The pandemic has changed the way many of us think and feel about home. More than ever, it has become a place of refuge, safety, and comfort in an uncertain world. The need for our dwellings to be sources of both physical and emotional wellbeing has never been stronger. Architects and designers looking to maximize the unique and personal qualities of a residence—the subtle factors that turn it from a house into a home—have long recognized that specifying wood offers a natural means of achieving that goal. Now COVID-19 is making that strategy even more attractive to savvy homeowners.
"We hear it from professionals and consumers alike: Today, families want an especially cocooning home environment," says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center. "Wood is an inherently warm and characterful material that engenders feelings of reliability and familiarity in us. But along with that tried-and-true aspect, hardwood also offers a wide range of different looks and design possibilities, so there’s always an element of uniqueness and personalization whenever it’s used."
The kitchen is often called "the heart of the home"—a gathering place that provides sustenance through food and the companionship of friends and family—making it an ideal space in which to put wood’s authentic natural powers to work. Replacing tired old cabinets with stylish hardwood ones is a good starting point, as shown in the makeover of a 1920’s Bungalow house kitchen where a classic American hardwood—quarter-sawn white oak—is used for all the new millwork and flooring. The floorboards are lightly white-washed to create the look of bare wood; the base cabinets, supplied by Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry, get a slightly darker cerused finish to distinguish them from the rest of the woodwork. The wall cabinets are painted white to match the kitchen’s shiplap ceiling. "It’s peaceful rather than exciting," notes the homeowner. "And that’s exactly what we wanted."
Without doubt, a good part of wood’s appeal is due to the fact that, like us, each piece of timber is unique—its color, texture, and grain are as individual as a human personality, so we keep discovering new aspects of its beauty and versatility to delight in. "But there are other good reasons why being surrounded with hardwood makes us feel good," Jovanovich point out. "It is exactly the kind of material that today’s environmentally conscious consumer demands: One that’s renewable, sustainable, plentiful, durable, and easy to work with—all of which makes it an excellent return on investment, too." And that feeling of wellbeing is not just in our minds or pocketbooks: Wood is healthy, it doesn’t harbor dust and other allergens, and it gives off almost no VOCs in its natural state. And what could be more reassuring than that?