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Candid, honest, useful advice on all things kitchens, furniture, design, and wood, from the younger brother at H. Miller Bros.


"We need to talk about wood...."



Hey design-lovers,

This month, we’re talking about my specialist subject – wood. If you’re planning a new kitchen, or having some fitted cabinetry installed, or even looking to commission a piece of stand-alone furniture, I hope this will guide will help you find out what the different options are, discover some unique properties and grain characteristics, and give you an insight into the how we protect our woodwork with finishes.

Check out the video above for the lowdown, or read on if you’re more of a typed-word enthusiast….

Lighter toned woods: Maple, Ash, Beech

If you’re keen to create a Scandinavian-inspired space, then a lighter hardwood is a great option. These timbers, when paired with a very matt lacquer such as our 2% raw finish, create a natural, airy aesthetic, where the timber feels subtle, organic and paired back, perfect for a crisp Scandinavian interior.

Maple has a beautiful ‘architectural’ grain that looks like it has been drawn on with a Rotring pen, whereas beech has a more homogenous appearance, with a lovely light-orange glow and even grain texture.

Ash (in my opinion) is the hidden gem of the timber world. It’s got a beautiful wide-bodied grain, lots of variety between lighter areas and darker heart-wood, and it looks sublime with our matt lacquer. We’ve just completed a project in Ash and Oak that exemplified these qualities.


Olive-Ash used in our latest proejct in Sefton Park, Liverpool

Mid-toned timbers: Elm, Oak, Olive-Ash

Oak is the most popular timber we create projects in, and for good reason. It’s incredibly strong, good with moisture, it has a gorgeous honey-toned colour, and different aesthetics can be created by using different cuts of the timber, from the straight-grained quartersawn varieties, to crown-cut boards with huge waving grain. I like to think of oak as the black dress of the timber world – it works with every style, era, and detail.

Elm is a less obvious choice, but my favourite timber to work with. It has a depth and luminosity in the grain that’s really unique, and a variance in tone from lighter oranges, through to deep honey browns, and streaks of green. It’s a wood for wood-lovers, and we used it in our Siatama Kitchen, which you might have seen.

Olive-Ash is an amazing timber, with streaks of olden brown amongst the lighter grain. It has a lot of variability in the grain, and so won’t work for everyone, but I love the way it retains a wild, authentic no-compromise aesthetic. We’ve just installed a project in Liverpool made entirely with olive-ash, so watch this space for the press photos.


British Elm in our Siatama Kitchen, Brighton

Darker timbers:  Cherry, Walnut

I’ve put cherry in this category because, as it gets exposed to UV, it darkens to a burnt sugar tone that’s much richer than the mid tones of Oak or Elm. Cherry is a particularly lovely choice for mid-century kitchens and furniture, as it was widely used in that era, and offers a similar tone to some of the tropical timbers that are associated with mid-century design (I’m thinking Teak and Mohogany).

Walnut was a hugely popular choice until a few years ago, but maybe less so now. It’s chocolatey tones are really beautiful, especially in spaces with lots of natural light. It can feel a bit heavy when used in wide swathes of full-height cabinetry, having the effect of darkening a space. It’s a great timber for stand-alone furniture, as it machines beautifully, and has lots of interest in the grain, so very nice to get up close and personal with on a table top or chair arm.


Cherry (before it has been darkened by UV) in our Brentford ktichen

Lacquer, oil and paint:

We apply both lacquers and oils to finish our hardwood cabinetry. Lacquers are a great deal more hard-wearing, moisture and stain resistant, and low maintenance, and so we usually recommend this type of finish for kitchens, fitted furniture and dining tables. There are three sheen levels that we can apply – 2% dead flat, 10% semi-matt, and 25% satin. Lighter timbers tend to look best in the 2% lacquer, whilst darker timber tend to look best in the 10%-25% options. Mid-toned timbers like oak look amazing at all sheen levels.

In some situations, such as for external woodwork, or for cabinetry that might be subject to steam such as that in a bathroom, we recommend an oil finish, as this can breathe with the timber, it will never crack, peel or blister, and can be easily repaired if necessary.

Some of our designs incorporate areas of painted cabinetry amongst the natural woodwork. We use a two-part strayed finish to create a very hard-wearing, flat, homogenous colour that looks amazing and is easy to clean. An example of this is the upper cabinetry in our Furniture Makers Kitchen, where we sued F+B School House White to give the rich timber space to breathe.


Painted uppers with lacquered lowers in our Furniture Makers Ktichen

I hope this was an interesting look at (some of) the options you have when commissioning bespoke kitchens and furniture with us here at H. Miller Bros. If you have questions, please do send me an email – you can reach me direct at




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A mid-century kitchen in a Victorian town house



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A blend of Japanese jointing with Scandi design

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