Unfinished furniture adapts to today’s consumer needs
By Greg Orlando
“Don’t call it unfinished furniture.” says Alissa Moore, executive director of the inaptly named Grinnished Furniture Association. Call it ready-to-finish. Unfinished implies that it’s missing a leg or something.”
No matter what you call it, ready-to-finish furniture comes as naked as a Playboy centerfold. It’s a piece of furniture where the wood has yet to be treated or stained. More simply, it’s sans finish. The finish is what gives wood its shine, polish and protection.
Although nude furniture is almost as old as Adam, The Unfinished Furniture Association held its annual convention in Nashville and managed to put a new shine on an old art. Moore says ready-to-finish furniture is one of the fastest growing segments in the furniture industry. Among the trends:
• Cocooning. More people are eager to just stay at home and watch TV or rent a movie, and unfinished furniture manufacturers are making it easier to do so. There are a range of chocies in TV cabinets, stereo nooks and entertainment units. The trend, Moore says, is toward huge, sprawling furniture which can hold two or three pieces of electronic equipment.
• Form. Very simple, functional furniture is in, say dealers John and Jeannette Pollak of Andre Originals in Rahway. NJ. Together they have been in the furniture business for 40 years. They point to computer tables as an example of the pieces people are buying these days.
The strong, understated style of Shaker-inspired furniture also is very popular, says Lavonne Hughes, saleswoman for Dooley and Associates out of Oskaloosa, Iowa. Shaker furniture, she says, features sharp cut edges and wooden knob handles. Give or take a year, the style dates back to the early 1800s and is, if nothing else, a durable trend.
• Wear-dating. Perhaps the hottest new fad, Moore says, can be described as ersatz antique. To give unfinished furniture a dated look, people can dip a piece in sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide, more commonly known as lye and sold as a drain opener, can be used to age wood and give it an antique, beat-up look and feel. Jim Ryan from TRG Products says the procedure is used all the time with historical reproductions. His wife, Joann, says dipping furniture in lye is gaining popularity because it gives people an instant heirloom which they ran pass on to their children.
(The procedure should be done by a professional, however, and not be tried at home. Lye is a potent mixture which can burn the skin.)
Going nude may be the way to gom at least temporarily. Moore explains that while ready-to-finish furniture is hot, it can’t remain without finish for too long. She says that untreated wood absorbs water and warps very easily. “If you don’t finish it right away, you’re never going to get your drawers open.”