Mankind has used wood to make furniture ever since he learnt to make tools. Thereafter there were no bounds to his imagination and it was only a short step towards primitive furniture that made his life more comfortable.
Wood has been the traditional choice of material for furniture, largely because in bygone days no other material was available. Some stone carvings are still in existence - early attempts at creative art like thrones and such pieces for royalty.
There are remnants of wooden furniture that date back to the Pharaohs and the Romans. We have a fairly accurate idea of designs through the ages since then. In medieval times, for example, artistic skills in carpentry were yet to be developed so the preference was for chunky designs. Toward the 16th and 17th centuries, the designs became more and more ornate as artisans gave vent to their imagination and creativity in carving.
Such intricate work did not restrict itself to the west as India and China are found to have preceded Europe. Numerous pieces of elaborate Chinese and Japanese furniture still exist that date back over a thousand years. Despite the passage of centuries, the wood has still retained its unique appearance. Some pieces might have been restored, but their original breath-taking beauty remains undiminished. No value can be put on these priceless art antiques.
At times the wood was shipped to Europe to be made into furniture by local artisans. At other times furniture made in the East was brought back to Europe to fetch astronomical prices. Furniture was made of exotic woods like Teak from Burma and Malaya, Rosewood from India, Ebony from Africa and Cherry from Japan.
In the past few decades there has been a rush toward pseudo-wood like particleboard and blockboard and other fabricated organic-based materials. These materials lend themselves to mass manufacture of furniture and are practical. Such materials also go into the production of 'assemble it yourself' kits. The largest drawback is they lack identity and personality though the products made from these materials are far cheaper than those made of wood.
Notwithstanding a huge disadvantage in price, and perhaps convenience, wood still holds its own in class and elegance. Antique furniture is an investment that is on an unceasing upward graph. The fact that copied antique wood furniture is big business, in itself speaks volumes for wooden furniture. Small wonder then, that wood rules the roost and will remain 'numero uno' in the foreseeable future. The main shortcoming of using wood is ecological concerns, and those of a globally diminishing forest cover.