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The Finishing Touch

Finishing Touches | Jordan's Furniture Life and Style Blog

Furniture Finishes || From whitewashed to ebony, surfaces have never been more varied

When it comes to furniture, finishes have never been more nuanced or detailed, especially on wood pieces. With the ongoing popularity of distressed furniture, for example, the desire for a patina that gives it an instant history or “story” is available in more variations and colors than ever. In addition, combining different finishes or materials in one piece is also prominent, such as a wood-top table with a contrasting metal base. Or, many examples of two-tone wood tables, chairs, and case pieces can be found with, say, a natural wood top supported by black or whitewashed legs. Just as with upholstery, you can customize the look of your furniture by using different colors, textures, and finishes that give a room plenty of unique character.

Finishes have never been more nuanced or detailed, especially on wood pieces

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Types of Finishes || Many different furniture finish types and techniques are used to achieve eye-catching looks and effects, including wood stains, which enhance the natural color of woodwork or can change the color and make it darker or lighter. Pigment finishes such as black lacquer work like paint, and can be distressed or glazed to either give them an uneven “lovingly used” look or a highly polished, uniform color surface. Pickling usually involves bleaching, starting with a base color, then using a second color that’s rubbed into the wood grain to achieve a rich layered effect – a bit like blending colors in a watercolor painting. There are countless versions of distressed and faux finishes, achieved through sanding, wire brushing, and other processes. Furniture can easily be made to look intentionally worn (even with nicks and worm holes), or mimic Old World materials like marble or stone that showcase different tonal variations depending on how the light hits them.

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Topcoats || Furniture topcoats – also used on some floors – are essentially final protective layers used to bring out a piece’s beauty, and protect it from wear and tear. These clear, highly durable finishes include lacquer, varnish, polyurethane, and shellac. In general, lacquer highlights wood grains well; varnish is similar but more durable than lacquer; and polyurethane is the most durable, offering years of wear and easy maintenance. Shellac offers brilliant shine, but is used less often because it’s susceptible to damage.

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Maintenance || Caring for your furniture is just as important as carefully choosing your desired finish. Wood maintenance involves regular polishing and dusting with a soft cloth, using coasters, placemats, and tablecloths, and being aware of the levels of light exposure a piece will experience – strong sunlight can sometimes fade certain pieces.

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