Wood has been used for a large number of purposes for thousands of years. It was and still used as fuel and construction material, and remains the most popular material for furniture all over the world. Despite introduction of new materials many of which became a popular alternative to wood the latter remains one of the most valued and sought after materials, in first place for furniture and home decoration although wooden houses are becoming increasingly popular recently as well.
Many important pieces of wood furniture for garden and wooden buildings were lost over time due to decay, fire, termites and destruction due to other reasons. Fortunately, a considerable amount of both wooden buildings and furniture that were created centuries ago has remained preserved and can be admired in museums, former palaces and memorial houses. The rare historic wooden items that managed to survive are the best evidence of the importance of wood.
Some of the oldest pieces of wood furniture date back to the ancient times, for example wooden furniture from ancient Egypt that is on display in the British Museum. Very little ancient Egyptian wooden furniture has survived although archaeologists and historians believe that a considerable amount of furniture was buried with their owners throughout Egypt despite the fact that Egypt has little wood of poor quality. According to M. Stead from the British Museum, stool was the most common piece of furniture, while chairs were probably used by higher classes of the ancient Egyptian society. Very interesting is also the fact that both stools and tables were low to the ground which is relatively common in Egypt and the Middle East nowadays as well. Wood was highly valued by ancient Romans as well as by the medieval royalty who commissioned the finest craftsmen and artists to create the most exquisite pieces of furniture with rich decoration and details.
Very few wooden structures from the medieval period have survived which makes the so-called stave churches in Scandinavia that are entirely made of wood one of a kind architectural treasure. Except for one, all these unique wooden churches are located in Norway and date from 12th to 13th century. The most spectacular of all is the Urnes stave church at the Ornes farm located near the Lustrafjord in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. This church is dated to about 1130 and is believed to be the oldest stave church although archeological finds imply that at least one church was built on the site before the current Urnes stave church. The church went through some changes in the later period but it contains a large number of the original wooden elements. It went through an extensive renovation in the 20th century and was designated as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
The Urnes stave church as well as some later wooden structures show the value of wood as well as prove that it can virtually last forever if properly maintained and protected from fire. Fine examples of wooden buildings are also found in America such as the Fairbanks House in Dedham (Massachusetts), an U.S. National Historic Landmark and the oldest surviving timber-frame house in the United States. It was built from 1637 to 1641.
In most parts of Europe, wood was replaced by brick and stone as the main construction material but in recent years wooden houses and buildings are becoming increasingly popular. Wood is an excellent insulator and retains the heat a lot better than brick and stone. After all, wooden houses are the most popular in the Scandinavian countries that have the harshest winters in Europe. In addition, wood keeps the building cool during the hot summer months and significantly reduces the costs for both heating and cooling. One of the main advantages of wood over other construction materials is also the fact that it acts like a natural air conditioner by absorbing too much moisture and vice versa. In addition, it is all natural and environmentally friendly, while all wooden house owners agree that the wood creates a very special atmosphere and an unique sense of warmth that cannot be compared to any other construction material.