preserving the tree's trunk. As the name implies, the spirit of the wood is kept “alive” and the edges of the tree are left untouched. Sometimes the bark is left in place for a more rustic look, but it’s usually removed, leaving the wood's natural shape and the beauty of its edge intact. Generally, the rest of the piece is well-finished and highly polished, bringing the feel of nature to your home in a purposeful, tasteful way.
Walnut makes up 75% of the live edge market, then Maple is about 25-20%. Hickory, Beech, Oak, Cherry, ELM, reclaimed barnwood and other exotic woods are also used. Especially desirable is wood with gnarls or knots which make excellent live edge pieces! Wood with burls are very popular with live edge coffee tables and live edge pub/cafe style tables. Usually, any knot-holes or small cavities are filled to prevent uneven surfaces, and pieces are stained and sealed. Often, epoxy is used to fill any voids which can give the piece a wow factor, especially if the void is large.
Live Edge History
The original live edge furniture was the rough-hewn furniture that the pioneers made. They didn’t have the machinery or materials to plane and smooth boards. Not a problem though, when they needed a table or a bed, they weren't very concerned with aesthetics! Rough-hewn furniture has never completely gone out of style, especially for those desiring a rustic cabin feel. In fact, a quick google search reveals that there are still folks making and selling rough-hewn pieces. It's still very popular with Amish and Mennonite craftsmen.
Naturally, as time went on, rough-hewn furniture became associated with lower economic status and fell out of favor with designers and decorators. However, as is often the case with fashion and decor, a little bit of "slumming it" became cool. Leaving an edge of a piece rough, or "live," became vogue. Live edge furniture then became very trendy in mid-Century modern homes. Architect George Nakashima popularized live edge furniture in 1946 when, like Frank Lloyd Wright and many others in that era, he began integrating natural, organic elements into his designs. Nakashima deliberately chose wood that was imperfect with burrs, knots, and gnarls to bring the beauty of nature, flaws and all, into his designs.
Live edge furniture is created from one-of-a-kind pieces of wood, so there will never be another table, mantel piece, desk, or shelf just like yours. Pieces are generally custom-made with many, many hours of labor invested by different craftsmen. So they are truly works of art!
Live edge wood blends well with a myriad of style choices, so its versatility is a plus. Bringing in a little bit of nature can really help soften modernism's harder edges. This is especially true with office or commercial furniture. We don't often see a log-cabin-y commercial office! Rather, we generally see the latest, most modern trends in office waiting rooms or conference rooms. However, when a sleek, modern office has a live-edge slab conference table juxtaposed with contemporary chairs and fixtures, the effect can be quite dramatic and pleasing.
Restaurant decor has also gotten in on the action. When restaurant furniture includes live edge benches, live edge pub tables, or even a live edge bar, it creates a wow factor that makes patrons want to return again and again.
Since live edge pieces are unique works of art, they add a timelessness to a room. Live edge pieces have a neutral style that can complement most modern interior designs. You can't go wrong with the timeless, rugged, and exotic beauty of natural wood. So it makes sense that a one-of-a-kind, live edge piece will never go out of style, even if (God forbid) orange carpeting and avocado-green appliances make a comeback!
Live edge products are typically considered more environmentally friendly because more, if not all, of the wood, is actually used. By not milling off the edges of the log, much less scrap is generated. Additionally, the gnarls, burrs, and knots that make a piece of wood perfect for live edge furniture would normally disqualify it from being used in traditional furniture. Ironically, these "flaws" wind up reducing waste! So in a sense, each tree goes further.
Moreover, it's very common for live edge furniture to be crafted from a felled tree or tree branch or another reclaimed source, such as salvaged barn wood. Choosing reclaimed barn wood helps keep materials out of the landfill and lowers the demand for virgin lumber. It also preserves history by giving new life to old, neglected barns and other farm structures.
In general, live edge pieces are more resistant to wear and tear because they are solid hardwood constructions that don’t use plywood or veneers. These custom-made pieces are built using high-quality craftsmanship and will withstand years of use. Unlike cheaper, industrially produced pieces, live edge furniture will be around for a long time, handed down through the generations!
