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The Wood Style We Didn’t See Coming – Chunky, Knotty Pine Furniture Is Back (Or Is It?)

design by imogen milford| styling by annie portelli | photo by amelia stanwix | via the design files

Now seems like as good of a time as any for a distraction and to talk about a “crazy” design trend we have been noticing. A trend that quite literally took us all by surprise because I guess this is the year of surprises. This one, however, is GOOD (but that also could be up for debate:)). So why were we shocked, possibly horrified, but also completely intrigued by this mystery trend?? Well, because we’re talking about chunky, knotty, and slightly glossed pine furniture. WHAT?!!! Hold that groovy cord bound phone.

Ok, to be fair I’m a late ’80s baby so I guess I missed the true “pine wood heyday” of the ’70s. But even still, I never had the immediate, “whoa this cool” moment when I saw a piece of chunky pine wood furniture. I don’t think I’ve ever had any positive or fond associations with it until…now.

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 8
design by brian paquette interiors | photo by laure joliet

You might be thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. That crazy furniture in my basement is cool now?” And I will tell you the answer is, yes. And it’s serious because some of our favorite designers like Kelly Wearstler, Commune Design, Reath Design (and more) have been gently leaning into it. Which makes it undeniably cool…right? Which then must mean that all of EHD is on board. If they aren’t they can defend themselves and answer to me in the comments:)

design by kelly wearstler | photo by mathieu salvaing | via dezeen

So I think the only natural thing to do (as we always to in trend posts) is to figure out what makes it special now, after so many years of contempt. How and why has 2020 taken this otherwise banished type of furniture and brought it back to life? We want answers and I am going to give them to you.

Soooo…Why Now?

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 2
via lawson-fenning x parachute home

Ha. Well, I/we don’t “officially” know this answer but I’m going to wildly speculate until we figure it out together.

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 3
design by murphy deesign | photo by zeke ruelas

I have this theory that there is a 30-year cycle in fashion trends (clothes are easier and cheaper to modernize) and a 40-year cycle in interior trends. It takes us a little bit more time to figure out what the heck to do with some of “those” crazy design trends of the past. Granmillenial (not to be confused with our beloved Eccentric English Grandma) came a little early because to me it was a reinvention of ’90s shabby chic. But this whole pine wood reboot took its sweet ole time, coming back at around 50 years later.

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 4
design by kelly wearstler | photo by the ingalls | via curbed la

A part of me wonders if we are just out of things to reinvent so why not take a swing at glossy pine wood? But then when you look at the pieces used in these photos, you see that they are CLEARY special. Not just a last resort design option.

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 5
design by commune design

But let’s see why these are special. Their chunky, shiny frame is paired with very cool (and modern) fabric like leather, fur or a modern patterned textile. In addition, their physical shape is usually special in and of itself.

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 6
design by commune design

They also are the perfect “eccentric” accent piece to an otherwise very modern room. A Phoebe to a Rachel if you will. I mean Phoebe was a VITAL part of Friends and brought the necessary “weird brilliance” to what could have been an otherwise just ordinary show. Are those fighting words? Whoops! Back to pine!

But How Can I Cheat on Matte with Gloss?

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 7
styled by alexa hotz | shot by jonathan hökklo for remodelista

No one is saying you have to give up on your dear matte, but maybe it’s time to open our hearts to gloss. Guys, it’s 2020, let’s get polyamorous with our wood finishes. It’s low risk, high reward, and more to love. But trust me I get it, making the mental switch to liking a glossy natural wood feels anything but natural. And if you actually just can’t with gloss but are down for that sweet ’70s shape, take a note from Emily and her mountain house nightstands.

left: via chairish | right: photo by sara ligorria-tramp, from: our calm scandinavian master bedroom

When she found them on Chairish, they looked like the picture on the left – shiny and orange toned. That was a HARD pass for her scandi mountain house retreat. So she had them stripped and they ended up being the perfect “weird” shape in her otherwise serene master bedroom.

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 12
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: in defense of the comfy sectional—a friend’s almost-finished family room

But as shown from our Sixpenny shoot above, EHD is not gloss opposed. We just are easing into it with a slightly lighter sheen. Baby steps you could say.

design by reath design | photo by laure joliet

Ugh if these chairs are a testament to gloss WORKING, then I don’t know how else to proceed. I mean hubba hubba, right?

