Beam me up

Wood you be­lieve it? The rugged charm of oak is en­joy­ing a re­vival, says Amelia Thorpe

Country Life Every Week - - Interiors -

Anew gen­er­a­tion of ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers is cel­e­brat­ing the colour, tex­ture and re­silience of oak. ‘It’s re­li­able, stead­fast and has historic value,’ states Peter Rus­sell, part­ner of be­spoke join­ery spe­cial­ist Stu­art In­te­ri­ors. ‘we’ve seen a change from the throw­away cul­ture of the lat­ter part of the 20th cen­tury—now, peo­ple want things that will last.’

Mr Rus­sell says he’s cur­rently cre­at­ing a large solid-oak stair­case for a new-build house, with a con­struc­tion team wor­ry­ing about whether they need to cre­ate a spe­cial steel sup­port. ‘I have to ex­plain that there’s no need: solid-oak stair­cases put into houses 500 years ago still ex­ist to­day,’ he says.

‘Other blonde tim­bers, such as sycamore and maple, tend to yel­low, whereas oak im­proves with age,’ ex­plains Bruce Hodg­son, MD and cre­ative di­rec­tor of be­spoke kitchen spe­cial­ist Ar­ti­choke. ‘It can be fumed to take on dif­fer­ent colours, of­fer­ing a wide choice of pos­si­bil­i­ties from raw blonde to al­most pitch black.’

Stains, washes, waxes and oils can all be used to in­tro­duce va­ri­ety and Ar­ti­choke might also use cop­per or ny­lon brushes to cre­ate bur­nished fin­ishes that break out the nat­u­ral fig­ur­ing of the wood. ‘Oak sits well with most colours, in­clud­ing just about the en­tire Far­row & Ball paint chart, as well as with all kinds of other ma­te­ri­als, such as stain­less steel, chrome, nickel, bronzes and aged brasses,’ says Mr Hodg­son. ‘It fits well in all kinds of in­te­ri­ors, just as it has al­ways done, and that also makes it a good in­vest­ment for the future.’

For An­drew Inch­ley, a di­rec­tor of Yian­gou, it is oak’s func­tional ben­e­fits that are the main at­trac­tion. ‘It is a very strong, sta­ble wood, mak­ing it a great build­ing ma­te­rial, and it’s also highly ver­sa­tile,’ says An­drew Inch­ley, di­rec­tor of Yian­gou Ar­chi­tects. ‘You can treat it, pol­ish it and get a very “fin­ished” look that works beau­ti­fully on pan­elling in a tra­di­tional in­te­rior, for ex­am­ple, or you can leave it in its nat­u­ral state, with­out waxes and oils, to cre­ate a more stripped-back ap­pear­ance, which works well in a con­tem­po­rary home.’

Mr Inch­ley re­veals that he en­joys us­ing oak cladding on the ex­te­rior of a build­ing, so that the tim­ber has a chance to sil­ver over time, or com­bin­ing oak with other con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als to cre­ate vari­a­tion. ‘I like the con­trast be­tween some­thing per­fect and sleek, such as metal-framed glass, with some­thing nat­u­ral, such as oak, which will age over time,’ he says.

And to avoid oak look­ing heavy? Again, he be­lieves in cre­at­ing con­trast, set­ting oak beams against a light-painted ceil­ing, for ex­am­ple, or us­ing a slen­der oak frame around a large panel of glass to cre­ate a beau­ti­ful pic­ture win­dow. ‘A sea of oak just doesn’t have the same im­pact,’ he says. ‘It’s far more ef­fec­tive to al­low the wood to stand out.’ Ar­ti­choke (www.ar­ti­choke-ltd.com; 01934 745270) Stu­art In­te­ri­ors (01935 826659; www. stu­ar­t­in­te­ri­ors.com) Yian­gou Ar­chi­tects (01285 888150; www. yian­gou.com)

Above: An oak ceil­ing and beams add warmth to this Cotswold barn by Mcclean Quinlan (020–8870 8600; www.mclean­quin­lan.com). Be­low: Pan­elling by Stu­art In­te­ri­ors (01935 826659; www.stu­ar­t­in­te­ri­ors.com)

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