Design Trend: Tambour

photo of tambour wood

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last little while, you’ve noticed a wood trend reemerging – tambour. This wood element is being used on anything you can think of. In this article, you’ll learn what it is, where it came from, and how to use it in your own home.

Definition of Tambour

So what is it exactly? It is a flexible, grooved wood surfacing material. In laymen’s terms, it is pieces of wood with various shapes and sizes glued to a flexible backing used on walls, doors, furniture, cabinetry or various other surfaces.

History of Tambour

Interestingly enough, it first made it’s debut in 1790s. King Louis XV instructed his official cabinet maker, Jean-Francois Oeben, to create a desk for him. The King wanted something that kept his important papers secure and also looked gorgeous, naturally. So Oeben got to work making the very first rolltop desk with a locking mechanism.

Sadly, Oeben passed away before the work was completed and his protégé Jean-Henry Reisener picked up where he left off.

From start to finish, the desk took 9 years to complete. But hey, they got it done. And the rest is history, as they say.

The Bureau de Roi, aka The King’s Desk, became one of the most celebrated furniture pieces of the eighteenth century thanks to it’s ingenuity and craftsmanship. Today, it is still replicated.

image of the King's Desk featuring tambour
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Tambour Transformation

Tambour had another burst of popularity in the 1970’s and 80’s. Roll-top desks continued to be manufactured using this material, but it also became popular on walls and other cabinetry pieces.

One of the most recognized areas was the Kitchen, where it was frequently used on appliances garages (aka – a cabinetry box that hides your toaster). I’m sure you’ve seen it or, if you were super cool, had it in your own kitchen.

Today’s Tambour

Open up any design magazine and most likely, you’ll find some tambour gracing a few pages. This look is modernized for today’s tastes while still giving a nod to some 80’s flare.

Gone are the days that this was available only in a honey colored oak. Now wood species and profiles range anywhere from exotic to walnut and semi-circles to tapered edges to fit your tastes. Plus, you can stain it to whatever shade you want.

Large sheets of tambour are typically sold, but it is possible to find smaller ones. To purchase, I would reach out to a wood specialty store, as they will have the biggest variety to choose from and help guide you to a selection that is perfect for your application.

Seems like everyone is hopping on the tambour train since it works in both residential and commercial spaces. So come on ride that train (cue groovy music).

Three Ways To Incorporate Tambour

Like I said, you can pretty much use tambour on anything from walls to furniture and cabinetry to fireplaces and accessories. Below are three examples to get your gears turning, but the possibilities are endless!

Full disclosure – some links contained in this post are affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission when you purchase a product from the link. This is at no additional cost to you and supports the creation of miniature dreams on this blog.

image of a tambour wall treatment
Photo Credit: Surfacing Solutions

Option #1

Use it on walls instead of doing an accent paint or wallpaper. It makes a simple yet striking backdrop that adds a lot of warmth to a space.

image of a tambour cabinet
Photo Credit: Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams

Option #2

Use it on a piece of furniture or cabinetry. You can either find a readymade option, like this one from Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, or you can reface an existing cabinet you already own.

And if you’re in the market for new furniture head over to my Chirpyest shopping board for some stylish recommendations.

image of a dollhouse living room with a tambour planter
Photo Credit: The Designer Dollhouse

Option #3

If you don’t want to change up your walls or buy new furniture, than accessories are the way to go. Bringing in touches, like on this planter, lets you partake in the trend without a major commitment.

And if you want to make this planter for your dollhouse, there is a Tiny Tambour Tutorial you’ll definitely want to check out.

The versatility of tambor means that this trend will be sticking around for a little while longer. So, if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to incorporate some elements into your home. Once you do, I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

If you’re looking for some new furniture or ideas on how to use tambour, my Chirpyest inspiration board and Pinterest Page are great places to start.

And if you want to replicate this design element in your dollhouse, check out the post Tiny Tambour Planter for a simple tutorial on how you can make the one shown in the photo at 1″ scale.

Big Hugs and a Little Love,


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