June 29, 2022

Hazz Design Upholstery Material Intensive Course: Part 2 – Wood Materials: Solids, Veneers, Plywood



Tracey and Tom Hazzard

Imagine a typical furniture buying experience: a saleswoman approaches a customer and asks her what she is looking for. The customer gives a specific answer, such as “Cherry” or “Leather”. The saleswoman immediately takes her to the solid wood where the leather shows her the best-selling collections. Soon after, she walks straight for the door, wondering in frustration, “Did he even hear me?” The sales clerk shakes her head, saying, “Typically she doesn’t really know what she wants. “

You’ve probably spent hours training your sales force on the products, techniques, and skills to avoid this situation. So what is working? In this series, we redefine industry jargon regarding materials, furniture design and construction. In each part, we’ll dig deeper into terms commonly used by savvy and expert salespeople, but we often end up confusing customers.

Even if you’ve been selling wood furniture for years, it’s time to take a refresher course in layman’s (or woman’s) perception of industry terms. It often helps to dig a little deeper to find out what the customer really wants, even when they think they are specific.

Is wood really wood? Historically, manufactured furniture is rarely 100% solid wood. Most often, solid wood and veneers are mixed with one of the many wood core composite materials. The selection and use of composites is primarily for manufacturing cost requirements, but composites can also be used for structural or durability reasons.


Advice: Consumers perceive most composite core materials as “cardboard,” so there’s a fine line between disclosure and confusion if that’s what you need to sell.


Solid wood is exactly what it sounds like: wood cut from a tree, milled and shaped into pieces. Solid wood furniture is stronger and more durable than furniture made from other wood materials. Note – only very high end wood furniture is all solid wood. Most are a mixture of solids and veneers due to economics, construction or design.

Veneer can look the same as solid wood, but is only on the surface. Wood veneers are thin slices of real wood that are glued to the surfaces of a base wood material. The base material is usually a cheaper grade of solid wood, plywood, particle board or MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). Veneer furniture is much more economical than solid wood. It is also a much more efficient use of the wood raw material – less waste.

Plywood is made up of thinner layers of wood that are glued together. There are many different grades of plywood and only a very high quality material is suitable for use in furniture. It’s not the plywood you see in Home Depot. The advantage of plywood is that it is extremely strong and costs less than solid wood. Because the surface and edges of plywood do not end well, plywood is usually veneered.

Conversations over wood can easily confuse the customer. Mainly because she often thinks she knows what she wants. Choose your language carefully and make sure you understand its needs before walking around the showroom.


About Hazz Design: Graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, product designers Tracy and Tom Hazzard have worked together for most of their two decades of marriage and professional life. Their shared vision that a good design should never cost more, that there is always a solution and that one plus one can have an exponential result has earned them career development projects, multiple design awards, more a dozen patents, two children and a keen sense of what consumers want and need from well-designed products. Visit them at www.hazzdesign.com. They can be contacted by email at [email protected] or call 714-673-6541 for more information.