It took a long time for us to settle on the material we've chosen for Plyhome furniture. We wanted something beautiful but strong. Something that would play subtle background decor role for all styles of NZ homes - villa to contemporary apartment and everything in between. Our wish-list was brutal, but we found everything we needed with Finnish Birch Plywood. Here's an overview of why it made the cut.
Mum always told me that it's what's on the inside that counts: to never judge a book (or a person) by appearance. She was, of course, completely right. But on the flip-side, sometimes beauty doesn't come cheaply. Which explains one of mum’s other sayings: 'You get what you pay for'. Wise lady my mum. The birch plywood that we've selected for Plyhome furniture is not the cheap yellowish plywood that you see on building sites or at the hardware store. It's on a completely different level: a stand-out beauty, with a beautiful clear grain and subtle light colour. It's the timber version of an excellent marble.
Sorry Radiata Pine - there's just no comparison.
I should emphasise, that this is not an engineered grain. The wood grain that you see in Plyhome products is a genuine wood grain and you have the choice of a clear coating or translucent white coating applied over the top. It's why each and every single piece of Plyhome furniture is unique - no two pieces will ever look the same due to the natural variation of the timber, but each one will have a high quality grain. This consistency is one of the reasons we selected Finnish birch plywood.
As beautiful as it is, appearance isn't just what we focus on when we're in the design process. Function is just as important, and this is where birch really shines. The durability and strength of birch plywood is hard to beat.
The 12mm plywood we use is a panel made up of 9 thin multiple cross-banded veneers, each 1.4mm thick. In non-engineering speak, this means that each layer is laid crosswise (so the grain of two consecutive layers form a 90 degree angle). Lots of ply is made this way: but birch is an impressive performer. There's a reason that it's used for concrete form-work systems, floors, walls and roofs in transport vehicles, container floors, floors subjected to heavy wear in various buildings and factories and load bearing special structures.
If it can take a commercial freight-load in an 18 wheeler, it can handle one kid.
One of the reasons for birch's consistently beautiful grain is because these trees grow slowly in Finland's climate. But slow-growing doesn't mean unsustainable. The beginning of active forest management in Finland dates back to the 19th century, creating a firm basis for the development of the country’s forest products industry.
Thanks to good forestry practices and sustainable forest management, the annual growth of Finnish forests exceeds the amount harvested. And as Rips explained to me right at the start of our Plyhome journey, if you’re going to cut down a tree - plywood makes the most efficient use of it, as there is very minimal waste.
The birch in Plyhome products is FSC Certified, PEFC Certified, ULEF: no harmful emissions, Environment Protection Standard: ISO 14001:2004, ISO 9001:2008. That’s a whole bunch of science talk to basically say “you can rest easy, knowing that your kids are sleeping surrounded by a material that’s safe and produced in an environmentally friendly way.” Phew.
For all Plyhome furniture you have two options, both of which let the natural finish on the Finnish plywood (couldn't help myself there) shine through. A completely clear finish, and a white translucent finish. Samples are available, so just call us on 0800PLYHOME or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're at all unsure.
So why birch? beauty, strength and sustainability: a powerful trio indeed.