What are the Differences in Types of Wood Your Floating Wall Shelves are Made Of?

floating wall shelves in the Kitchen

Each Custom Floating Shelf You Order from J Thomas Home is Unique

There are more than 60,000 tree species worldwide. While not all of them are suitable for home furnishings, plenty of them are.

So how are you supposed to determine the type of wood you should be using for shelving in your home?

A good way to start is by identifying a custom floating shelf company who does quality work, with positive ratings from past customers.

For you, we think that’s us: J Thomas Home. And we offer shelving made from a much smaller selection of the most beautiful American wood types that suit a range of home decor preferences.

Stick with us to learn more about the types of wood we use for our pipe shelves, farmhouse shelves, and much more.

Our Custom Floating Shelves

J Thomas Home started with Josh and Emily, the company’s founders, building farmhouse pipe shelves in their garage. From there, we’ve branched out into more styles, finishes, and wood species to help people decorate their homes with sturdy, solid pieces that will last for years.

Today, we also offer our classic floating wall shelves with invisible brackets and thick floating shelves for a rustic and organic modern vibe. Our customers choose their wood species and finish, and we custom-build every piece! You won’t find our quality products in a big box store, because what we do simply can’t translate to mass production.

Choosing Your Wood Shelves

We stock several types of wood for our shelves, including pine, poplar, alder, oak, cherry, maple, hickory, and walnut. But we can get our hands on almost any other type of wood you’d want for your home.

Let’s explore our classic premium wood we keep in stock.

  • Pine Wood Shelves
    While pine - sometimes called “knotty pine” is durable enough for floors, it’s softer than other types of woods and naturally nearly white or pale yellow in color. Pine shelves have some knots in the wood, with distinctive grain patterns or “lines.” This open grain accepts stain well, but two pieces of pine in the same stain may not look alike because of the grain variation.
  • Poplar Wood Shelves
    Poplar is popular for its nearly-white tone with green or black streaks. It accepts stain smoothly, and is the ideal wood for keeping costs low for painted shelves.
  • Alder Wood Shelves
    Natural alder has a slightly pink or light tan hue, with a smooth, creamy grain. It accepts stain beautifully. We carry two types of alder at our shop: rustic alder and superior alder. Rustic alder is full of character, like knots and knot holes, for a farmhouse feel. Superior alder has a few knots, but they’re much smaller for a smoother look.
  • Oak Wood Shelves
    Red and white oak are slightly different, in that red oak has a slightly pink undertone, while white oak is much more light and creamy tan. Oak offers some water resistance and durability, so it’s ideal for kitchen or bathroom shelves. The grain for both types of oak is deep, textured, and wild - not in straight lines across the wood.
  • Cherry Wood Shelves
    Cherry has a smooth finish with a warm, rich appearance that darkens over time with exposure to air and sunlight. It’s a go-to wood for furniture, musical instruments, and yacht interiors. If you’re looking to add elegance to your home, cherry wood is ideal.
  • Maple Wood Shelves
    Hard maple shelves have a closed grain that doesn’t accept stain very evenly, resulting in a weathered finish. Unstained maple, however, is very bright, with a nearly white tone and even grain lines.
  • Hickory Wood Shelves
    Hickory is durable, hard, and hefty! The grain pattern tends to be less uniform and can vary greatly, in shape and width, but also in color, from near white to warm brown.
  • Walnut Wood Shelves
    Very rarely do we stain our American black walnut wood because of its natural, gorgeous, rich wood tone. A Danish oil finish over raw, sanded wood is enough to make it absolutely beautiful. Heartwood - a darker tone - and sapwood - a lighter blond color - are included in our custom floating shelf offerings.

Wood Shelves by Budget

Wood prices depend on durability and availability. At J Thomas Home, we can help you select wood species for your shelves based on your budget and goal.

For example, if you’re interested in more affordable shelving options, we’ll encourage you to look at our economical shelf woods, including pine, poplar, red oak, and alder.

If your project goal is decorating your dream house exactly how you want it, or if you’ll be using our shelves as the focal point in your remodeled kitchen, you might prefer to use more premium materials to complement the rest of your home. We’d recommend maple, cherry, hickory, white oak, or walnut, in that case.

Floating Wall Shelves by Style

The type of wood you choose can also reflect the style you’re going for in your home decor. Trending styles like farmhouse or organic modern are best achieved by choosing specific wood species - and our custom shelf designs.

For example, if you’re going for rustic or farmhouse shelves, choose a wood with an interesting grain pattern and character. Wood types that work well in spaces like this are pine, poplar, alder, and hickory.

For a more modern, classic, or contemporary look, opt for shelves with clean, straight edges and a tamer grain, like superior alder, cherry, maple, white oak, or walnut.

The shelf design you choose will affect your home’s overall vibe; our farmhouse pipe shelves or thick floating shelves read as more rustic, while our custom floating shelves can easily be modernized with the right wood grain, stain, and decor you set atop them.

Amp Up the Drama with Textured Wood Grains on Your Shelving

As we noted when we discussed each type of wood species we keep in stock, the wood grain - or lines in the wood - are more noticeable on some types of wood than on others.

If you want a smooth wood grain, you’ll probably prefer woods like poplar, alder, maple, cherry, or walnut.

But if you’re looking for something dramatic with big texture, woods with deep or more visible grain patterns will be up your alley: pine, hickory, red oak, or white oak.

The stain you choose can also play up - or down - the grain pattern, so always look at our swatches online if you are wondering what stain color should I choose for my floating shelves before ordering your custom floating shelf.

The Art of Handcrafting Wood Shelves

At J Thomas Home, we don’t keep an inventory of premade shelves. When you place your order, we begin custom-making each piece just for you.

Because our shelves are made to order, expect between 5 and 10 business days for building, sanding, staining, and perfecting your new shelves, depending on the wood you selected, plus an additional couple of days for shipping via UPS Ground from our shop in the Kansas City metro.

Three weeks is a short time to wait when it comes to receiving custom-built pieces, and you’ll find our gorgeous wood shelves are worth it.

We Can Help!

Confused about which wood will look best in your home? Uncertain about stain? Or wondering what size shelf should I order? We can help! One of our experts is available to answer your questions. Just send us a quick message online before placing your order.


  • J Thomas Home

    Hey Patricia! Absolutely! Feel free to send us some photos of the space or dimensions to customerservice@jthomashome.com. We’d love to help!! :)

  • J Thomas Home

    Hey Delanie, thanks for reaching out! We’d be happy to help with that! Feel free to send us some photos of the space to customerservice@jthomashome.com. Or, if you already know what you need, send us the dimensions and and we can get you a quote! :)

  • Emily

    Hi Jodi! That sounds beautiful!! I’ve messaged you back to see if you can snap and send us some photos of your space so we can find shelving that suits it best. Thanks so much!
    -Emily, Owner

  • Patricia Smith

    I would like to order 4 floating shelves for our kitchen remodel and I would love to hear your recommendations. Thank you. Patricia

  • Delanie Casaly

    Looking for two rows of wood shelving in my kitchen

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