Using Exotic Woods in Home Design

Sally Painter
Bright exotic bathroom

Prized exotic woods have been royal trophies of opulence for centuries. These cherished woods are used to create furniture, carvings, flooring and accent pieces. These woods are found around the world and may be rare. Plan on budgeting more for exotic wood choices.

#1 East Indian Rosewood

Rosewood English China Hutch

East Indian Rosewood (also known as Indian rosewood) is one of the most popular of several types of rosewoods. East Indian Rosewood has good availability unlike other rosewoods that are endangered wood species, such as Honduras and Burmese. While East Indian Rosewood is listed as a "vulnerable species" suffering from a 20% reduction over the past decades, you can still find it in many home furnishings. If you desire rosewood, this is the best choice.

Appearance, Strength, and Price Range

Know the details before you make this wood your choice.

  • Appearance: Known for its violet and purple color with streaks of light black, it is medium to high density with an interlocked grain. It naturally darkens with age to a deep brown.
  • Strength: Its mid- to high-density often makes it difficult to work with tools, but it's easy to turn.
  • Price range: High

How Wood Is Used

East Indian rosewood is used to make all types of furnishings as well as acoustic guitars.

  • Boards: The boards are used to make fine furniture, cabinetry, and various fine furniture pieces.
  • Turning blank forms: Used to create table legs, bowls, and other objects by machines or hand-carved.

Home Décor Items

Rosewood bed set

Solid wood furniture pieces imported from India often feature hand-carved motifs and trims.

  • Beds: Indian beds feature hand-carved motifs. ($2,800+)
  • Nightstands and end tables: Often, they are created by an artisan and hand-crafted. ($250+)
  • Living room: Typically sold in sets, the styles range from Indian, English, and French. ($3,880+)
  • Chairs: These are either upholstered or cushioned. (Pricing varies depending on whether purchasing individual pieces or sets.)
  • Dining tables, buffets, and sideboards: Solid pieces of furniture are available in numerous styles and price ranges.

#2 Monkeypod

Double Twist Monkey Pod Stool

Monkeypod is found in Costa Rica and also known as raintree pod, saman, and monkey wood. It's easy to hand carve and cut with machine tools.

Appearance, Strength, and Price Range

Get the look you want for your project in a mid-to-high price range.

  • Appearance: Monkeypod is dark chocolate and gold mixed with black striping and a typical straight grain.
  • Strength: Since the wood is "moderately hard" it's also fairly strong and lightweight.
  • Price range: Mid to high

How Wood Is Used

Monkeypod is an excellent choice for furniture, turned pieces, and commonly used for guitar and ukulele construction.

  • Wood slabs and planks: Large slabs are used to make tabletops for dining tables. Smaller wood slabs are fashioned into coffee tables, benches and end tables. Some pieces are milled into lumber planks for furniture use.
  • Veneers and cabinetry: Makes excellent veneers for furniture and building cabinetry.

Home Décor Items

Look for tables made from this exotic wood.

  • End tables: Double twisted end tables can also be used as pedestals to displays works of art. Other popular shapes include drum, oval and cubes that often feature cutouts and twists. ($200 - $500+)
  • Benches: Use the bench in your entryway or with a dining table. ($500+)
  • Coffee tables: Wood slabs are used to create one-of-a-kind coffee tables. ($500 - $1,600+)
  • Dining Tables: Lumbered wood as well as slabs ares used build magnificent dining tables. ($1,500 - $7,500+)

#3 Zebrawood

Modern kitchen with zebrano facade

This West African wood is prized for its zebra stripe effect. Also known as Zebrano, most of the wood used in furniture is veneers.

Appearance, Strength, and Price Range

The memorable wood is one of the more expensive exotic options.

  • Appearance: This wood is very striking. The heartwood light brown to cream colors are streaked with black and brown giving its name. The stripes vary from wavy to chaotic.
  • Strength: Strong and has a fairly high density
  • Price range: High to very high

How Wood Is Used

Zebrawood has many uses for home furnishings, including veneers and solid wood furniture.

