Sixteenth-century oak and 16th-century women were both worried about putting their best face forward to the public. Women were concerned to show their beauty (the word here is actually a code for class identity), and beauty depended on the whitest possible skin. The fact that lower-class women had darker or rosier skin from their exposure to the elements, the cooking fire, and so on was rarely mentioned but was really the driver of artificial whiteness.
To achieve this whiteness, upper-class women employed means that horrify us today: they plastered their faces with "ceruse," a paste made of white lead and vinegar that was known as "spirits of Saturn." Many died of lead poisoning, an early death hastened by the parallel practice of using a lipstick that contained red lead.
The joiners who paneled the walls of the new domestic (rather than fortified) houses of the Tudor period were faced with a similar problem. Carved oak in medieval churches was not stained but left to age naturally.
Early Tudor houses were often filled with smoke and other pollutants from fires and cooking, so the paneling (and furniture) could not be left raw. The most common protective finish was colorless beeswax, which today has mellowed into a beautiful honey color.
But so-called "limed" oak was also used, usually for paneling. "Limed" was a misnomer (we've been unable to find when the term was first used): lime had nothing to do with it. Raw oak was "cerused": the same paste that Queen Elizabeth applied to her face was rubbed into the grain of the oak to preserve and lighten it.
Most Tudor houses were poorly lit, and whitened paneling would have made the rooms brighter.
For an exceptional example currently in our inventory, click here.