The Cool Factor

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 9
design by cyndia harvey | photo by veerle evens | via clever

A trend always equals cool, but does cool always equal a trend? Hmm..that’s a bit too philosophical for a pine trend post during the apocalypse so let’s focus on why we think pine is cool…

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 13
design by heidi caillier design

Again and (I think) most importantly, it’s how it’s styled in a modern space with other interesting pieces. Think back to the breakout trend of 2019, Postmodernism. An entire room full of postmodern decor would have been visually too much and would’ve looked dated (depending on the chosen materials and colors). However, a dash of it could bring a room to life! The same goes for pine furniture except it looks far more approachable.

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine 16
design by atelier ace | photo by adrian gaut | via dezeen

WAIT! Maybe that’s ultimately why it’s cool. It’s like “the nerd” in high school who almost always grows up to be the coolest adult. They don’t look threatening, are incredibly interesting, and are super easy to be around. That same general idea is why I think “eccentric granny” and wicker are big 2020 trends. There seems to be this desperate need for comforting nostalgia in the home more than ever. Sure we want our homes to be “cool” but we really want them to feel safe. Did we decide to get philosophical after all and crack the code??

So if you are on team glossy pine wood and want the comforts of yesteryear, here’s what you should look out for. The key is to look for a piece that is minimal because they stay far away from any ornate detailing (remember, think ’70s pine, not ’90s). It’s all about simple but interesting lines and chunky curves. And of course, don’t forget the knots and gloss.

Here are some more examples of what I mean so you can look out for them when you are on the hunt…

Emily Henderson Trends 70s Pine Furnitureroundup
clockwise from top left: photo source | photo source | photo source | photo source | photo source | photo source

Alright my sweet friends, this trend post has come to an end. If you are wanting a piece for your house because you aren’t one of the lucky ones with a basement full of these gems, head to Cailtin’s incredibly helpful and hilarious post she did on vintage sellers on Instagram in the US that will deliver to you.

Otherwise, I am ready to chat about pine wood in these comments. I want your thoughts, theories, and general feelings about the future of design in 2020. Was glossy, knotty pine wood something you thought you’d see???

Love you, mean it.

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4 years ago

Love this post! I find it so interesting that the chunky wood trend is coming back already! And, as someone who has lived through the 70s and 80s, I can tell you that this look is more early-80s than 70s. The 70s were all about dark wood, like walnut. As we approached 1980, the wood tones finally lightened up and furniture became ‘chunkier’–so that would make your theory about 40 year trends in design spot-on.
Looking forward to seeing how other designers start to incorporate this trend!

4 years ago
Reply to  Renee

OOh, maybe you are right. hmm it does feel like it was in the living room (or basement) of every 80’s movie or TV show (I think ET had a generous amount).

4 years ago
Reply to  Renee

Yeah. I don’t think these are all pine. For instance I am certain the Scarpa chair is rosewood.

Karen Miller
4 years ago
Reply to  ErinOrea

I think some of it is oak, which would make this early 80’s modern oak style. And I had some of it in my house! Many of my friends had the country style of oak–the press back chairs with pedestal dining table.

4 years ago
Reply to  Karen Miller

Some of it also looks like maple. But the chunky, glossy description is very accurate and it certainly is a distinctive style statement.

4 years ago

When I read the title I thought “wow they will never convince me that knotty pine is back”. Now that
I’ve read the post I see that chunky pine furniture is definitely trending but I don’t really see knotty in any of these pictures – the desk photo and maybe that’s it. I remain happily unconvinced that knotty pine furniture is a trend!

4 years ago
Reply to  KP

My thoughts too! My takeaway is that chunky pine is back, but the common thread among all the pieces is no knots! On board with this 🙂

4 years ago

I am currently sitting on a curved pine couch. When I bought it about a couple years ago, the world thought I was insane but I loved the simple lines and it also it super comfortable! Perfect napping couch. I am feeling super validated. My 70s obsession continues! Next up is to find a some sort of sleek more modern coffee table to go with it.

4 years ago
Reply to  Ashley Main

OOH . I want to see. Snap a photo and use our hashtag – and yes I think since its just coming back (and a couple years from maintstream) I think pickers could easily go across america to garage sales in suburbs and CLEAN UP. Almost like they/we did with midcentury 15 years ago. Listen to me, wanderlusting to go thrifting (SO BAD)

4 years ago
Reply to  Emily

MEEEE TOOO. My spring break from teaching was last week (NOT the same week as my kids’) and I had big plans for freeeeedom to thrift. 🙁 small problem, but big impact on my soul.
and good point – maybe I should start buying some of this as an investment.

