Furniture: Exploring the Types of Wood, Metal, and More

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 13, 2022
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Furniture is the mass noun for the movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., chairs, stools and sofas) and sleeping (e.g., beds). Furniture is also used to hold objects at a convenient height for work (as horizontal surfaces above the ground, such as tables and desks), or to store things (e.g., cupboards and shelves).

Furniture is any object or material used to make a house, apartment, or other building suitable for living or working in.

In this article, I’ll explain what furniture is, how it’s used, and how it’s changed over time.

What is furniture

The Fascinating Etymology of Furniture

  • The word “furniture” comes from the French word “fourniture,” which means equipment.
  • In most other European languages, however, the corresponding word is derived from the Latin adjective “mobilis,” meaning movable.
  • The English word “furniture” is believed to have been derived from the Latin word “fundus,” meaning “bottom” or “foundation.”

The Materials and Forms of Furniture

  • Early furniture was constructed from a variety of materials, including stone, wood, and natural fibers.
  • The main forms of early furniture included seating, storage, and tables.
  • The range of available materials and degree of advanced construction techniques varied depending on the specific culture and time period.
  • The importance of furniture in daily life increased as people became more equipped to build and store items.

The Unique Role of Furniture in Human History

  • Furniture has played an important role in human history, providing a means of sitting, sleeping, and storing items.
  • The construction and design of furniture have been influenced by cultural and artistic trends throughout history.
  • Surviving examples of ancient furniture provide insight into the daily lives and customs of people from different time periods and cultures.
  • Furniture continues to be an important aspect of human life, with a wide range of styles and materials available for modern use.

The Fascinating History of Furniture

  • The concept of furniture began in ancient times, approximately 3100-2500 BCE.
  • The earliest items created for household use were made of stone, as wood was not readily available during the Neolithic time period.
  • The first forms of furniture included dressers, cupboards, and beds.
  • Evidence of rudimentary furniture construction has been discovered in areas such as Skara Brae in Scotland and Çatalhöyük in Turkey.

The Evolution of Furniture Materials

  • As humans began to practice agriculture and build settlements, wood became a more common material for furniture.
  • The main types of wood used for furniture construction included tree stumps and large pieces of natural wood.
  • Other materials used included rocks and animal carvings.
  • The construction of furniture advanced over time, with humans becoming more equipped to build and store items.
  • The range of materials used to build furniture expanded to include a variety of natural and man-made materials.

Furniture in Ancient Egypt

  • Evidence of furniture has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, dating back to approximately 3000 BCE.
  • The inclusion of furniture in tombs implies the importance of furniture in daily life and in the afterlife.
  • The Nile Valley was a main area for furniture construction, with a range of items including beds, chairs, and cupboards being discovered in excavations.
  • The inclusion of a seat in the goddess Isis statue implies the importance of furniture in religious practices.

The Surviving Pieces of Furniture

  • The earliest surviving pieces of furniture date back to the late Neolithic period.
  • The Skara Brae dresser, dated to approximately 3100 BCE, is one of the oldest surviving pieces of furniture.
  • The inclusion of furniture in archaeological sites such as Çatalhöyük and Skara Brae provides insight into the daily lives of ancient humans.
  • Many ancient pieces of furniture can be found in museums around the world, including the British Museum and the Louvre.

Choosing the Right Furniture Type for Your Home

Furniture is an important product that helps to define the center of any living space. It is designed to offer unique styles and functions that can make your home a better place to live. With hundreds of types available in the market, it can be overwhelming to know which type is the best for your specific needs. In this guide, we will help you to understand the different types of furniture and their specific functions.

Types of Furniture

Here are the most common types of furniture that you can find in the market:

  • Living Room Furniture: This type of furniture is designed for the living room and includes tables, chairs, and sofas. The most popular living room furniture includes coffee tables, accent chairs, and console tables.
  • Dining Room Furniture: This type of furniture is designed for the dining room and includes dining tables, chairs, and benches. The most popular dining room furniture includes dining tables, dining chairs, and dining benches.
  • Bedroom Furniture: This type of furniture is designed for the bedroom and includes beds, bedside tables, dressing tables, and storage units. The most popular bedroom furniture includes beds, bedside tables, and dressing tables.
  • Baby Furniture: This type of furniture is designed for babies and includes cribs, changing tables, and toy organizers. The most popular baby furniture includes cribs, changing tables, and toy organizers.
  • Home Office Furniture: This type of furniture is designed for the home office and includes desks, chairs, and organizers. The most popular home office furniture includes desks, chairs, and organizers.
  • Accent Furniture: This type of furniture is designed to add style and function to any place in your home. The most popular accent furniture includes chests, lamps, and hall trees.

Materials Used in Furniture

Furniture can be made from different materials, including:

  • Wood: This is the most common material used in furniture. It is durable and can be crafted into different styles and designs.
  • Metal: This material is used to create modern and industrial furniture. It is durable and can be used to create unique designs.
  • Other Materials: Furniture can also be made from other materials such as glass, plastic, and leather.

Storage Furniture

Storage furniture is designed to offer extra storage space in your home. The most popular storage furniture includes:

  • Chests: These are designed to store clothes and other items in the bedroom.
  • Organizers: These are designed to store toys and other items in the baby’s room.
  • Hall Trees: These are designed to store coats and other items in the hallway.

Exploring the Wide Variety of Wood Types Used in Furniture Making

When it comes to furniture making, there are two main categories of wood: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in the fall, while softwood comes from evergreen trees that keep their needles year-round. Hardwood is generally preferred for furniture making because it is denser and more durable than softwood.

