The material furniture is made from says everything about it. Some materials are classic, some are beautiful, some are trendy, some are timeless. One of the most timeless furniture materials is wood, in particular mahogany. It can be expensive, but it will last through every new fad and might even gain value over time.
What is mahogany?
Mahogany is a durable hardwood and has been used to make some of the finest, and longest lasting, furniture in the world. Traditionally, its wood comes from South America and is the wood that has been used to craft mahogany furniture for centuries. However, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed South American mahogany as an endangered species in 2003, severely limiting its use for furniture. Since then, an African mahogany tree with similar properties to South American mahogany has been used as a substitute.
While the quality and characteristics between the two types of mahogany wood aren’t very different, there is still an allure of South American mahogany that has created illegal logging industries. When buying new furniture, you should check that the wood has come from sustainable sources.
The Mahogany is prized for its straight, fine grade and is known as a wood that is mostly free of defects and knots. The reddish-brown mahogany color darkens over time, giving it a stately look and beautiful reddish shine when polished. In addition to being durable, the wood is workable, and the trees can grow up to 75 feet tall, yielding very large boards, thus making it the perfect choice for furniture and cabinetry.
Why should you buy mahogany furniture?
Although you may agree that it is a good choice of wood for furniture making, you may still be unconvinced that it’s something you should buy. What makes it not just a great choice for crafting furniture but for purchasing is its timeless quality. It not only lasts for years, it also carries a classic look that won’t ever go out of style. The dark reddish-brown of mahogany wood also lends it a look that can add color and warmth to a room without overpowering it. It will also last you for years and years, often keeping its durability and look over lifetimes, making it a great heirloom piece.
How to choose good mahogany furniture.
Mahogany is a controversial material these days, due to the endangered status of South American mahogany. The difficulty of following the wood all the way back to its source to determine if it has been illegally obtained has led some manufacturers to ban all sales of furniture made from mahogany. If you are buying antique mahogany furniture, this is not an issue, but if you are looking at new furniture, you’ll want to make sure it’s made of a mahogany substitute.
While some furniture makers have decided to make furniture with mahogany veneers that limits the use of the wood while still giving the look of mahogany, many others have begun using substitute materials. The most popular substitute is African mahogany, also called Khaya. Although a different species than South American mahogany, African mahogany is still part of the mahogany family and has most of the same properties as its cousin. Plus, African mahogany is not endangered, making it the ideal substitute. Other common substitutes include sapele, utile, and Spanish cedar. Some furniture makers also advertise furniture made from Philippine mahogany, which, unlike African mahogany, comes from an entirely different family of plants. If unsure what you’re looking at, simply ask the furniture maker or salesperson where the wood comes from?
If you’re intent on purchasing real South American mahogany, there are legal ways to do so. Some lumber harvesters engage in renewable harvesting practices that don’t endanger the species when they harvest mahogany. It may be more expensive, but if you find South American mahogany that is certified by programs such as the Rainforest Alliance or Forest Stewardship Council, you can be safe knowing the wood has been ethically sourced.
Finally, if you want to buy antique mahogany furniture, just check for the decal from the Mahogany Association verifying that the piece is “genuine mahogany.” The Mahogany Association operated in the early to mid-1900s helping buyers distinguish genuine from less expensive woods stained to look like mahogany.
Finding affordable mahogany furniture.
It is some of the most expensive furniture material out there, and if you are operating on a limited budget, you may feel out of luck. Not to worry, there are some methods for finding high quality at a decent price. You can look for secondhand furniture at places like antique shops or estate sales. Some places also have vintage flea markets where you might be able to find some real mahogany furniture. If you do find some vintage mahogany furniture, don’t be afraid to haggle. Although you may not have any luck, negotiating price is a common occurrence and can get you some real quality furniture at a steal.
You may feel a twinge of guilt owning mahogany furniture, but there are still options. We can also still find ethically sourced furniture made of real South American mahogany certified by groups like the Rainforest Alliance or Forest Stewardship Council.
It is some of the best in the world. It’s durable, will last for a lifetime, and only gets more beautiful with age. Further, mahogany furniture has a classic look that will weather trends and fads and will never go out of style.