4 years ago

Nooooooo, just no

Zach Mitchell
4 years ago

As Randy Jackson says, “it’s a no from me, dawg.”

Heather O’Brien
4 years ago

Some of the pieces like the dining chairs in the Brian Paquette interior look suspiciously like, dare I say, OAK!!! I am surprised to say I am actually digging the chunky wood furniture of the early 80s. I personally think the warmth of the golden pine/oak whatever perfectly balances the cooler blues, blacks, etc. And the clean lines that were so prevalent in the 80s “Southwestern” trend translates unexpectedly well into these modern interiors.

Trista Cooper
4 years ago

I can’t believe I don’t hate this. It really does look cool. Just a piece here or there.

4 years ago
Reply to  Trista Cooper

Right?? I oddly feel the same way..

Maria Juno
4 years ago

I think it works as an accent piece for sure, the shapes look almost sculptural and the color of the wood is enough to keep the rooms bright. Feel like people is craving more and more the nature inside of the spaces they spent their time

4 years ago

What are your thoughts on the Classic Oak kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities of the 90s—

Roberta Davis
4 years ago
Reply to  Stacy

maybe in 10 years? 🙂

4 years ago

Emily, you hit the nail on the head……pretty much everything comes “back” if you have the patience to wait. When I was in college (50 years ago, gasp!) I worked in a lovely furniture/gift shop named The Four Poster. Extremely Early American. It was a very popular shop and the styles featured were all the rage at the time. It’s hard to imagine going back to that time, although SOME styles are more or less timeless. And so here we are, looking at knotty pine again. I read lots of blogs; fashion, home design, food, politics; consider myself fairly well rounded and open minded (finally, at age 65) and I’m amused by current trends. Mostly because I fully understand what a trend IS: something destined not to last. Many current styles are also timeless but already we are seeing the downside of stainless steel appliances (oh the fingerprints and mystery marks) open concept designs (can I get some peace and privacy in this house?) and everything gray gray gray (depressing after a while!!!). These are all fine trends but we shouldn’t be married to them. Many of your readers (as well as you I think) are young enough to be… Read more »

Roberta Davis
4 years ago

Oh, Geez. Our HOA’s 50-year-old clubhouse furniture is becoming cool again! Along with the fire/conversation pit!

4 years ago

LOVE love love this blog! HATE hate hate this trend. A hard-NO from me. This is the university supplied-furniture of dorms everywhere. Stay safe all!

4 years ago
Reply to  annieT

My thoughts exactly – pretty sure dorm rooms and school common areas everywhere are still full of this stuff. Of course, when MCM was really hitting it’s stride 7-8 years ago, I was in college and our business school was full of original MCM furniture that had literally been there since the mid-century when the building was built. I found that amusing and a bit depressing then, and I find it amusing and depressing to think of chunky, mid-toned wood furniture coming back in style now. I don’t think I can get on board with that one, just like I couldn’t fully get on board with MCM. Don’t get me wrong, there are elements of it I like, but it has to be used sparingly and with a modern touch, otherwise no thank you.

4 years ago
Reply to  annieT

Yep, that’s exactly the vibe! The chunkiest, heaviest, most unbreakable dorm furniture. I have never had the desire to recreate that “look” in my adult home 🙂

4 years ago

I started to say that it was a hard pass from me. And, then I looked at my dining chairs which were a craigslist find that I love. I bought them from the original owners 5 years ago and they make my grandparents dining table look way more modern. Chunky squared off off chairs for the win.

4 years ago

I’m totally into the trend!! Although I think it has to be the right shape of furniture. I’m really into the organic shapes. Although the nightstands that you guys had stripped down to look like oak are a total win for me too! Oakwood really has my heart right now.

Amy D Gurich
4 years ago

My theory – people identify with Leanne Ford and her adorable brother, Steve Ford. Chunky wood is everything great about those two and their design aesthetic — a deep respect and nostalgia for all things 70s, but have to be organic and functional.

