Oak? Really….Oak? (Yes, Oak!)

This isn’t your Grandmother’s Oak! We are all for leaving the honey colored oak (and the kids!) at Grandma’s. But, it is time you gave Oak another chance and we are by far from being the only people who think so. 

Why in the world is Oak resurging in popularity? There are a couple of schools of thought on this.  Some will tell you it is because the emerging international design trends, Scandinavian modern and Russian traditional designs alike. Another school of thought is the texture. With all the time we spend in our non-tactile, online worlds these days, it is leaving us craving texture - and Oak delivers in spades! And, there are just so many options; it is really quite a versatile species when you think about it. There is Red Oak, Quarter Sawn Oak, Rift Cut White Oak and European Textured Oak, just to name drop a few. And, within those we can deliver almost any style from Organic Contemporary to Arts & Crafts.

Quarter Sawn

It is how a log is cut which determines whether it is Quarter Sawn or Rift cut – or plain sawn for that matter. In Quarter Sawn White Oak, the round log is first quartered into fat pizza slice shapes and then the cuts are made straight into those quarters. The medullary or pith rays are seen as flecks (their shape reminds us of a boomerang) or stripes. You’ll see they are reflective and produce a wavy pattern. This hard, long, straight grained wood ranges in color from light tan - gray to medium tan – gray; and takes stains well in a variety of colors. 

Rift Cut Oak

Frank Lloyd Wright is oft associated with the linear grains of Rift Cut Oak. The hardwood logs are milled perpendicular to the tree’s rings, which creates the linear grain pattern. The Prairie School of Architecture, with its roots right here in the Midwest, is what Wright is considered the “Father” of, by many. The style was given its name as the lines, normally horizontal design lines, where thought to be reflective of our Midwestern Prairie. Rift Cut White Oak has a linear grain pattern and is a dense hardwood, which holds up well to the Midwestern sensibility of how we actually live in our homes.  John Skojac, dealer development director for The Corsi Cabinet Group says it best when he tells us, “Rift Cut Oak is reminiscent of the rugged, resilient and authentic American spirit.”  Rift Cut White Oak features light-colored sapwood and light grey to dark brown heartwood. (Heartwood is the wood closest to the core of the tree.) It is mostly straight-grained with a medium to coarse texture. Mineral streaks and small pin knots may be present, and celebrate those pin knots – because they are considered part of the wood’s natural characteristics.

 European Textured Oak

European Oak is structured to be totally random in grain flow, character and knot distribution. It’s funny, today woods with knots apparent in them are highly sought after, and often charged a premium for. We especially love those knots in the Organic Contemporary styling we see today. Back in the day knots were considered undesirable and that part of a tree was always disposed of! Just another example of how trends ebb & flow.

Cerusing / Liming

From the floors of high-end homes in Florida to cabinetry found in kitchens of the Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago to expensive stand alone furniture pieces on the East Coast to the new RH Modern furniture collection, we’re seeing Liming on Oak, aka: cerusing, from Coast to Midwest to Coast.

What is cerusing – more commonly referred to as liming? It is a labor intensive process, during which a wire brush is used to open up the grains of oak. The graining is then filled in with a colored “wax,” normally a white wax.

We can let you in on the secret of making Oak work in our Midwestern homes in just two words; cleaner lines.  That, my friends, is truly the secret to getting a fabulous look from Oak in today’s design world.  Pair Oak with clean lines and you will be on trend and in love.  Look, Oak is a hard wood and thanks to it’s graining it rarely warps.  There is simply no way around it and no reason to fight it.  Oak holds up to the Lake-House-Guest-who-is-hard-on-everything to the repair man who just hit the cabinets with his tool belt.  If you crave on-trend, no fuss and across the board style – we’d like to re-introduce you to Oak.

We practice what we preach! Check out this palette, centered on a beautifully cerused oak door from Greenfield cabinets. Yes, oak… in a modern condo downtown Chicago. We are over the moon with this palette.