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Modern v. Rustic: How to Choose Wood Species for Your Custom Shelves

photo of an overlapping set of rectangular wood samples in a multitude of species

There’s a Wood and Finish Perfect for Your Floating Wall Shelves, and J Thomas Home Has It

Wood is one of those design elements that can work with any home decor style and color scheme you like. That’s because it comes in so many varieties, you’re sure to find one that works well in your home or office space as a custom shelf.

Going for rustic? We have a wood species that fits the bill. Love the idea of organic modern? We can help with that, too, and everything in between.

Take a look at each of the wood varieties we keep in stock for building floating wall shelves and our line of personalized gifts to help you decide which will work best in your home.

Wood Species for Custom Shelves

At J Thomas Home, we carry the following wood species you can choose from when you order floating wall shelves from us, including our line of pipe shelves, which gives you an added metal color option.

All About Alder

Alder can be both rustic and modern, depending on the type you choose. If you want rustic alder, you’ll find that it has knots and knot holes that add to its character. Superior alder has a much smoother, creamier grain, which is more ideal for modern style.

White Oak is A-OK!

Natural white oak is a light tan hue without finish. It has deep, textured, and highly-patterned grain. Whether it looks modern or rustic will greatly depend on the finish you choose. Unstained with a clear satin top coat is very popular and more contemporary. We love to see oak wood shelves used in kitchens because they offer extra durability and water resistance.

Pining for Pine

Pine is a pale yellow color without finish applied, and often has distinctive grain patterns and knots. Because it has an open grain, it sucks up the stain when applied - but this can also mean there is some variation between two pieces of pine stained the same color. Because of this, we don’t recommend stained pine where you’re looking for a sleek, modern look. It does much better if you dig an organic, rustic style.

You May Love Maple

Maple goes mod with the greatest of ease, or looks weathered and rustic if you apply colored stain. Its closed grain means it doesn’t accept stain evenly, creating that slightly uneven, rustic appearance. With only a clear coat, however, its nearly white tone and even grain lines look modern. And because maple slab cabinet doors are hot right now, it’s easy to match them with custom shelves from J Thomas Home.

Go Nuts for Walnut

If you adore mid-century furniture, then you know that it’s most often made of or stained to look like walnut. Its natural rich wood tone makes it a candidate for very little treatment aside from a clear satin top coat. It’s the perfect option when you want to go for mod design.

Poplar is Popular

Poplar pulls its weight in all design styles, thanks to its ability to take on any finish you choose. And because it’s so inexpensive, you can buy more custom shelves than you anticipated on your budget. Ask us which wood stain looks most rustic or modern on poplar; this nearly-white wood tone makes it easy to choose.

Find a Purpose with Reclaimed Wood

For the most rustic or industrial look, opt for reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood is older-growth lumber that has already been used in other applications. It’s pre-weathered and pre-aged, and no two pieces are identical. Reclaimed wood may come with divots, nicks, or old nail holes for an extra-rustic look. That’ll make your floating wall shelves even more unique!

Consider Wood Shelf Thickness and Style, Too!

Now that you know your wood type, it’s time to choose your wood shelf style. J Thomas Home designs and assembles a variety of shelves to choose from that will suit your home. Our thick wall shelves look best in rustic applications, while our pipe shelves are simultaneously rustic and industrial chic.

Our original floating wall shelves in a standard thickness can be either rustic or modern, and how they look will rely entirely on the finish and wood species you choose. (And we’re always happy to help you navigate your choices! Just send us a message on our website.)

See the Finish Applied to The Custom Shelf You Choose

In general, the darker the wood finish, the less rustic it will look. Similarly, a smooth wood without visible knots will look less rustic than pine or certain types of oak.

When choosing your finish, think about the existing wood tones and species already in your home. If you cannot match them perfectly, your best bet is to choose a wood and finish that will complement your existing ones. Keep rustic with rustic and modern with modern for a more cohesive, consistent look.

See finish examples on each of our product listing pages so you can imagine the color each wood species will look once your chosen stain and clear coat are applied. You can even order a sample if you want to see how the color will look in your home. Read up on our stain colors in our blog.

How to Place Your Order for Custom Shelves

Ordering farmhouse shelves and floating wall shelves is easy. Follow our simple process to place your order. Then, our artisans will handcraft your shelves in our wood shop near Kansas City before carefully packaging them up and shipping them to you. You can even install them yourself when they arrive!

Start shopping for shelves today.


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