  • Planks: Used for furniture, wall paneling and flooring
  • Veneers: Applied to furniture for unique finished look

Home Décor Items

  • Flooring: Zebrawood is "considerably harder than Red Oak and Northern Maple" and used for stunning floors. Available in solid planks ($24/sq ft).
  • Mantels: Creates a very striking mantel ensuring the fireplace is a major focal point in any room décor. ($250+)
  • Furniture: Veneers are used for furniture pieces, such as bathroom vanities, coffee tables, dressers, wall cabinets and other pieces. ($1,700+)
  • Decorative objects: Veneers are used to create unique mirror frames, coasters, boxes and other objects. ($250+)

#4 Tulipwood

Tulipwood Book Table

Tulipwood is found in Northeastern Brazil. It's an exotic wood but isn't listed as an endangered or threatened species. Very few new pieces of furniture are made. Most pieces are found in antiques.

Appearance, Strength and Price Range

  • Appearance: This wood is a mixture of yellows, oranges, reds and pinks streaks. Its beauty is being highly variegated in these colors.
  • Strength: Strong with high density
  • Price range: High to very high

How Wood Is Used

Tulipwood boards/planks are rarely available. Aside from being used to create home furnishings, this wood is also used to make percussion instruments (percussion). Woodworkers can purchase small amounts of Tulipwood for projects.

  • Turning blank forms: Usually small sizes used to make objects
  • Veneers: Used for fine furniture and inlays as well as marquetry and small turned objects

Home Décor Items

You can find several small objects made from Tulipwood to use as accessories for your home décor.

  • Furniture: Period furniture, such as a Bombay chest ($2,995), a Louis XIV commode ($12,250) and other antique pieces.
  • Decorative objects: You can often find hand-crafted boxes, bowls, trays and other objects by contemporary artisans and craftsmen.

#5 Tasmanian Blackwood

Tasmanian Blackwood is found in Australia and also known as Australian Blackwood. This species is gaining popularity with woodworkers to replace the Hawaiian Koa species that is difficult to find due to the supply and demand. Tasmanian Blackwood is considered an invasive species that makes it highly sustainable unlike Koa. This availability isn't reflected in the cost.

Appearance, Strength and Price Range

  • Appearance: Unlike Koa, Tasmanian Blackwood doesn't have the same kind of reds and golds, but it is in the same brown family. The coloring can be highly variable. The golds tend to be a medium hue and the browns lean towards reddish. The wood often has darker narrow bands (growth rings). The grain is typically straight, although it can be wavy.
  • Strength: Very strong
  • Price range: Mid to high (though cheaper than Koa)

How Wood Is Used

The wood is milled to be used for flooring, furniture and other objects.

  • Planks: The boards are used for furniture and flooring.
  • Turning blank forms: For small decorative objects
  • Veneers: Used for furniture and decorative boxes

Home Décor Items

This wood can be used for many areas in your home. You may decide to replace the kitchen granite countertop with a wood one or replace worn flooring. Furniture, decorative objects and veneers are other choices you may consider.

  • Flooring: The rich red and gold coloring lend a nice contrast in coloring with a typical straight grain. ($65+ sq ft)
  • Countertops: A growing trend is exotic wood countertops. Tasmanian Blackwood creates a fabulously rich countertop to accent a kitchen or bathroom. (Custom work needs quote.)
  • Veneers: The veneers can be used on furniture in solid sheets. ($25+)
  • Furniture: Various furniture is made from the wood, including dining tables, chairs, armoires, end tables, beds and more. ($1,200+)
  • Objects: One especially popular object is a chopping block. ($130+)

Choosing Exotic Woods

There are many species of exotic woods and the popularity continues to grow. Adding one piece to your home can be just the right touch for your décor. The best way to help offset the endangerment to these wood species is to shop for items made from reclaimed lumber and used/antique furniture.

Using Exotic Woods in Home Design