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Plywood - from unappreciated building material to design trend

by John Blair |

If you feel like you're seeing plywood everywhere at the moment, you probably are. We have come to recognise the beauty in this affordable building material and its use is taking off in everything from home furniture to office fit outs throughout NZ. 

There are plenty of materials and finishes that have had fashionable moments but they tend to come and go. Plywood seems destined to become a classic as its popularity in the furniture industry keeps spreading. 

There is a trend for materials at the moment that have strong authentic characteristics and extreme tactility. That might be about us wanting to feel more connected with nature. Natural timber for example, has an integrity or honesty about it that we trust. It's simple, straightforward and familiar. 

Plywood furniture

We also appreciate modern innovative materials because they are new and exciting, luxurious and versatile. In a way, plywood has the advantage of being both these things - traditional and modified. Plywood is actually made up of many layers of real wood and because it is cut in sheets, the authentic wood grain is particularly prominent. 

However these multiple super thin layers are glued together to form a material that is not natural wood, but a new material - plywood. Being a manufactured product, plywood is great value which is good for the design world because it encourages creativity and the exploration of new ideas. It is exceptionally strong and surprisingly flexible - ply can be used everywhere and on everything. 

If you really want to bring out the best in plywood furniture however, it takes an expert. Like any timber craft, to make the most of plywood furniture takes time, skill, attention to detail and a good understanding of your material - then it's possible to transform a room into something really special.