All it takes is a stroll through your local hardware store to realize there are numerous types of wood. However, all types aren’t ideal for all projects.

Choosing wood means thinking about your design and interior theme, wood quality, budget and how staining or painting affects the wood. Knowing your options for handcrafted furniture helps you choose the best wood for you.

With hundreds of woods available, use this guide to narrow down your choices and get your dream furniture faster.

Understanding Interior Design Themes

Before diving into the types of wood, it’s important to carefully consider your interior design theme. For instance, a contemporary design works best with a wood that holds paint well, while a rustic design should use a wood with a darker grain, which creates that more rustic style.

Plus, some themes require a lighter color wood, such as pine or white oak, while a theme like transitional often incorporates darker woods, such as cherry and mahogany. Rochele Decorating does an incredible job of explaining the different nuances of the most popular interior design themes. It’s also a good way to see which theme you like best or whether you want to get creative and mesh themes.


Pine is often a popular choice for rustic or country themes. It’s both lightweight and inexpensive. However, one problem is it dings easily. It does hold paint well, so it’s perfect for contemporary themes too.


Oak is often used for custom furniture that’s prone to abuse as it’s a solid hardwood. Plus, the natural grain looks beautiful in almost every design. Red oak has a darker tone, while white oak offers a brighter counterpart. It is slightly difficult to stain due to the darker grain, which creates an odd two-tone color you might not want.


Maple is ideal for themes that require a brighter wood. The white hardwood is even harder than oak, which makes it ideal for frequently used furniture, such as cabinets and dressers. It’s a budget-friendly wood that holds stain well. Many people actually use a darker stain to make it seem like a more expensive wood.


Cherry is often sought out due to its beautiful reddish brown color. It’s perfect for more elegant furniture, such as carved chairs. It is one of the more expensive woods, which means it’s usually used to create centerpiece style furniture or heirloom pieces.


Cedar works well with most any theme. It’s a softer wood that works perfectly with stain or paint. It’s also naturally resistant to rot, so it lasts longer. Most people prefer it for chests and closets due to its natural scent that repels insects.


Walnut is often used to in interior designs that require dark furniture. Contemporary and mid-century modern may feature walnut furniture. The dark streaks stand out, making any project look stunning. However, it is one of the more expensive types of wood.


Ash tends to bend easily, which is why it’s often used in furniture parts. Despite being a hardwood, it’s easy to work with. Plus, the color varies from a light white to a reddish brown. It’s not widely used, but it’s moderately priced and serves as an alternative to more expensive woods.


Birch is considered maple’s more expensive counterpart. The two have a similar look. It’s best for lighter themes, such as Scandinavian styles. Much like maple, it’s easy to customize with stain.


Sycamore is a moderately priced wood, which makes it popular for all types of furniture. It’s most often used in less expensive furniture designs. The natural pink to red tint makes it ideal for a wide variety of styles. Darker reds work well with a French country style.


Mahogany isn’t a budget-friendly wood and as such, is typically used for fine furniture only. The deep brown and reds create beautiful pieces. Much like sycamore, it would work well for a French country style or as a standout piece in a transitional theme. It’s a durable hardwood that’s made to last, so it works well for any furniture you’d love to pass down to later generations.


Elm stands out for having noticeable light and dark areas. It would fit perfectly in a shabby chic style. Due to its popularity, it’s become harder to find. This makes it a more expensive choice.

Are you considering using any of these woods for your cabinets, hutch or library shelving? Contact us today to find out which works best for your dream design.

Image: Stefan Cosma