Shou Sugi Ban: Burn Your Furniture the Japanese Way

Shou Sugi Ban decor – go ahead, burn your furniture. it’s not an anarchist plea. It’s an art form in Japan. The Japanese method of wood preservation chars the wood and it looks surprisingly attractive. And the philosophy is that of the Japanese Wabi-Sabi theory – that we should appreciate beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” in nature.

That’s surely where a lot of our troubles come from, isn’t it? Trying to be perfect – for our children, our parents, our spouses, and even ourselves. Nature isn’t perfect, ever. But it is full of beauty. The most popular example of the Wabi-Sabi lifestyle would be the Japanese art of Kintsugi: repairing of cracks in pottery using gold leaf paint.

As author Richard Powell describes it:¬† “Wabi-sabi¬†nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

Japanese Charred Wood

But today, we will be focusing on Shou Sugi Ban – the Japanese art of burning your furniture. It actually preserves the wood and is great for exteriors or outdoor pieces. In fact, that’s where it came from – the technique was developed in Japan in the 18th century as a way of waterproofing cedar. It’s also highly resistant to rot, insects and fire. And you can use it on many kinds of wood, including pine, hemlock, maple, or oak. We are seeing it used more and more as an exterior siding choice here in the West, and no wonder.

The first time I saw it was on an episode of Fixer Upper, where Chip and Joanna Gaines renovated a floating home, using Shou Sugi Ban on the exterior. By the way, we call it Shou Sugi Ban but in Japan it is referred to as Yakisugi or Yakita.

Charred Wood Tables

Tables are the easiest way to start with Shou Sugi Ban decor inside (we’ll work up to flooring and paneling). And you could even do it yourself.

You’ll need an ice-melting torch (not expensive to buy and also available to rent) and you need to burn the wood enough that it actually eats into the surface and gives you that gorgeous charred wood look. Next step would be wire brush it, clean it and then oil it and voila! You’re done. Sounds simple, I know. It’s actually a process.

live edge shou sugi ban

The beautiful live-edge charred wood table above is from the interior design company, Boats R Us, Dubai. They have a lot of lovely furniture on their website.

Coffee table charred logs
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This live edge table uses two log discs as legs – how clever.

Lace up Charred Wood Table

Wow. Believe it or not, you’ll find this Shou Sugi Ban lace-up entry table for sale on Amazon. But in the handmade section, thankfully. Because there is no mass-produced Shou Sugi Ban furniture (yet).

Charred wood top table

Teriswood is a wonderful builder of custom wood and Shou Sugi Ban furniture.

Charred Wood Tables

And these gorgeous Shou Sugi Ban tree trunk tables – they’re from the Amazon handmade store as well. Yours for the ordering!

Shou Sugi Ban Chairs and Stools

poofs and tables charred wood
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These cute little stools and tables look like poofs. Certainly a striking design trio. Something about this technique fascinates me. You?

charred wood chair

This chair is just gorgeous and the product of a DIY project. There’s a full account at the blog, The Year of Mud.

Burn your own Shou Sugi Ban
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This charred log turns into a fantastic stool, but somehow I think there is a bit more involved here.

The Charred Wood Boudoir

Charred wood bedroom
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This incredible boudoir work belongs to designer Yaloslav Garant, in what he dubbed his “Burn2Burn” collection. You can find old ornate dressers and headboards that are in terrible shape and get them for a song – and turn them into your own version of this centuries-old Japanese technique..

Charred wood Dresser

You can find many dressers that look like this in thrift stores, second-hand shops, estate, and garage sales. Get yourself a torch, a wire brush, some cleaner and oil and the world of charred wood furniture is all yours.

Shou sugi ban dresser

This is less of a char and as a result – you see more of the wood grain. Perhaps a preferable technique where the grain is a piece of art in itself. You can buy this piece, and more like it at My Own Bali.

Black Floors and Walls

Shou Sugi Ban Floor
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Wow, we love this Japanese burnt wood floor. And think of the dirt it would hide (just kidding).

Stained Shou Sugi

And let’s not forget the Shou Sugi Ban “color char” – charring stained wood at various levels of intensity. It turns the wood grains into absolute art.

Walls of Charred Wood
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It takes a bold person to do a wall in black, let alone charred wood black. But it looks truly incredible. And has all those benefits we talked about earlier – charring preserves the wood for a very long time.

Start small with Shou Sugi Ban Accessories

Charred Wood Clock
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This is a sweet idea for starting small – a burnt wood wall clock. You could even DIY it pretty quickly. Might be just the first step you need to start to explore this ancient Japanese tradition.

 

Burned wood coasters

Coasters! Even better. And won’t they be the conversation piece? Once again, from Amazon. And come to think of it, you could even use them as tiles.

Book ends charred wood

Bookends and lamps in one! Available from Emerson Industrial Design.

Shou Sugi Ban Steak Board
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Charred wood steak boards. There’s something thematic here.

Charred Wood Serving Board
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And then there’s the charred wood serving board – with the right color cheese and garnishes this would look positively brilliant.

Charred wood tabletop fire
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And then we have the charred wood tabletop fire pit – which is really a cute idea, pairing the burnt wood with fire.

shou sugi ban whole house

And finally, let’s end with the whole house siding in Shou Sugi Ban. This gorgeous piece of architecture is the Saint-Ange residence in Grenoble, France. The technique is stunning, practical, and quite environmentally friendly. As many of our world’s older customs are.

Would you try Shou Sugi Ban on your house?

Written by Beverley Wood

Beverley Wood has lived on boats in Toronto and Vancouver and in an old hacienda in Mexico. She knows funky when she sees it. She's been writing since she was old enough to pick up a pen and has never shied away from the unusual or the whimsical. Her love of the unique (and sometimes bizarre) led her to Captivatist.