| If there's one thing we know about our readers, it's that they can't get enough wood—right down to the furnishings they put in their homes.
Originally dubbed "rusticating," the trend of city folks migrating to country cabins and mountain retreats (many were called "camps") in the mid- to late 1800s marked the start of the log-furniture movement. Although well-to-do families spent only a few months of the year at these rustic manors, their house staffs would stay behind during the long, lonesome winter, passing the time making furniture for the home. The idea behind the pieces was to create interesting designs, from chairs and tables to mirrors, using only natural materials, like twigs and logs found on the property.
Today's rustic furniture makers follow that same tradition of using natural materials to create spectacular furniture and rustic decor pieces, but with modern additions and often a mix of materials. The vast majority of these furniture makers are mom-and-pop businesses. Thanks to the Internet, their products are accessible to anyone who loves the look and the quality that comes with authentic log furniture.
Log Furniture: Which species is best for you?
The most surprising thing about red cedar (also known as aromatic cedar for its pleasing scent) is that it's not cedar at all—it actually belongs to the juniper family. It's heavy, and naturally insect- and rot-resistant, meaning that clothes stored in a chest made of this wood will be protected from moths. It also has tight knots to add character and beauty.
Colors: Pinkish brown to dark brown
White cedar is a lightweight, dimensionally stable wood that lies flat and stays straight, which means it resists the natural tendency to crack and check. When it's used for outdoor furniture, its cell structure discourages moisture rot by allowing it to dry faster than other hardwoods.
Colors: Light to medium brown
Hickory trees grow tall, but their trunks don't grow much wider than 3 inches. Because of this, furniture made from hickory typically consists of pieces with a smaller log diameter than other species. This makes it a good option for chairs and side tables, but it may not be as sturdy for bigger pieces, like beds.
Colors: Tan to dark brown
Cypress naturally produces oil, which acts as a built-in preservative. This inherent characteristic makes cypress durable and extremely resistant to extreme weather conditions, insects and fungus. Because the wood lacks sap and doesn't bleed, it also takes well to sealants, stains and paints.
Colors: Medium brown to dark amber brown
When shopping for log furniture, pay close attention to how the pieces are assembled. Some furniture is made from logs that are butted up against each other and nailed—a system that can sometimes fall apart over time. Instead, look for more durable pieces with a mortise-and-tenon connection. Make sure the dowels used to hold the furniture together are at least 1.25 inches long, because those connections are the weakest point of the furniture. If the piece does have metal hardware, screws are better than nails, unless the nails are hot dipped in glue. Nails without the glue coating will actually start to back out over time because the fibers of the wood push on them.