While solid wood furniture is made entirely of solid wood, veneer furniture consists of a thin layer of wood that is attached to an interior panel (usually fiberboard). Real wood refers to furniture whose outer surfaces are constructed of solid wood boards, and veneers are used on the backs, the shelves and the inside of the drawers, reports Woodbine Furniture. Solid wood has a good finish; it wears well, can be repainted and will last for generations. Veneers are thin sheets of real wood glued to a substrate that is solid wood, plywood, particleboard or masonite.
The quality of a veneer is determined by the quality of the substrate and by the rarity and beauty of the natural pattern of the wood from which the veneer is cut. All three types of furniture come in a variety of prices, so don't discount any particular type of furniture based solely on the budget. Heavier furniture usually indicates a solid wood or plywood construction and better quality. In short, solid wood pieces and furniture will end up costing more than veneer instead of MDF or chipboard.
The type of wood can vary from soft wood to hardwood varieties, each with different characteristics and traits. The best fine furniture combines real or solid wood with exotic veneers to create masterpieces destined to become family heirlooms. According to one designer, the best furniture will cost more and will last 10 to 15 years, while the finest furniture will be even more expensive but will last a lifetime. Plywood, which consists of thin wooden laminates glued together in layers at right angles to each other to create strength and stability, is the best alternative to real wood as a base for cladding.
If the furniture you are considering has delicate and beautifully carved details, you are looking at an authentic and solid piece of wood. The relative quality of veneer versus “real wood” in the furniture market is often misunderstood. For this reason, some people choose laminate over other types of furniture for busy areas of a home or areas where furniture can be used a lot.