As many people return to in-person work or at least split their time between the office and home as part of a hybrid solution, they continue to want warm living spaces that help them relax and reconnect with nature when in their element – a trend that emerged in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic when governments legislated lockdowns to prevent disease transmission. One of the best ways to achieve this aesthetic is through the use of wood since it has the innate ability to bring us closer to the outdoors and all the great things Mother Nature has to offer. This has resulted in the resurgence of wood cabinets in the kitchen, notably those made of walnut and oak, desired for their grain characteristics and design flexibility since either works well with many styles, from rustic to modern, as well as a wide range of wall paint colours.
Lesser known is the desire for wood range hoods, particularly those that contrast other elements in the kitchen. (Think a walnut exhaust hood above a stainless-steel gas stove that’s sandwiched between bright white cabinets.) Used as a skin on the venting system, this wood treatment creates a focal point in the kitchen. Popular styles are clean-line rectangular with moulding and ‘triangular-shaped’ with board and batten, shiplap or beadboard. All of these have the front of the hood sloping back from the bottom edge; however, a rectangular hood does not have any slope to the sides, while a ‘triangular’ one does at varying degrees and with or without an upper boxed section.
Homeowners are looking to incorporate wood features in other spaces, too, like mudrooms and breakfast nooks in the form of custom-made benches with storage under a flip-top and living areas by way of floating shelves and built-ins. One item that is getting a lot of attention of late is the fireplace. And for good reason. A wood-clad surround adds to the warmth the hearth exudes as well as visual interest to the room, replacing stone like granite and marble and classic brick as the material of choice for some, especially those who are eco-conscious. The wood-slatted look, whether vertical or horizontal, has become favoured as it draws the eye up or out, adds texture and a sense of depth to a space.
In rooms with no fireplace, homeowners are seeking a similar wow factor, which can be achieved with accent walls. These projects are generally a low investment for them in terms of cost. What’s more, a little goes a long way to add differentiation and visual interest. On-trend is floor-to-ceiling board and batten, herringbone or other geometric patterns for a classic look, and panelling or ‘fluting’ for a more modern, minimalist aesthetic. Tight leading between flutes builds texture and contrast; when more spaced out, it creates a softer, less intense effect.
Not to be overlooked is the ceiling, known as the fifth wall. Exposed wood ceilings are another emerging design element that is increasingly being employed. Its unexpectedness is attention-grabbing in an understated way. And because the pattern of the wood grain has its own scale and properties, no two ceilings (and therefore rooms) are alike. A wood-slatted ceiling serves a functional purpose, too. Lighting and media systems can be integrated behind the slats, and the ceiling itself provides acoustic benefits. Tongue-in-groove wooden beams, whether sand-finished or rustic and knotty, or a coffered ceiling are also great ways to turn what’s normally just a blank surface above into a real head turner.
Clare Tattersall is an interior designer and decorator in Toronto, and the editor of Canada’s floor covering magazine, Coverings.