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12th Sep 2018

Head over Heels about Ply – Material of the Modern World

Ply based interiors projects, like this one by David Money architects (featured in April 2018 Living etc.), have led the current trend in naked ply interiors. Stripped back and simple, ply is both strong and versatile, with the potential to build pretty much anything - ceilings, wall cladding, cabinetry, furniture, staircases and even outside walls. Not just functionally versatile but also visually, the ply face (in any timber) can be left raw, stained, sprayed, painted or faced - allowing the layered ply ends take centre stage.

The real star of the current ply trend is the Birch faced variety. This timber has a soft neutral, almost white, colour which is highlighted by a light natural grain. The subtle warmth of the wood is a perfect contrast to popular industrial look materials such as concrete and steel. Birch faced ply can be left natural, using just a clear lacquer or stain giving the surface a smooth rich sheen.

The Barr Group have used birch faced ply in a number of designer-led projects recently. From kitchens to cabinetry and furnishings. ‘The Pod’, as featured by Buster & Punch, used ply throughout, with the internal joinery finished with a matt black lacquer and walls and ceilings exhibiting the ‘bare look’, achieved by treating the birch face with an ‘Osmo Raw’ finish.


A Direct to Client StuartBarr CDR project used birch faced ply to build shelving, kitchen and seating areas, balanced by vintage pieces and dashes of primary colour – which are all the more impactful against the pale Birch.


Other great international examples include work from Slovenia-based architect Sanja Premrn, where she has paired simple plywood panels with pale, chevron-patterned tiling to create the angular geometries of this cafe bar. "I wanted to create a light and bright interior," said the architect. "This is a new building with a lot of natural light, but it is also pretty cold, so I had to warm it up somehow. What better way to do it than with wood” Sania is quoted.

Plywood even became the subject of a 2017 exhibition at London's V&A Museum ‘A History of Plywood’ through over 120 objects. Starting in the 1850s and progressing to present day, ranging from the body of a plane to door handles. The exhibition wanted to represent a timeline of the materials development and reputation.

Here are some more practical benefits for choosing Birch faced ply for your interior joinery…

Birch plywood is known for its strength and stability. Three or more layers of Birch are combined together to make a single sheet of plywood, reinforcing the strength of the original piece of wood.

Birch plywood is often used in combination with other hardwoods, not only because of its strength, but is also typically more affordable than many other hardwood plywood options.

When renovating safety and durability is a high priority. Birch plywood has few knots and jagged edges therefore it is not known to splinter or crack.

Important to The Barr Group is the environment impact of timber. Birch trees are an abundant and fast-growing species that cause little devastation or destruction of biodiversity when cut down. As such, Birch ply is a sustainable choice.

Plywood, not solely the birch variety, is certainly back at the forefront of the construction industry, with the development of cross-laminated timber, an engineered wood with thick laminations which allow architects to build taller than ever without the need for steel or concrete.

More innovative projects using Birch faced ply across the Barr Group coming soon – watch this space.

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