Commonly Used Wood Types

Here are some of the most popular types of wood used in furniture making:

  • Oak: A common hardwood used for tables, chairs, and cabinets. It has a straight grain and a light to medium brown color.
  • Maple: Another hardwood that is versatile and commonly used for dressers, desks, and kitchen cabinets. It has a light color and a subtle grain pattern.
  • Mahogany: A premium hardwood that is native to tropical regions of Asia. It has a rich, dark color and a unique grain pattern that makes it ideal for high-end furniture pieces.
  • Pine: A softwood that is widely available and commonly used for building furniture. It has a light color and a straight grain pattern.
  • Rosewood: A hardwood that is inherently rich and carries a unique texture. It is usually expensive and used for vintage furniture pieces.
  • Cherry: A hardwood that is commonly used for dining room furniture. It has a reddish-brown color and a straight grain pattern.
  • Teak: A tropical hardwood that is commonly used for outdoor furniture due to its natural resistance to water and insects. It has a rich golden-brown color and a straight grain pattern.
  • Mindi: A hardwood that is commonly used for coffee tables and TV stands. It has a light brown color and a straight grain pattern.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Wood

When choosing wood for furniture making, there are several factors to consider:

  • Janka score: This measures the hardness of the wood and is important for determining the durability of the furniture piece.
  • Grain pattern: The grain pattern can affect the overall look of the furniture piece.
  • Color: The color of the wood can also affect the overall look of the furniture piece.
  • Availability: Some wood types are more widely available than others, which can affect the cost and availability of the material.
  • Parts of the tree: Different parts of the tree can have different qualities and textures, so it’s important to choose the right part for the desired effect.
  • Time to grow: Some wood types grow faster than others, which can affect the cost and availability of the material.

Metal furniture is generally easy to maintain and can last for many years with proper care. Here are some tips for maintaining metal furniture:

  • Clean the furniture regularly with a mild soap and water solution.
  • Remove any rust or corrosion with a wire brush or sandpaper.
  • Apply a coat of wax or oil to protect the metal from rust and corrosion.
  • Store outdoor furniture indoors during the winter months to protect it from the elements.

Metal furniture is a versatile and durable choice for both indoor and outdoor settings. With a wide range of styles and designs to choose from, there is sure to be a metal furniture piece that fits your needs and personal style.

Exploring the Wide Range of Materials Used in Furniture Making

Veneer is a thin layer of wood that is glued onto a solid piece of furniture board or MDF. Veneer is a cheaper alternative to solid wood and is commonly used to manufacture table tops, laminated surfaces, and chests. The advantage of veneered furniture is that it can achieve the same look as solid wood but at a lower cost. Veneer can also be silvered or ivory to create a unique look.

Glass Furniture

Glass is a relatively new material that is used in furniture making. Glass furniture is generally found in modern designs and is particularly suitable for small spaces. Glass furniture is partly or fully composed of glass and is glued onto a solid piece of furniture board or MDF.

Other Materials

Apart from wood, metal, and glass, there are several other materials that are used in furniture making. These include particleboard, MDF, plywood, veneer sheets, furniture board, and lumber. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, particleboard is a cheaper alternative to solid wood but is inferior in strength. On the other hand, solid wood is the highest quality material for furniture making but is more expensive. Craftsmanship is a key element in the production of fine furniture, and the differences between the various forms of construction are not always equal on all sides.

The Art of Furniture Restoration

Restoration of furniture is the process of bringing a piece back to its former glory. It involves removing dirt, grime, and unwanted finishes to reveal the beauty of the wood beneath. The process comprises several steps, and it’s essential to follow them to achieve the best results. Here are the steps involved in restoring a piece of furniture:

  • Clean the piece: Start by cleaning the piece with a dish cloth and warm, soapy water. This step removes dirt and grime from the surface of the furniture.
  • Remove the finish: Use sanding blocks or power sanders to remove the finish from the furniture. This step requires patience and a steady hand to prevent damage to the wood.
  • Repair any damage: If the piece has any damage, such as cracks or chips, use wood glue to repair it. Allow the glue to dry completely before moving to the next step.
  • Sand the piece: Sand the furniture with a fine-grit sandpaper to remove any excess glue and to create a uniform surface.
  • Apply a new finish: Choose a finish that best suits the piece and apply it evenly. This step requires a steady hand to prevent unwanted drips and bubbles.
  • Allow the finish to dry: Let the finish dry completely before using the piece.

The Value of Restoration

Restoration of furniture is not only about making a piece look good; it also adds value to it. Vintage pieces that have been restored can fetch a higher price compared to pieces that have not been restored. Restoration also allows you to maintain the item’s original brand and intention, making it a valuable item to have.

DIY vs. Professional Restoration

Restoration of furniture can be a DIY project or require the help of a professional. Here are some points to consider when deciding which option is best for you:

  • DIY restoration can save you money compared to professional restoration.
  • Professional restoration requires special tools and materials that you may not have access to.
  • Professional restoration is generally faster and may produce better results compared to DIY efforts.
  • Restoration of specific types of wood or finishes may require special knowledge and expertise that only a professional can provide.

The Difference Between Restoration and Refinishing

Restoration and refinishing are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Refinishing involves completely removing the old finish and applying a new one, while restoration involves preserving the current finish and making it look new again. Restoration is a more delicate process compared to refinishing and requires a specific understanding of the materials and the piece itself.

The Final Point

Restoration of furniture is a simple process that can make a significant difference in the look and value of a piece. Whether you choose to DIY or seek professional help, understanding the steps involved and the materials needed is crucial to achieving the best results. So let’s grab that sanding block and get to work!


So, that’s what furniture is. 

It’s something we use every day, and it’s been around for a long time. It’s been an important part of human history, providing us with a place to sit, sleep, and store our things. 

So, next time you’re looking for new furniture, you know what to look for.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.