In Defense of Veneers

by starfurniture on March 7, 2012

To get straight to the point: Veneered furniture is pretty outstanding.

Forecast dining table by Pennsylvania House. Made with American white oak solids and veneers. Not going to fall apart on you.

That’s not to say that you should expect great things from anything with a veneer stuck to it. Cheap furniture is still cheap furniture. But when it comes to the good stuff, there’s no reason to be leery of veneers.

Consider the fact that many furnishings you see at antique shops and in historical museums are made with veneers. When well made and well maintained, this type of furniture can function for generations.

To bring our point home, here is an Egyptian folding stool (circa 2000-1630 B.C.E.) made with veneers. Still standing!

Veneer Basics
A veneer is a layer of wood affixed to a substrate. “Substrate” being solid wood, pieces of solid wood, or fiberboard. (And before you balk at the idea of fiberboard, consider this: Since fiberboard has no defined grain pattern, a veneer attached to it has a strong hold and is unlikely to warp.) Veneers can be very thick or quite thin. In general, you’re okay with something in between. The thicker the veneer is, the more difficult it is to make it conform to the shape of the furniture frame, and therefore it will be more expensive.

The Belmont poster bed, made to last with rogue cherry veneers.

Why Choose Veneers?
Curvy furniture would be impossible without veneers. So too would elaborate patterns like book-matched tops and inlaid starburst designs. Veneers are also the economical way to get the look of exotic wood, without paying for an all-exotic-wood piece.

A shaped front and curvy doors are made possible by veneer work. Great Rooms huntboard by Universal.

Beautiful patterns, like these perfectly symmetrical book matched tabletops, wouldn’t be possible without veneers. Tabletops by Peter Sandback.

All You Really Need to Know
With either veneered or solid wood furniture, quality really depends more on the construction standards of the manufacturer than anything else.

And just like with anything else, if you really want it to last, treat is nicely. Wrap it up really well before moving, don’t let the kids skateboard on it, and keep it in a climate-controlled room away from sun-facing windows.

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