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All About Teak
While a host of synthetics and metals are common in outdoor furniture, the discerning consumer will notice that there are fewer natural materials on the market. Most wood varieties, though perfectly happy indoors, will warp, stain, or rot if left exposed to the elements. Teak wood is a notable exception to this rule. It is considered the most premium wood on Earth, possessing the beauty and durability to create timeless design objects that thrive outdoors.
Why is teak wood common in high-quality outdoor furniture?
Due to some amazing properties of the wood itself, teak is naturally impervious to weather extremes, from rain and high humidity, to the desert sun, and in fact, looks more beautiful and dignified with each passing year. Teak wood possesses a naturally high concentration of teak oil that protects the material against moisture seepage, rot, mold, and insect pests. This natural protection is not lost through the harvesting and processing of the wood. In fact, after the wood is seasoned in a wood-fired kiln, teak becomes incredibly stable and is resistant to warpage without the need for any synthetic or chemical finish. Teak is also easy to clean and maintain. With a little effort each season, it can last a lifetime and be passed down through generations.
The history of teak
Teak’s prestigious reputation as a construction material that protects against moisture and decay dates back centuries, when maritime powers used teak to construct powerful navies and prosperous shipping fleets. In fact, the Dutch cultivated teak plantations in Indonesia to support their dominance in the spice trade, some of which are still operating hundreds of years later.
Today, much of the teak wood used in outdoor furniture production is Grade-A teak, sourced from almost 3,000,000 acres of sustainably managed forests on the island of Java in Indonesia. Teak can also be sourced from smaller hubs elsewhere in South Asia, as well as Africa and South America.
CurranHome’s premier furniture designers, like Gloster and Barlow Tyrie, maintain their production facilities on Java, where they harvest Grade-A teak from sustainably managed forests in cooperation with the Indonesian government. Grade-A teak has been selected from the oil-dense heartwood of the tree and is closely examined for any defects such as knots or scarring. Logs are chosen possessing a thin sapwood layer which indicates the tree has a slower growth rate and thus, higher levels of oil density. Grade-A teak is only harvested from trees that have reached full maturity, between 35-70 years old.
What color is teak?
Newly processed Grade-A teak possesses a soft, almost orange, honey-colored wood. After a few months outdoors, this tawny color begins to develop a noble silvery-grey patina that many teak owners treasure as the essence of teak’s timeless charm. The rate of this transformation occurs due to oil secretion and varies based on climate and exposure, with the first signs of transformation occurring anywhere from a few weeks to a few months if left untreated. Keep light colored cushions away from teak during this time to prevent the oil from staining the fabric.
While many are happy to let nature take its course, we carry a number of teak care products for those who wish to preserve or restore the original appearance of their teak products. For more information, please consult our CurranHome customer service team or the furniture manufacturer for best practice. This video from Barlow Tyrie demonstrates how to use the care products we stock to restore teak to its natural color.
Is teak easy to maintain?
The amount of maintenance required depends on your commitment to maintaining your furniture's natural color. If you plan to let your teak weather naturally, simply scrub thoroughly with teak cleaner once or twice a year. If it’s been a few years since the last cleaning, brush clean to remove caked on dirt and lichens, soak with water, give a good scrub with teak cleaner, and then rinse and let dry. The wood’s natural oils will restore its lustrous finish.
A stain guard helps defend against spills and spot-sanding removes tougher splotches like olive oil and red wine. Since teak is non-porous, stains stick to the surface level and are easy to treat. More frequent maintenance is required in very humid regions like Florida, and the use of a color guard is recommended to maintain teak's honey gold color.
Will teak match my style?
Furniture designers such as Barlow Tyrie and Garpa have built their reputations over decades through their artistry and skill in working with teak to produce classic garden furniture with timeless designs. UK-based Barlow Tyrie originally sourced teak from the remnants of old timber ships for their hand-made furniture as part of a public works project to modernize England's fleet with metal outfitting.
During Barlow's first years, it took a single skilled worker an entire day to make one chair. The classic London bench was a staple of their very first catalogs in the 1920’s, and is still sold today, so you can enjoy a cool drink on a summer’s day in your garden, curled up in the spacious arms of a piece of living history.
If you prefer a more current look, Gloster and Mamagreen use traditional teak wood as a design element in their contemporary outdoor furniture collections, mixing materials and textures for a modern take on teak. Gloster's Fern collection is an excellent example of this approach, combining lightweight powder-coated aluminum, a woven back material, and lavish cushions for the utmost comfort and style.
Is teak furniture sustainable?
All of CurranHome’s teak outdoor furniture suppliers have been integral in the movement to responsibly source teak wood with minimal impact to the environment and preserve teak furniture as an artform for future generations to enjoy. In addition, the lifecycle of teak produces less greenhouse gas emissions than other outdoor furniture materials. The trees sequester carbon while they are alive and can be recycled or repurposed at the end of the product's life.
Teak production is a nationalized industry in Indonesia under the supervision of a government entity called Perum Perhutani. Local populations are entrusted to be conservators of the nurseries and working forests, while local craftsmen execute the vision of furniture designers onsite. Vendors like Garpa provide documentation on the chain of custody to ensure all teak is from sustainably managed forests.
Mamagreen sources 90% of its teak from abandoned buildings and repurposes material waste in the Indonesian incense industry, much in the same way Barlow Tyrie reclaimed its teak from timber ships 100 years earlier. Because teak is so hardy and durable, even small remnants can be fused back together and laminated to create a beautiful finish with its own story to tell. Namely, that teak furniture can last a lifetime and be passed down through generations, a rarity in today’s disposable culture.