Less Is More
Live edge furniture is meant to be a conversational piece, a focal point that creates a wow factor. This is especially true of pieces that have large areas of epoxy, such as a "river table." Unless you're furnishing a cabin or country house, it's usually best to choose one or two pieces for a room. A live edge coffee table in the living room, live edge shelves in the den, a live edge desk in the office, a live edge countertop or kitchen island, or a live edge slab dining table can add some tasteful pizzazz to your décor. Heck, even a live edge charcuterie board on the table will be a fun focal point.
A Bit More Expensive
You can't be blamed for thinking that perhaps live edge products are less expensive because the wood is "less desirable" due to its flaws and that there is less milling and scrap. However, the recent surge in popularity of live edge furniture has created high demand for the less common gnarly wood. Live edge wood is more difficult to produce because the type of wood and manufacturing techniques used in making conventional furniture reduce the likelihood of curling and twisting. Live edge wood must be handled more carefully. Furthermore, each piece is essentially custom-made, requiring many hours of work from many highly specialized people. This is particularly true for pieces containing epoxy which is especially time-consuming to produce.
Live Edge Furniture Maintenance
The unusual contours of live edge wood aren’t really any more challenging to clean and maintain. Super soft, highly absorbent microfiber cloths will lift dust right off the surface and are better at getting dust deep from within the nooks and crannies of the live edge. Dry dusting your live edge furniture on a regular basis will help keep them clean.
However, you may also want to occasionally give them a quick wipe down with a solution of vinegar and water (50/50). Vinegar is naturally antibacterial and helps remove built-up residue from the nooks and crannies of irregular surfaces. Moisten and thoroughly wring out a microfiber cloth, and gently push the cloth into the grooves and pits on the edges to draw out dust and whatnot.
Many live edge wood table tops are highly varnished, which means that the figured wood is very glossy. Folks might forget that the table top is not, in fact, glass! It would be easy to mistakenly think that the table top is impervious to moisture. Be sure to keep coasters handy and within reach!
Many of our live edge tables come with metal bases. This allows for simple and complete resurfacing should the piece accrue any damage as it is handed down from generation to generation.
Salvaged, or reclaimed, wood adds style and historical significance to even the most cutting-edge spaces. The most well-known reclaimed wood is from barns. The school of thought in the design world is that old barn wood is a great neutral, natural choice to soften harsh edges. And with the emergence of "Biophilic Design," a movement that brings natural textures and tones inside to create a sense of refuge and well-being, salvaged wood has become even more in demand.
It's a material with a past, perhaps even a mysterious backstory. There are often old saw marks from various types of saws, burn marks, nail holes, screw holes, weather marks, and other interesting "imperfections." Reclaimed barn wood brings the spirit of those who built these barns, often hewn by hand many decades ago, back into the light of a modern home or office. And it's not just barns that provide salvaged wood. Other sources of the reclaimed wood can include old ships, decommissioned factories, railroads, crates, and more. How fun to wonder who or what caused this or that mark!
Rustic Red Door offers many reclaimed wood products; from large pieces such as our many tables, oak wine-buffet, bed-frames, or sliding barn door; to medium-sized pieces like stools, coat-rack shelf, or end-tables; to many small items like barnwood frames, school picture frames, and mirrors. We are happy to custom make anything you need. Wooden countertops are always beautiful, but imagine the oohs and ahhs you'll receive when folks see your new barnwood countertop.
Know Your Retailer
Live edge furniture is popular, and since it’s not very difficult to slice up a tree, many fly-by-night producers have popped up making it difficult to know whose products are of high quality. It’s critical that the manufacturer has used wood that was cut and dried correctly or there will be problems down the road with twisting and warping.
Instead, all of our products come from trusted sources, and we prefer to work with domestic suppliers and craftsmen for the very reason mentioned above. Many of our partners/suppliers are Amish or Mennonite, two groups famous for their high moral and ethical values. They are also well known for their craftsmanship. This is important to consider as making live edge furniture is a very hands-on proposition. In our search for unique, high-quality pieces, we visited farms throughout Ohio’s Amish country. We built relationships with the finest and highest-integrity woodworkers who could meet the demand for customization that our clients require from the largest slab table to the simplest quilt hanger. It can take an extra level of patience, however, because corresponding with Amish folks is done by mail as they don't have telephones!
Visit the Rustic Red Door to view our beautiful handcrafted real wood furniture, get design inspiration for any type of space or aesthetic, and to get to learn more about our story.
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