3 Traditional Table Materials You Need To Know Before You Start Shopping
Picture this: you’ve signed the mortgage/ lease on your new place and it’s time to sit down and seriously conceptualise your interior decor. You start with the big items like the couch, some built-in carpentry, and finally arrive at the table. You put some Netflix on, grab a glass of wine, open that laptop all ready to start searching for the perfect table…
You realise: there’re seriously way more table options out there than you ever imagined. Where do you even start?
Here’s the good news: you’re not alone.
Most of our clients arrive at the showroom overwhelmed by options, unsure of the pros and cons of various table materials.
Having served almost a thousand clients with all types of projects, we’ve had quite a bit of experience with different materials in relation to the “table” function. In this article we’ll summarise the three most commonly-seen/ used tabletop materials and evaluate them for durability, aesthetic, functionality, environmental-friendliness and price:
W O O D
Wood is one of the most popular tabletop materials in use today. Derived of nature that surrounds many of us on a daily basis, wood brings an earthy quality that is easy to identify and recognise.
“The feelings of natural warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rates”, Australia’s Planet Ark reports, “reducing stress and anxiety and increasing positive social interactions. Wood products within a room have also been shown to improve indoor air quality by moderating humidity,” attesting to that natural sense of ease we experience when walking into a space that incorporates wood into the decor.
Over the long term, wood is one of the most structurally durable materials for a tabletop. As wood is made of organic material that continues to expand and contract with environmental conditions, the fibres retain a certain degree of adaptability that allows it to remain robust over decades, assuming it was processed correctly and stored in suitable conditions. To learn more about how to care for solid wood, click here.
Solid wood is one of the most versatile aesthetic materials - easily adapted for interior decor plans ranging from barn-rustic to modern-contemporary, this flexibility makes it possible for us to incorporate the soothing quality of nature into our urban spaces.
The same qualities that make wood amenable to restoration, also make it a bit more vulnerable to wear and tear from daily use. To preserve the appearance of your item for as long as possible, avoid direct contact with extremely high/low temperatures (i.e., anything you cannot hold for long with a bare hand), and keep out of direct sunlight. Avoid allowing water to sit on the surface for any period of time. Wood is prone to scratches (that’s why it can be easily refinished), so you’ll have to be mindful of lifting instead of dragging things on your table, or use a coaster/ placemat. Remain mindful of the types of chemicals used to clean solid wood surfaces as they can interact with and damage the finish - when in doubt, a simple damp cloth works best.
Provided the wood is sourced from certified, sustainable sources, solid wood is one of the most environmentally-friendly material options for a table top as it can be repeatedly restored and refreshed, giving it a much longer functional lifespan than other materials. At the end of its lifetime, as a natural material wood will also decay and return to the earth instead of piling on landfills.
Price: ## - ####
There are many different types of solid wood used in the construction of furniture and table tops today, and the large differences in supply availability contribute to a relatively large range in prices in the market. In general, you can expect to find properly processed hardwoods at the higher end of the price range, and mass-produced softwoods at the lower end. Jointed wood is typically cheaper than whole slabs, as supply is relatively easier to generate.
T E M P E R E D . G L A S S
Glass is a popular option for a tabletop when you want to showcase what’s underneath it, or lighten the visual weight of your furniture.
This discussion focuses on the use of tempered glass only, as we don’t recommend getting non-tempered glass for furniture that sees frequent and near-daily use. Most tempered glass in Singapore is marked by a little indicative sticker. Alternatively, check directly with your supplier/ retailer and get formal confirmation that the glass used is tempered. This is important for safety and durability issues.
Tempered glass is structurally hardy and relatively impervious to external elements. Assuming that is used responsibly with due consideration for the loads it is designed to carry, glass can last over many decades making it one of the most durable materials available.
Because of the intrinsic neutrality of the appearance of glass, pieces that incorporate it as the main feature are often considered timeless, allowing the same piece to fit into many different interior styles over the years. Glass is also suitable as a complementary material, often used to enhance or protect other materials used in the same furniture such as wood and stone. However, the same neutrality that allows glass to play a complementary role also often results in bland, unremarkable cookie-cutter designs.
Tempered glass gets a mid-level rating because it is highly functional in certain aspects and simultaneously weak in others.
Tempered glass is relatively heat and scratch resistant. On the flip side of this quality, any scratches that may end up on glass (usually incurred by dragging metal on the surface) are near-impossible to remove. Tempered glass is also waterproof, which makes it highly suitable for use in wet areas such as outdoor patios or wet kitchens.
If used in conjunction with other materials, it is not possible to achieve an air and watertight seam between the edge of the glass and the other material (e.g., wood). Combined with the transparency of glass, this creates ideal conditions for mould and algae growth that is difficult to access and remove afterward. Tempered or not, glass is not suitable for load-bearing and high-impact, so families with young children or exuberant pets should be particularly mindful of this.
The initial production process of glass is very energy-intensive. However, once fabricated, glass is extremely stable and can last for decades, assuming correct use conditions. In the event of disposal, glass is also fully recyclable, which makes one of the most environmentally-friendly synthetic materials available.
Compared to many other materials, glass is relatively inexpensive, although prices can increase exponentially with the weight, thickness and type of treatments selected.
M A R B L E
Marble is one of the most ancient materials used in the construction and decoration of spaces since the early Mesopotamian era. Employed visibly and generously in some of the world’s greatest wonders (the Taj Mahal, Michalangelo’s David), marble as a material has become synonymous with affluence and elegance.
Marble is a type of rock resulting from metamorphism of sedimentary carbonate rocks such as limestone, incurred through exposure to high temperatures and pressures. Typically prized in its pure, white form, marble is also available in a range of naturally occurring colours and can add a subtle twist on an elegant interior decor plan.
Assuming proper use and care, marble is extremely durable and can last over centuries. Case-in-point: sculptures made in the 1500s still stand today (here’s a bit of fun reading about David if you’re in the mood).
The appearance of marble is classic, and has clearly stood the test of time, remaining relevant from the 16th century to the 21st. However, the “marble look” is still distinctive and is often most judiciously used as an accent or single focal point, rather than allowing it to overwhelm the space.
Marble is one of the most finicky materials to maintain. While structurally-sound, its surface softness make it highly prone to scratches while its porousness make it vulnerable to stains that are difficult to remove. Marble requires a good sealant that is reapplied at regular intervals, to preserve its appearance.
While marble generally does not absorb heat (it’s great to rest against a marble surface on a hot day), it’s still best to use coasters and other protective tools for items that are too hot to be held by bare hands. Marble is especially sensitive to acidic compounds, and should be kept away from things like coffee and strong soap. Click to read a first-hand evaluation of marble as kitchen countertop.
Like many other precious stones, marble requires a long time to form (millions of years) and is therefore considered a non-renewable resource. The extraction and preparation process is also extremely energy-intensive, and results in various pollutive diseconomies at by-products. However, once extracted and prepared, marble can be used forever (assuming proper maintenance). It can also be recycled, although the technology to recycle marble is relatively less accessible than for other materials.
Marble is one of the most expensive materials available due to its scarcity and the amount of processing required.
Want to get more specific advice for your space and lifestyle? Our sales advisors are experienced and more than happy to help!