A Talk on Timber

At DENFAIR, Adam Markowitz, fine furniture designer and architect, was invited by the American Hardwood Export Council to create a space that explored the possibilities of American Red Oak. The result, Oak REDefined, was an inspired creative collaboration with digital craftsperson, Marcus Piper on the visuals and central tangram, and Luke Ommundson of specialist manufacturers, EvoStyle.

Discover the largely untapped properties of Red Oak in their discussion highlights below, and catch the full video of their talk here.


“We’ve always asked the question, why not Red Oak? And I think there’s some confusion and misperceptions. People think it’s red, when actually the name Red Oak comes from the fact that the leaves turn red in autumn. It’s not the timber. Though there can be a little bit of a pinkish hue to it. But in many ways it can be more versatile than White Oak.”

“One of the reasons why we’re promoting Red Oak around the world is because it’s actually one of the most abundant species in the American forest, roughly 20% of the forest is Red Oak. And this is a forest which is growing much faster than it is being harvested. Every two minutes the US Hardwood forest grows by the size of a football field.”

“Australia has on average, the largest houses in the world. And so we’re seeing it a lot of timber in houses – really amazing, beautiful houses. Timber is very much en vogue, there’s a wood renaissance around the world, and we’re seeing a lot of American hardwoods complementing Australian native species as well.”


“As a manufacturer, we’re often dictated to as to what timbers we’ve got to use. So it was a really good opportunity to explore the benefits of the Red Oak and learn about it. We have used it in other projects in Australia, mostly furniture products, but we hadn’t done a lot with the thermally modified oak. So that represented new challenges and new ways to look at manufacturing and treating.”

“Funnily enough, the Red Oak, I would say, machines a lot better than the White Oak. It’s a lot more forgiving. With the grain, it’s a lot more consistent. We do not only machining and fabricating, but also wood turning, and we find the red oak turns beautifully. Rarely needs much sanding at all. It’s easy on the tools, it glues well, and because of its porous nature, it stains well, and consistently.”

“We’re often asked to recommend timbers, and the one thing that people often ask is, ‘I don’t want any red – I want the whitest, blondest timber we can get’. And that pretty much eliminates every Australian hardwood.”


ADAM MARKOWITZ – Architect, Designer, Fine Furniture Maker

“There’s not really an identity of White or Red Oak in Australia. I think most architects don’t know that there’s actually a division between those two species. So it was about really dialling in and understanding what are the specific differences, and what are the possibilities.”

“One of the things that I was really interested to get my hands on and play with is the thermally modified Red Oak. It’s a really interesting process where they essentially cook the timber all the way through. And it changes the colour. The walls that wrap the stand are a lot darker. That’s not a different species, it doesn’t have a stain on it. It’s just been cooked all the way through. And what’s interesting about it is that you can use it externally.”

MARCUS PIPER – Digital Craftsperson

“I don’t traditionally work in timber. So to take something that is quite intricate and work through the process of what’s possible, was quite interesting. And the stain was a nice detail. It’s actually one of the major things about American Red Oak, is that it takes stain really well.”

“There’s a funny thing about Australian timbers, which is that a lot of them are red, or dark. And I think in Australia, maybe we have an aversion to that.”

“One of the first meetings we had as a team, we discussed this idea of an exhibition stand where you can do everything you don’t normally get to do at a stand – which is sit, work, meet, play, touch, feel, and experience the actual thing. And that’s the nice thing about timber, because you do actually want to touch it. Normally when you go to a trade show, it’s like, ‘oh no, you can’t sit on that’ – a room full of chairs but nowhere to sit. So I think that was the real linchpin for the whole stand, was to go against the grain of exhibition stands.”

Catch the full video of the Timber Talk here.