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Kiri Wood

April 30, 2011

Maybe it’s all the wood paneling I grew up with in my parent’s house, because I have always been a fan of wood and wood grain. A little over 10 years ago I saw my first piece of limed/cerused furniture. It was an oak desk, probably 1920s or 30s from the look of the design and it was the price of a small car. Regardless, I was hooked by the way the finish brought out the grain of the wood in a sort of weathered look.

Some time later, my wife and I were walking through the now-defunct Smith & Hawken and came across some kiri wood vases and an umbrella stand on sale. We had never heard of kiri wood, but bought some of the vases and the umbrella stand, as they looked amazing. Did some research online and found out that kiri wood is an Asian wood popular in Japan that is very lightweight but strong. While the appearance has the white grain effect similar to liming, kiri wood is actually burned and the ash rubbed back upon the wood to accentuate the grain. Grant it, there are plenty of kiri wood products out there that do not have this effect and have a reddish hue, but I like the brown with white grain.

So over the years I’ve acquired a bunch of items from local Japanese stores. In fact, my best finds have been at a Japanese 99 cent store. It’s getting to the point where I need to stop, as too much kiri wood can ruin the specialness. Here are a few of my pieces:

A box on my nightstand and a soap dish which I use as a small valet tray for my watch or glasses.

A slightly larger box on my dresser, detailing the grain and also showing the natural, untreated wood on the interior.

A stack of nesting boxes my wife found. The largest is about 11″ square.

Our living room wall with frames from the same Japanese 99 cent store. I think the frames were around $2-3 each, maybe $4 for the round ones. Vintage Modern by Thomas O’Brien clock.

The umbrella stand that started it all, serving as our kitchen trash bin since it doesn’t rain much in Southern California. Don’t worry, there is a zinc metal liner that prevents bad leaks from damaging the wood.


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