Wednesday 16 October 2019

Kirstie McDermott: Mahogany sideboard? Yes, please - dark wood furniture is back

In mango wood and brass, this tall cabinet is a statement and a space-saver. Find it at for around €675
In mango wood and brass, this tall cabinet is a statement and a space-saver. Find it at for around €675
This Brass and Wood Hallway Console Table, at is nod to mid-century and atomic style; €180
On-trend and space saving to boot: find the Oslo Walnut Extending Dining Table, at; €599
No barked shins here: the Lloyd 2-drawer bedside table, at; €253
Ligne Roset's Postmoderne Sideboard, at has the makings of a modern heirloom; €POA
Make a statement in the bedroom with the Ledger Sliding Wardrobe, at; €842

Kirstie McDermott

Toe-stubbing. That's what comes to mind when I think of the category of 'brown furniture'. You know, the large, clunky pieces with scrolly bits that packed the dusty rooms of grand aunts you were forced to visit on Sundays during your childhood? Out of favour for decades now as blonde woods have held sway, there's a sea change coming.

On a recent trip to Germany, I stayed in a hotel that can only be described as brown furniture central. Axminster-style migraine-inducing carpets, drooping chintz curtains and dour hunting scenes were the backdrop to gigantic mahogany pieces. It was really quite the thing.

While this decor had clearly been in situ since the year dot, TV shows such as Downton Abbey, The Handmaid's Tale and even Narcos: Mexico (the most recent series, which featured lots of 1980s hotel interiors), are having an influence on our tastes thanks to their period-style interiors.

And then, of course, there's the never-waning influence of mid-century modern furniture, a category that brings out all the teak geeks and can probably be blamed as our entry-level drug back to brown. Irish Instagram influencer Frieda Furlong (@frieda_100) knows how addictive brown furniture pieces can be.

"It's definitely making a comeback and thank goodness for that - my home is full of it," she says. Less to do with telly, Frieda thinks our recent embrasure of darker woods is to do with "the interiors - and fashion - move towards earthy, natural tones in homes."

While Victorian and Edwardian furniture absolutely has an appeal and works well with House of Hackney-style maximalist schemes, most of us don't live in homes with rooms that have proportions stately enough for many of these pieces. Mid-century furniture, on the other hand, was designed for modern, post-war homes, so it's a far better fit for our smaller contemporary spaces - and particularly good for apartment living.

"Nothing beats seeing the wood grain in beautifully made furniture, and especially mid-century furniture," Furlong says. "My teak geek days started about 15 years ago with my first vintage teak dining table by Nathan. My pieces are all very affordable mid-century brands like McIntosh, G Plan and Avalon," she says.

Reproductions abound nowadays, but if you want the originals, Furlong has some advice. "There are lots of vintage dealers. Geoff Kirk, from Kirkmodern, is always my go-to dealer, but there are more and more small vintage dealers popping up on Instagram, like @Teakandteal and @2bearshome. I always love keeping an eye on and and I'm an avid charity shop browser."

So how do you make these pieces work in a modern home? With very little hassle, Furlong says. "Mixing the old with the new always works," she states. "A cool modern sofa alongside a teak vintage coffee table is a must. Nothing beats a gallery wall of modern prints set over a well-loved vintage sideboard. Brown furniture looks moody and sophisticated against dark interiors, too."

But in her own home, she's done it a little differently. "Personally, I love the way my teak furniture pops against my white walls. To me it says, 'just enough'."

Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of 'House and Home' magazine.

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