What’s With All the Dark Stained Furniture in Stores?
About ten years ago we noticed a shift by large furniture stores away from natural wood grain patterns like maple and cherry toward dark stains. At first, this seemed to be due to the usual shift in furniture tones that happens every 5 to 7 years. Historically, cherry has been about 60% of the “quality” furniture market with walnut, oak, and maple making up the rest. These minority finishes ascend and descend in popularity over time as consumers seek new looks. However, this time there seemed to be a permanent trend toward very dark stained finishes by the big furniture distributors.
It is not a coincidence this change occurred with the shift from American made furniture to imported furniture.
Dark Stain over Uninteresting Wood
Overseas manufacturers know they can take a generic local wood (e.g., Parawood or Rubberwood) that is not especially interesting to look at, stain it and lacquer it, and ship it to the U.S. at a low price. The alternative is to pay a premium for American cherry, maple, or walnut veneers and solids, ship them all the way from the U.S. to the overseas factory, manufacture the product, package it, and ship it all the way back to the U.S. consumer. That is a lot of energy consumed and additional expense! Dark stains may also mask poor quality veneers or wood with unattractive graining.
Wear and Care Problems
Although they are currently quite trendy, dark stain finishes usually don’t hold up under constant use. Walk through any large chain store and inspect the dark stained furniture – it’s often chipped or worn on the edges and corners. The surface also may be scratched from even light usage in the showroom. Dark stained furniture may not last long in the home of Americans with active lifestyles. After awhile, it can just look cheap and dusty. There is nothing like near-black furniture to require additional dusting.
Dark stained furniture also demands extra attention to decorating. Dark furniture can appear larger than it is and dominate a room. The color of the floors, walls, additional furniture, and accessories should be considered in order to ensure the room remains inviting. Too much dark or strong color in the room may be overwhelming.
Shoppers considering dark stained furniture should take into account the quality of the wood and finish, the amount of use the piece will get, the care needed to keep it looking good, and whether the furniture will look right given the room size, color scheme, and decor.