Worn and Weathered with Worm Holes: The Nature of Rustic and Reclaimed Furniture

Beth Rice 22/03/2018

There will be holes. There will be marks. There will be imperfections. We’re talking about the true nature of rustic and reclaimed furniture that embraces the beauty of the natural and celebrates its flaws. This is solid wood furniture that exudes warmth with organic character that gives off a relaxing vibe as it provides a connection to the past.

The Amish Rustic Bench with Storage and The Amish Wildwood Rustic Wood Panel Bed.

If smooth, shiny and seamless are what you’re after, then rustic and reclaimed may not be for you.

The Rustic

Originally, rustic style furniture utilized whatever materials were naturally occurring and available including twigs, logs, bark and saplings. Rustic furniture is rugged and imperfect and brings the beauty of the natural, outdoor world inside.

Characteristics of rustic style furniture include:

  • Knots and some uneven edges
  • Textured, rough surfaces
  • Nail holes and saw marks
  • Distressed wood
  • Natural colors
  • Simple designs
  • Surfaces can appear weathered
  • Strong, slightly rough profiles

Amish craftsmen often employ techniques where they fill the holes with epoxy for a smoother surface, but many fans of rustic furniture like to keep the holes natural and open.

The Amish Cape Anne Dining Table shows off its rustic nature. Marks in the wood add to its charm.


The Amish Rustic Hickory Corner Buffet

The Amish Rustic Hickory Corner Buffet

 The Amish Rustic Cedar Log Cabin Bed

The Amish Rustic Red Cedar Log Cabin Bed 

The Amish Cypress Dining Table with Stump Base 

The Amish Rustic Hickory Corner Buffet, The Amish Rustic Red Cedar Log Cabin Bed and the Amish Cypress Dining Table with Stump Base display the knots, uneven edges, textured surfaces and natural corners rustic furniture is popular for.

The Reclaimed

Reclaimed furniture or barnwood furniture, is built with wood that’s been salvaged from old barns across the countryside. The wood is cleaned, kiln-dried and made into reclaimed furniture. The wood is rich with age and character and has its own unique history. Reclaimed wood has a story to tell.

Characteristics of reclaimed furniture include:

  • Marks that may include knot holes, worm holes, sun spots and nail holes
  • Appearance of knots where tree branches intersected the tree trunk
  • An eco friendly nature as the wood is locally sourced and salvaged from old barns
  • The use of barn beams
  • Durability and strength
  • Weathering and wear throughout the years that results in one-of-a-kind pieces
  • An authentic character
  • A unique story

Reclaimed furniture is a rustic style itself. Initially, all the natural flaws like nail holes and worm holes are left open. There are various finishing processes and techniques woodworkers can use to fill holes including epoxy or special fittings they can do for a smoother finish. But the markings and aged appearance will remain. Often, owners choose to leave the holes open to preserve the character of the wood.

 The Amish Two Door Server with Armoire Top

The Amish Two Door Server with Armoire Top 

Amish Double Bookshelf

The Amish Double Bookshelf.

The Amish Reclaimed Barnwood Hall Tree

A close up of the reclaimed wood used for the Amish Reclaimed Barnwood Hall Tree shows a variety of nail holes, knots and sun spots that come with reclaimed furniture.

The Rustic Barnwood Wardrobe The Rustic Barnwood Wardrobe shows off its natural knots and markings.

A Rustic Barnwood Wardrobe is strong and natural bedroom storage.


The Amish Reclaimed Barn Beam Bed

This is the Amish Reclaimed Barn Beam Bed, making use of old barn beams in a rustic style bed.

Distressing for Rustic Furniture

Distressing techniques are a great option for creating a time-worn aged look. This involves manually roughing up and altering the surface of the wood with different tools. While choosing distressing in varying degrees from light to heavy gives you more control over the final product, here are the points that are important to know about distressing.

  • Creates an aged appearance
  • Uses a variety of marking techniques that require tools like planers, ice picks, heavy chains, drill bits, saws
  • Marks made that will appear in the wood include pin holes, indentations, nicks, simulated cracks, edges appear heavily worn
  • Uses a variety of stains, paints and glazes
  • Contributes to the warmth of rustic style

A close up on the door of the Amish Royal Court Buffet exemplifies how distressing techniques can create an aged appearance.

The Ruff Sawn Meta Sequoia Two Drawer Nightstand Markings on the Ruff Sawn Meta Sequoia Two Drawer Nightstand.

Distressed markings on the Ruff Sawn Meta Sequoia Two Drawer Nightstand create a popular time worn look.

Distressing techniques are explained in our Frequently Asked Questions Video Series.

If you’re looking to embrace the natural and the Wabi Sabi (beauty in imperfection) then both rustic and reclaimed furniture offer exciting options for your home furniture collection.

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