By mixing wood and metal, designers can lift a piece of furniture from just “ok” all the way → to extraordinary and breathtaking. Read more to discover the secret weapons.
The Key When Mixing Wood And Metal Is To Create Contrast
Contrast is everything. Just ask any photographer what the most important element of a good image is. They will all reply: Contrast.
Light vs Dark. It is the essence of the visual world.
An example of this in furniture would be by adding brass dowels to a bench created from dark smoked oak. The shiny brass contrasts the otherwise uniformly and dark oak surface. It creates a focal point where the eye will rest and look in wonder.
The whole wood vs metal is also not just a visual contrast. Wood is considered warm, alive and organic in form. Metal, on the other hand, is considered cold, hard and straight in form.
They are more or less the ultimate contrasting elements, and luckily for us, both can be used for creating furniture. And by carefully combining these materials, we can create stunning pieces of furniture that are very comfortable to use 🙂
Wood – The Warm Material
Wood is an old material. It is a natural material. It is nature – Literally
Every person has a lifetime of associations with wood. We play in trees when we are children, we take inspiring walks in forests and we keep warm by the fireplace at night.
And when we bring it into our homes we are in some way letting nature in.
Another reason why wood is great to use in furniture is the material properties. It is strong, flexible, easy to carve and it lasts for a very long time. One can easily see why it is the preferred material for making furniture.
A beautiful example of a remarkable wooden chair is Hans Wegner’s CH07 Shell Chair. It is just a very nice looking and well-crafted chair.
Metal – The Industrial Material
Metals are also in some form a natural material. But in order for us to create something useful from the metal ores, the material has to undergo a hard and heavy industrial process.
It is this industrial process that disconnects the material from nature and makes it something entirely different.
Industrial metals changed the world, and we cannot imagine what our life would look like without it.
Just in the last 100 years, we have seen a revolution in production methods. Many of these methods open huge possibilities for creating intriguing, customized and efficient products.
A few that come to mind are Laser Cutters, CNC Milling Centers and of course 3D Metal Printers.
A curious soul can get lost for decades designing and exploring the possibilities of just one of the above production methods. And possibly centuries when we start combining all the different production methods.
A master of using metal in furniture was Poul Kjærholm. His PK91 Folding Stool is a great example of steel and leather that creates an elegant piece of furniture.
Refinement And Details Are Crucial
“Quote for reference”
God is in the detail – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – 1886-1969
One of the most famous architects and designers in the twentieth century.
This sentence and it’s derived “The Devil is in the detail”, emphasizes clearly what details in furniture should evoke in a person when looking at them.
When mixing wood and metal it has to happen with refinement and surgical precision.
A nail in a wood stump makes for a fantastic game, but it is not an awe-inspiring piece of furniture.
Both materials have to add to the product what the other could not.
Woods have matte reflections and metals have shiny reflections. A good example is that dark woods go well with “light” metals such as brushed steel, aluminum, or brass.
Chrome or polished steel is actually not a great fit for darker woods. The reason is that most metals’ base color is actually dark or black.
When metal is polished to a mirror finish it loses its glossy reflection. The result is a dark surface that only reflects light at very specific angles. Just like a mirror.
Brushed steel, on the other hand, catches light from many angles due to the imperfections in the surface. It is in this way that it can contrast the dark wood. The secret is to reflect light in the right way.
These Types of Furniture Enhance The Experience Of Mixing
When choosing furniture that mixes wood and metal, go for something that you touch and interact with often. Chairs are a great example of where mixing materials really enhances the experience.
Take a dining chair for example. You sit in it at least twice a day, and you probably also move it around and touch it much more than any of your other furniture. So just imagine that you had a set of dining chairs, that were beautifully crafted, and you handled them every day.
Every day you would notice that little but very eye-catching brass dowel holding the seat and legs together.
Wouldnt that be great 🙂
In my opinion, furniture that is worth detailing to this level is; chairs, benches, tables, and other things that you come in contact with on a daily basis.
I hope this little article has been informative. Stay tuned for more info about design, crafting, and adding value to your life.