Home & Design

Go Figure

June 5, 2024

Wisteria.com makes a point of showing how varied the finish of their Cylinder Burl Wood Side Table can be.

By Nancy McKeon

THE EDITORS of the shelter magazine Veranda recently reported back from the furniture markets in Milan and High Point, North Carolina. Among their finds, “a ton of warm burl wood and tortoiseshell.”

To learn about the same trend, I just had to open the catalogues crammed into my mailbox, from Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Wisteria—and then a quick trip through the websites of Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Wayfair. You get the idea.

It seems odd that such sophisticated beauty is the result of a tree that has gone into hyperdrive to fend off a fungus or an insect infestation. We look at a tree and see ugly growths disfiguring it, bulging out from its trunk like canker sores. But slice into that growth and you find whorls of pattern, so different from the orderly growth rings we associate with trees. (Does harvesting the burl wood kill the tree? Most likely yes, but I’m told that many of them are beyond saving anyway. One hopes.)

You can see magnificent examples of highly figured veneers of burl wood in just about any museum that showcases antique European chests and tables. Where this newer crop of “casegoods” differs is in marrying the lively veneer with the straight lines that most of today’s consumers seem more comfortable with. Among the examples I found in the wider marketplace, only a few had the classic curves of antique styles.

Here are some examples I found. One thing to remember is that given the nature of burl, no two pieces are going to be exactly like what you see in pictures, or even on the sales floor (unless you buy the floor sample!).

Another thing to know is that even at $3,000-plus there’s often still “some assembly required.”

The Plymouth Solid Wood Accent Chest by Worlds Away has the serpentine front more associated with antique pieces. It is 42 inches wide, and has three drawers with acrylic and brass hardware, $2,649.45 at Wayfair.com.

Frontgate.com’s Brando Bar Cabinet shows the warmer side of burl, and comes in two shades, Russet (shown here) and the darker Coffee. The cabinet is 34 inches wide and 44 inches tall, $2,399.20. The Brando line includes a 72-inch-long sideboard, as well as an elegant three-drawer chest, a console table, an extendable dining table (in Russet only), and nightstands.
The Jax Burl Dining Table is Ballard Design’s contribution to the burl trend. The 84-inch-long table, with blond mappa wood veneer (from poplar trees) in a parquet pattern, seats eight and is $1,724.25.

A handsome display of mappa wood parquet, West Elm’s 6-foot-long Burl Media Console, $1,499, rests on a recessed plinth base. West Elm points out that the contract-grade (that’s sturdier than residential-grade) piece has two cabinets for storage and, oh goodie, can hold a 72-inch-wide flatscreen TV that weighs up to 175 pounds.

Anthropologie’s Fern Burl Storage Cabinet, $2,998, costs $300 more than the same Fern style in plainer wood. The hefty piece (230 pounds) stands an impressive 74 inches tall, hiding some of your stuff and displaying what you want the world to see, all of it behind two glass doors.

Wisteria’s Cylinder Burl Wood Side Table has many variations (see the image at the top of the page) because of the variability of the acacia veneer. Made in Vietnam, the table is 18 inches high and 18 inches in diameter, $650.


Wisteria’s Oslo Burl Veneer Coffee Table, $1,125, takes a midcentury shape and makes it a bit more decorative (see a closeup of the veneer below). The Oslo collection also offers a desk fashioned with the same maple veneer.

A closeup of the Oslo coffee table’s veneer.

If a giant helping of burl veneer doesn’t seem right for the moment in your home, there are ways to dip you toe into the vivid wood (so to speak).

The Burl Wood Veneer Rectangle Mirror from Wisteria boasts a charcoal finish on the burl veneer. The piece is 33 inches high, 25 inches wide, and $725.

Pottery Barn offers these handsome Burlwood Jewelry Boxes (three sizes, $48 to $129). The boxes are lined with Ultrasuede.

Anthropologie’s idea of incidental burl includes these floating shelves. The Tamara shelves, available in Natural (shown) and a Black burl, are, for a limited time, $126.40 to $278. The longest is 36 inches long, the smallest 18 inches.

Also from Anthropologie are these Zaha Burl Switch Plates, $24.95 each. The ones currently available are the double outlet, the double rocker, and the double toggle. The chain also sells a whole Mesa Collection in natural burl for the bed and bath, including a tissue holder, wastebasket, lotion dispenser, etc.



Grownup Girl Fashion by MyLittleBird

Fashion and beauty for women over 40. A Substack from the writers who bring you MyLittleBird.
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