5 Ways to Decorate with Burl Wood to Showcase Its Texture

Burl wood's intricate, marbled patterns showcase the beauty in imperfection. Use our expert tips on how to incorporate the material into your home.

In nature, beauty is often found in imperfections. Uneven textures and colors lend depth and character to materials like wood and stone, and people are increasingly looking to bring that authentic, organic look into their homes. Perhaps one of the best examples of the appeal of nature's imperfections is burl wood, which has recently been popping up in furniture and accessories.

The swirls and knots of burl wood are the result of a tree deformity, usually caused by stress from an injury or an infection. Burls are knobby-looking outgrowths that can be harvested and turned into slabs or veneers for furniture. "I think that is part of its allure—a disfigurement or unattractive element on a tree trunk hides such beauty and uniqueness beneath the surface," says Los Angeles-based designer Stefani Stein. The burl's irregular, kaleidoscopic pattern forms as the tree heals itself, so no two pieces of are exactly alike—which makes this material rare and highly sought-after.

living room with floral sofa and burl wood coffee table
Laurey Glenn

Burl wood furniture was popular in Europe centuries ago, Stein notes, but regained favor during the Art Deco period in the 1920s and '30s, then again in the 1970s. The current wave coincides with a "back to nature" movement in interior design. "It's made a comeback because layered, earthy elements have been trending over the last few years, and burl wood is a unique twist on a natural element with its marbled curves and organic feel," says Austin-based interior designer Sara Barney of BANDD DESIGN.

Burl wood brings gorgeous natural texture to both small accessories and large investment pieces. Here are some designer tips for showcasing its beauty in your home.

1. Show off the texture on statement furniture.

For a dramatic dose of texture, bring in burl wood via statement furniture. "Pieces with a surface large enough to highlight the knots of the burl wood are the best way to showcase this trend," says New Jersey interior designer and HomeGoods style expert Beth Diana Smith. Credenzas, coffee tables, and even dining room tables can show off a burl in a bold way. "Dining tables can be boring, but burl wood combines color, depth, and texture, all on a flat plane," says Houston interior designer Mary Patton.

faux burl wood cube side table next to sofa
Courtesy of Overstock

2. Don't shy away from faux options.

Because of its rarity, burl wood can be expensive, but veneers that mimic the real thing make the look more accessible. Although you'll sacrifice the appeal of owning a one-of-a-kind piece, burl wood veneer is much less expensive and "still serves all the drama of its all-natural counterparts," says Lance Thomas of Louisiana-based Thomas Guy Interiors. When shopping, search for patterns that replicate the irregular swirls and knots of natural wood without looking too repetitive.

3. Use accent pieces as art.

Its spectacular grain makes burl wood worthy of a prominent display. "I really dig burl wood for accent furnishings, so that it stands out in its own little space," Barney says. Look for items like console tables, benches, or stools that can stand alone against a wall, or in a corner, as a functional piece of art. Burl wood is also great for layering in a bit of contrast. "If I wanted to add contemporary edge to a traditional bedroom, for example, a pair of burl wood nightstands would do just the trick," Thomas says.

4. Experiment with burl wood accessories.

"If a larger burl wood furniture piece isn't in the budget just yet, try shopping for smaller items, such as picture frames or trinket boxes, to incorporate this trend into your home's decor," suggests David Quarles IV, a Memphis-based interior designer and HomeGoods style expert. Dress up a bookshelf display or coffee table with one or two burl wood accessories for a subtle accent that draws the eye. A single burl wood frame can add impact to a favorite photo in a gallery wall.

decorative burl wood box with lid
Courtesy of West Elm

5. Accentuate burl wood with vibrant colors.

Choose a color scheme that highlights the wood's unique variations of tone and texture. New Orleans interior designer Maureen Stevens likes to juxtapose it with bold, jewel-tone colors, such as emerald green or cobalt. For a more organic look, complement burl wood furnishings with moody earth tones and other natural materials.

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