How To Choose the Right Wood Species For Your Custom Table

Categories: Custom Furniture
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Urban wood tends to reflect much more unique character than timber grown specifically for harvesting. The trees we source from grow in cities and suburbs in Illinois and Wisconsin, that are taken down due to insects, disease or construction. Each tree has its own history, environment and, growth so no two custom tables will ever be alike!

Layered on top of that are the different types of trees we source from. Here we break down each wood species, and their features and characteristics (along with some interesting facts about urban trees) so you can choose the right one for your project.

As you design your custom table, don't forget to check out our Community & Conference Table Product Guide!

urban ash wood sample by Icon Modern Urban Ash
Custom shape urban ash straight edge conference table by icon modern Urban ash community table


Ash is a light-colored wood species with a straight grain and minimal variation compared to our other standard wood species. Urban ash also has little variation in color, from beige to light brown. This is due to the heartwood (the inner-most part of the tree or core) and sapwood (the wood closest to the bark) being similar in color. It is a cost-effective wood species due to its prevalence in the U.S. and is a great option for unique finishes such as ebonized ash.

The Emerald Ash Borer insect has killed thousands of ash trees in the Midwest region. To combat the spread, thousands of infested ash trees been taken down. (On a positive note, this is actually what sparked the idea for Icon Modern!) Illinois wanted to find alternative ways to use the wood versus just sending it to the landfill. The good news is that many civil, public and non-profit organizations are actively working on regenerative solutions. Chicago Region Tree Initiative is one of them!

urban elm sample by Icon Modern Urban Elm
custom conference table in urban elm by Icon Modern Urban elm conference table


Elm has one of the boldest knot and grain patterns of our standard wood options. The heartwood ranges from brown to reddish brown while the sapwood is off-white to yellow in color. Elm trees also grow in unique shapes and can grow quite large, making them perfect for bold live edge tables or large slab tables. No two are the same!

And while it is one of the softer woods of the bunch, it still works very well in commercial spaces with a high shock resistance and its interlocking grain makes it more resistant to splitting.

urban hickory wood sample by Icon Modern Urban Hickory
Custom urban hickory live edge wood conference table power steel panel base by icon modern Live edge urban hickory community table


Our hickory wood is similar to our maple wood species in that the sapwood and heartwood are very different, creating a contrasting wood grain (the lines you see) and often has distinct figuring (the shapes the lines make). While light in color, the grain and figuring create a range of colors from yellow to dark brown. Combined with a bold knot pattern, hickory is a great choice for showing off urban wood’s unique character.

Hickory is one of the densest hardwoods found in the U.S., so the combination of strength, stiffness and toughness make it a desired option for commercial environments.

urban maple wood sample by Icon Modern Urban Maple
custom conference table hard maple by Icon Modern Urban maple conference table


Maple trees are prevalent in the northern parts of the U.S., including the Great Lakes and Midwest regions, so we source this species quite often! Maple is one of our lightest-toned wood species, with beautiful color variations of yellow and brown streaks (called pitch flecks). This contrast of colors makes it a wood species that has a lot of character and movement. Occasional spalting adds a network of black, squiggly lines that follow the grain, making maple wood even more memorable and unique.

urban oak sample by Icon Modern Urban Oak
Urban oak conference table + acoustic panel infill Round oak conference table + acoustic infill panel


Oak is one of the hardiest wood species we offer, making it a high-quality, extremely durable option for commercial environments. Because of this, it is a slightly more expensive option from our standard line. Our urban oak wood species has a beautiful wood grain that is very dense and tight and the color of oak can range from beige to amber based on the type of oak tree. Our urban wood species tend to show up in a beige to light brown color.

One unique feature that is common in oak wood is “ray flecking”. Rays store food in a tree and transport it horizontally throughout the tree. This causes ray flecking which looks like short little pencil lines. While this does not always show up in the wood once it is cut, it is more common in quarter sawn oak wood.

FUN FACT: The white oak tree is the official state tree of Illinois.

urban walnut sample by Icon Modern Urban Walnut
Urban walnut + live edge community table Live edge urban walnut community table


Walnut is one more our most popular wood species due to its warm, dark contrasting colors. That contrast comes from the difference in color of the heartwood and the sapwood. The heartwood carries dark hues versus the sapwood which is lighter, often featuring blonde and yellow colors. Many traditional woodworkers will discard the lighter, tan color sapwood but we feel it is incredibly beautiful and adds variation to every piece.

The grain of walnut is typically straight, though can have unexpected waves and swirls. Walnut trees grow very large in diameter, making walnut a perfect wood species for custom large slab tables. It also produces one of the most durable woods, making it great for commercial spaces. Because of these features, walnut is slightly more expensive than our other wood species.

FUN FACT: Walnut trees contain oils that are toxic to invasive plants and the sawdust can be used as a natural weed control.

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