Neil Stevenson, director and founder - NEJ Stevenson Ltd.
From Eaton Square to Holland Park, from Knightsbridge to Park Lane, I have been privileged to work on projects in some of the most prestigious locations in London. Our work at the prime end of the property market has given me unique insights into the latest wood trends.
Selecting the right wood for the project
Traditionally, safe yet luxurious options such as Oak and Walnut remain enduringly popular due to the warmth and beauty of these timbers. Maple is not particularly popular at the moment although I predict the return of the Birds Eye Maple fairly soon and American Cherry is also due for a revival. For commissions in luxury developments, we tend to recommend exotic timbers or fruit woods with a close grain. These include:
Rosewood: A richly hued timber, often brownish in colour with darker veining which looks wonderful when polished.
Satinwood: A durable and exquisite wood. The best growth is in Sri Lanka; this particular wood features the characteristic striped surface grain, while the colour is a clear golden yellow initially, it then takes on a more orange hue with age. The light tones of satinwood work beautifully as a ground for marquetry.
French walnut: A wonderful hardwood, often used in fine veneer. It ranges in colour from medium brown to tan to orange and often contains black streaks or vein noir.
English cherry: A light pinkish brown when freshly cut, darkening to a deeper golden brown with time and upon exposure to light. It has a fine to medium texture with a close grain.
Macassar ebony: Often known as ‘striped ebony’ due to its dramatic striped appearance. The grain is usually straight and with a fine uniform texture and good natural lustre.
In recent years, there has been a big demand for dark stained wood and ‘shades of grey’ reflecting the trend for sophisticated, muted interior colour schemes. It reflects a subtly luxurious, international look, which is popular with high-end clients.
There continues to be a definite focus on the colour, texture and grain pattern of the finished piece – rather than specifying the timber itself – so many projects have stunning finishes created by the staining of natural timbers.
Other popular techniques include a sand blasted finish which takes out the soft grain and gives an undulating, uneven surface. We also use a wire brushed finish which creates wonderful texture and gives depth to the natural grain of the wood. Raking achieves a similar effect using a slightly more aggressive wire brushing technique.
Wood has an enduring appeal due to its warmth and versatility. The demand for bespoke furniture and architectural joinery is buoyant at the super-prime end of the market, offering a luxurious and truly unique result for the most discerning of clients.