IsoGuard® is the protective formula that we use on all our timber furniture (that’s not painted, that is). It’s linseed-oil based and free from VOCs, and works to protect the timber from spills and changes in colour by bonding at a molecular level, which means it doesn’t affect the natural matt texture of the wood. But IsoGuard is also a finish as much as it’s a protective treatment. There are a handful of different shades in our collection, each imparting its own character on the timber. Read on for our in-depth guide to each one.
Natural Oak is pretty much what it says on the tin: it effectively reverses the darkening caused by the linseed oil, returning the oak to what many of us would think of as oak’s natural appearance. Crucially, it has none of the orangey, yellowy tones that you can sometimes get on ‘natural’ oak furniture. Instead, it’s a good balance of warm and cool, neither very pale nor rich.
You might be thinking, well why not just leave the oak as it is, without a finish, if natural is what you’re after? The answer to that is, apart from the protection from spills that IsoGuard affords, untreated timber will oxidise and change colour over time (think of silvering teak furniture in a garden – the same would happen with oak inside). IsoGuard also helps stop that from happening.
Chalked Oak is the palest of our IsoGuard oils and has a similar effect to limewashing in that it leaves the oak with a very subtle, translucent white finish. Chalked Oak also particularly highlights the grain in oak as it sinks into the grooves and makes these parts lighter, and so is quite a distinctive look.
Paler timbers like this have become associated with the light, bright interiors of Scandinavian design, and that’s a look that can go two ways. On the one hand, there’s modern Scandi minimalism – something our Chalked Oak Hebden trestle table fits right in with. On the other hand, there’s the traditional Swedish Gustavian style. Our Harrogate rectangular tables, with their curvaceous legs (in soft grey Fog as standard) and Chalked Oak tabletops reference this look.
Don’t feel that a Chalked Oak piece will only suit one of these styles though. Take Herston for instance, a smart occasional table collection where the Chalked Oak finish is about complementing the pale marble tabletop. Or try pairing Hebden with walls in a dark paint colour for a scheme that’s about drama and contrast.
Seasoned Oak, as you might have guessed from the name, reflects the subtle silvering of oak over time – albeit in a controlled way. It’s not fully grey, and still retains some of the warmth of Natural Oak, but it does impart a very understated aged look.
Seasoned Oak suits a variety of furniture and interiors styles, everything from simple Shaker Suffolk to intricate Sheldrake and impressive Balmoral. The thing they all have in common though is a sense of history that the Seasoned Oak finish brings to them.
Darkened Oak is our most dramatic, most distinctive IsoGuard finish, and is quite different from the others which, while having their own personalities, are relatively similar. We created Darkened Oak to mimic the look of brown, stained antique furniture, while still keeping the contemporary matt finish of IsoGuard. We’ve used it on pieces that lend themselves to a more traditional finish, whether that’s as a contrast to a contemporary shape (as in Arundel) or to reference historic influences (such as with Blenheim, which was inspired by an antique table, and Wardley, which has its roots in the traditionally dark-stained Windsor chair).
We think you can mix and match any of our IsoGuard finishes across furniture in your home or a single room, but Darkened Oak pairs especially well with the other three as it creates a clear-cut contrast. Likewise, it’s a good foil to lighter paint finishes, or it can be a harmonious partner to deeper, richer colours.
And the rest...
Natural, Chalked, Seasoned and Darkened might be our four main IsoGuard finishes, but you’ll also find a few others dotted through our collection.
Edinburgh, for instance, has a Vintage Oak finish, which is slightly deeper than Natural Oak but not as brown as Darkened. Carter and Chawton are finished with the same Vintage Oak IsoGuard, plus a few other processes that add up to what we call Dark Vintage Oak (a finish that feels very much like reclaimed timber, but with none of the wobbliness). Then there’s Henley, which we call Classic Oak. It’s a look very similar to Natural Oak in colour, but with an additional water-based topcoat that creates a sleeker finish to the timber and an ever so slight sheen.
Finally, there are also our exterior finishes. Exterior IsoGuard does just as the interior versions do and protects outdoor teak furniture from stains and oxidising, as well as helping prevent drying. There are two finishes in the collection: Moss (the one we use on most of our designs), which has a natural greenish-grey tinge; and Weathered Moss (you’ll find this on Hove pieces and Bryher’s legs), which is similar but a touch more pigmented.
For more on our IsoGuard finishes and to order refinishing, cleaning and touch-up kits, visit our aftercare section. You can also read about how to apply IsoGuard and look after timber furniture in our care guides.