A guide to different types of wood


Beech, acacia, oak, elm, birch. Most of us have heard of these varieties of wood, but just how easy is it to tell them apart? What is the best type of wood for a dining table? Is mahogany a type of wood or a finish applied to wooden pieces? To save you from searching far and wide for the answers, here’s what we have discovered over the last two decades.

What kind of wood is our furniture made from?

At OKA, we have an extensive range of wooden furniture and accessories. Each piece is carefully sourced and chosen for its particular qualities. Our latest collections include items crafted from alder wood, ‘weathered’ oak, ‘burnt’ oak, ‘weathered’ acacia, mango wood, recycled pine and fir wood.

How to tell the difference between wood types?

To check if a piece of furniture is made from solid wood, see if you can spot a varying pattern and feel the grain. Veneer and manufactured woods can’t be etched, so if you spy a piece with elaborately carved detailing, chances are it’s the real deal. Solid wooden furniture is much heavier than pieces with veneer. Here’s what to look for when identifying pine, oak, acacia and mindi wood.


Pine trees are a type of conifer and have long, needle-shaped leaves, a delicious scent and pale yellow or brown bark. A type of softwood, pine isn’t as weighty as its hardwood counterparts and is often used to create rustic-style furniture because of its dark knots, textural grooves and light colouring.


Over 200 different species of oak exist in the world. They are hardwood trees, often used in furniture, flooring and to create cork. Oak is an open-grained wood with distinct markings. If the pattern on a piece of furniture reminds you of the spirals and lines found in fingerprints, it’s highly likely that it’s made from oak. Usually, the wood is light in colour and has a red or white undertone.


Acacia wood is naturally hard and comes from pod bearing trees. Highly practical, this type of wood is resinous, which means it’s resistant to stains, rot and odours and easy to clean. Acacia has a yellowy green undertone but can be stained and finished for a unique effect. Our ‘weathered’ acacia is purposefully distressed to look as if it’s been left outside for a number of years. Beautifully rustic, ‘weathered’ pieces appear older and have more character.


Also known as white cedar wood, mindi is naturally hard and resistant to decay and fungus. It has a close grain, very few knots and the ability to change colour: the longer its exposed to natural light, the darker it will get. It’s a popular choice for furniture because it’s durable and easy to carve.

What type of wood is best for dining tables?

A solid oak table is best for everyday dining as they are resistant to dents and markings. If you’re selecting a table for a formal dining room, walnut and mahogany are strong choices. Dark in colour, and with an attractive grain, they’re the epitome of sophistication; however, these woods come at a cost. A way around this is to choose a table with a dark ‘walnut’ finish that is actually made from alder or elm. Our best-selling Charlotte and Petworth tables are available in a French ‘walnut’ finish.

Lastly, pine table tops are great for bringing warmth and contrast to a dining room. They may be made from a softer wood, but that doesn’t rule them out. Oak is more hardwearing, but pine is still robust and can be an interesting choice, as it comes in a wide range of finishes.

Why choose wooden furniture and accessories?

Wooden furniture has a certain charm that no other material can achieve. Every tree is different and will, therefore, create pieces with varying colours and textures, meaning that no one in the world will have exactly the same table, chair or desk. Each wooden piece in our collection has slightly different tones, patterns and textures – featuring ridges and notches which just add to their individual beauty. If you live in an urban environment lacking in green space, wooden furniture will bring you closer to nature and makes a modern apartment feel rustic and homely. Even if you live in the heart of the English countryside, there’s no harm in bringing the outdoors in.

Our wooden furniture can look sophisticated and glamorous or rustic and inviting. It is so adaptable. By now you should be able to see the wood for the trees; if you know your birch from your bark and want to bring more wooden pieces into your home, have a look at our latest collection of furniture. If you want to find out how to look after your wooden pieces so that you can enjoy them for years to come, cast your eye over our informative wooden furniture care guide.


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