How To Use Live Edge Wood To Add A Rustic Touch To Your Home

All trees are not created equal. But by the time a tree is chopped, sanded down, and repurposed into a piece of furniture for your home, what's to differentiate it from other wood-based pieces? For some people, there's comfort in homogenous linear forms. But for others whose tastes may skew more bohemian, there's live edge wood.

You probably already know what live edge wood is, even if you're unfamiliar with the term. To create live edge wood furniture, craftsmen preserve the original form of the wood in at least one edge or plane — defects, wormholes, wood grains, and all. According to Urban Wood Goods, architect George Nakashima was responsible for popularizing this furniture trend in the 1950s. Nakashima believed that the live edge style "allowed the spirit of the tree to live on" and thus paid tribute to the perfect imperfections of the natural world.

If you, like Nakashima, embrace ecological values — or if you just really like how live edge wood makes everything else in your home look more rustic — then we've got good news for you. Live edge is more of an investment, but it's also versatile and easy to incorporate in everything from coffee tables to bathroom countertops. Whether you're just dipping your toe into the trend or ready to go buy a log cabin, here are a few ways you can lean in.

Invest in a live edge wood dining table

A dining table is a statement piece. If you like to entertain, then it's important to have a table not only large enough to seat several people, but one that emanates a sense of personality. Enter the live edge wood dining table of your dreams. Something like this live edge wood rectangle dining table from West Elm (retailing for just under $2,000) is raw yet elegant. With mixed materials (i.e. iron legs), it's an opportunity to add a rustic touch to any home without going full cottage-core. At a comparable price is Crate & Barrel's best-selling Yukon table, which seats 10. The widely swung legs mean that everyone can fit comfortably without contorting their knees around overly large supports and, as with the West Elm option, this table utilizes steel legs to balance modern and rustic styles.

For those who love the shabby chic farmhouse look, Anthropologie's Nemus dining table is a fantastic choice. With wishbone legs and butterfly detailing, it's a key piece that takes your space from home to homey. While the above live edge wood dining tables may seem a bit pricey, real wood always is, especially compared with particleboard or other wood substitutes. (Think of it as an investment piece that'll last forever.) On the more affordable end of the spectrum is Houzz's Timbergirl solid wood live edge table at $899.

Upgrade your bathroom vanity

As a style, rustic can be hard to nail down. But you don't have to be living in a farmhouse to be committed to rustic decor; simply showcasing a few key pieces will do the trick. And why not choose to feature live edge wood in a somewhat unexpected setting ... say, your bathroom countertop? For proof, take your cues from realtor and blogger ModFruGal, who transformed the look of their bathroom with live edge wood. As detailed on the blog, this DIYer started with an $80 plank of live wood, before going to town on it with Arm-R-Seal sealant to ensure a waterproof finish. The total cost of the bathroom rounded out to roughly $1,000.

Of course, a live edge wood countertop for your bathroom will involve some DIY work to install a faucet and sink. A great option is this vanity top rose oak from Etsy for $332. Oak is among the most durable types of wood, and its warp-resistant properties ensure it will last in a wet environment like your bathroom.

Add interest with textured floating shelves

If you're a DIY maverick, or even if you're a newbie who's eager to put your home improvement skills to the test, live edge wood floating shelves might be a good place to start. This style combines the earthy grounded-ness of live edge wood with the whimsical nature of floating shelves for a wonderful textured effect. You can install these floating shelves anywhere you like, but for practical reasons, it makes sense to put them somewhere where they can act as storage. Rachel at DIY in PDX chose to hang them in her kitchen, after sourcing alder wood and cutting the timber herself (she specified your shelves should be at least 1 inch thick and 5 inches deep). Her blog provides step-by-step instructions and walks you through how she used Dolle Strongfix shelf brackets to install the shelves.

If you're not into sourcing wood from salvage yards, you can look at DIY-friendly sites like Etsy, as well as live edge wood options from West Elm. Etsy has wood that you can personalize to fit the look of your space and West Elm carries live edge wood shelving that comes with hanging hardware for easy installation. In the latter choice, the natural teak wood adds a rustic touch, though the smaller shelves are more aesthetic — think for housing books, small plants, and knick knacks — than practical.

Cozy up next to a unique coffee table

If earthy materials like reclaimed wood are the best way to add rustic appeal to your home, then a live edge wood coffee table will instantly make the room feel cozy. Plus, the living space is an opportunity to balance colors and texture — whether that's through boldly patterned throw pillows, hanging pictures, or a unique rug. Your decor choices don't all have to scream rustic; in fact, one of the pros about natural wood is that it helps to bridge different styles.

And there's a plethora of live edge wood coffee tables to suit individual tastes, complete with wood, steel, and chrome supports. For example, this farmhouse coffee table from Etsy (retailing for around $1,000) offsets its organic look with pin-thin metal legs. It is black walnut, which was famously one of architect George Nakashima's favorite woods to work with, (per Architectural Digest). On the other hand, something like this thicker coffee table (also from Etsy) is a beautiful statement piece, solely made from wood. But if you're browsing and not finding the perfect coffee table, there's always the DIY route.

Punch up your outdoor patio

If you're one of the lucky ones with a great outdoor space, embrace it. There's no reason to neglect your backyard just because your interior is a rustic dream. Things like textiles, outdoor lighting, lounge-y furniture, and potted plants go a long way in elevating the space and making it feel like somewhere you want to hang out with friends and family. A live edge wood patio table or bartop will tie everything together, putting your unique, rustic stamp on the whole backyard.

A word of caution, though. Out on your patio, your live edge wood is exposed to the elements. So, before you get to installing your custom table or bar, be careful in choosing the specific type of wood. In terms of which woods are best suited for the outdoors, experts recommend tropical hardwoods like teak, cypress, cedar, redwood, and oak, because they're native to humid environments. You'll also want to give your outdoor wood some TLC by finishing it with a sealant. Lastly, keep it out of the sun (if you can). 

Etsy can be a good place to start browsing for outdoor live edge wood slabs, and fun pieces also pop up on sites like Wayfair. However, if you want something custom, you might be better suited to putting it together yourself. Happy hunting.