Julie S
4 years ago

hrmm…. not sure. It feels like heavy duty public library furniture to me. In most of these clearly high-end high-concept rooms, a piece or two works, but I think in a more average though well designed home it would just feel like a dated clunker.

4 years ago

Pine has always been fine with me. I love the texture and pattern of it. Sure, it was way overused as “cabin” furniture in the 90s and early 00s. But I very specifically sought out pine furniture for my room remodel from my kid to tween bedroom in the late 90s. Only my pieces were not actually chunky. A desk with skinny square legs that gradually tapered and matching chair. An armoire that was minimal with tiny round knobs. None of it glossy. I like them so much, that I am still hoarding them and plan to use them for my daughter’s room as she transitions from baby room to kid room.

bethann frillman
4 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Thankfully my husband does not read your blog 😉

Steve McJorrow
4 years ago

Please make it stop

4 years ago

Yes, it is part of the Postmodernism/Memphis come back tour from last year, but quieter. To me it’s just the next evolution from midcentury furniture which has been so popular for so long that it’s classic now. The things that make midcentury good – clean lines, smaller proportions that fit in smaller homes, natural material that feels comfortable and honest – that’s what we need, but we are ready for an update.

Pamela Turner
4 years ago

Pine flooring or a sturdy pine table with simple lines, I like very much. Chunky and glossy pine is not a trend I’ll embrace (but I’m more like the nerd from high school?). I do like the return of wicker.

4 years ago

Oh, gosh, now if only the 50’s BLONDE wood will come back, maybe I can sell my giant dining room table with 6 chairs………

4 years ago

I’m allergic to glossy pine, like full body rash allergic. But these chairs are insanely cool. As is the post. Two thumbs up.

4 years ago

Most of these examples look like yellow oak, not pine. But I am totally here for it – with the caveat that I think they should all be stripped like Emily’s nightstands. Exposing the raw wood totally modernizes the look. We are currently doing that exact thing to a couple of chairs that look very similar to the last photos of the lounge chairs. We are removing a heavy layer of glossy polyurethane and dark yellowish stain to reveal a beautiful light wood, and reupholstering the mottled brown vinyl for a black leather. I think as long as the rest of the house is not similarly 80’s themed, it works beautifully.

4 years ago

The BEST thing about these revisited trends posts is that they literally train our eyes to perceive that what we think is outdated, is, and can be, cool! That allows us to have confidence to keep the things we love and the knowledge of how to style them in a fresh way (if that’s important to you – and if you read this blog – it likely is). Some of us have loved these pieces through many revivals and generations, and are now feeling justified! Shouldn’t we all feel this way about our stuff, whether is is orange wood, or mauve floral upholstery, or mid-century office furniture, or brass, or chrome, or bronze, etc. So no more “orange wood” (or whatever you have in your home) shaming!

Janet Josselyn
4 years ago

That’s a hard no from me. Survived the 70s version and don’t wish to re-live that. To “wood shop” for me. And, stub your toe on that a time or two and you never forget that!

4 years ago

Knocked me over!!
I lived through a variety of pine stages, so this took me by surprise.
Some of the images look like doctor office furniture, so that turns me off.

However, the best pieces use mixed materials for the structure (chair using pine with pipe legs) and those with a very sensitive eye to proportions. I’m open, with the reservation that these are an accent to a room, not a set of like items filling a room.

For me, the finish is the least of the issues. I’m ready for levels of gloss mixed with matte and fabrics. Thanks for the jolt!

4 years ago

NONONONONONO. This is just bad dorm-room furniture with a cool haircut. NOPE.

4 years ago

I love the wood look. Feels authentic and sturdy.

And I have 4 armchairs available:

4 years ago

I love the wood look! Feels authentic and sturdy.
And….I have 4 bentwood arm chairs available.

4 years ago

I was in high school in the 70s, married 1980. This reminds me of our hodgepodge first apartment collection that we thought was so beautiful. Not sure I want to go back … seems too masculine, and orange, for my current tastes. It will be interesting to watch this trend.

4 years ago

But the majority of the pieces in the images are wood species like oak or teak – very few images of knotty pine?!

4 years ago

But the majority of pieces shown in the images are other wood species like oak or teak (very few pieces with actual knots) – where’s the knotty pine?!

4 years ago
Reply to  RMC

Exactly! I see a lot of 80s chunky semi and gloss oak, not knotty pine. But I happen to love it