Valued for its durability, beauty and strength, teak was easily one of the most popular woods for furniture production in the mid 20th century. Access to teak wood after WWII made it made it possible for manufacturers to fervently create furniture from this once illusive exotic wood. Newly affluent post-war consumers fell in love with teak and the admirable qualities it possessed.
Teak wood was the preferred species for Scandinavian furniture makers. Danish furniture is nearly exclusively teak. Why teak? As a dense hardwood, teak makes for strong, long-lasting furniture. Teak has some other seemingly magical properties. It has a high natural oil content which protects it from decay and infestation. The natural oil content benefit furniture makers in that there are no additional finishes like lacquer or polyurethane needed to protect teak. Some of these natural oils dissipate during the drying process, so you will see other oils like teak oil, tung oil, linseed oil, or even pure soap (an old Danish favorite) used to add a vivacious glow to the finished piece.
Political conditions also influenced the popularity of teak in Scandinavian furniture. It is said that Danish ships returning from the Pacific after WWII did not want to return without a prize of sorts, so they loaded their ships with cargo like valuable teak lumber to bring back to their homeland. The Danes also had a favorable position with nation’s of the South Pacific with Indonesia and Sri Lanka (teak producing nations) as former Danish colonies. Danish King Christian the 10th had a close relationship with the Thai royal family, giving them access to valuable exports like teak.
Most teak comes from South Asia from countries including India, Thailand, and Myanmar. These areas have experience severe over-harvesting, putting teak and other popular trees in jeopardy. This over-harvesting has caused extreme shortages, making it nearly impossible to find new production teak furniture. This lack of new teak furniture has sky-rocketed the consumer interest in vintage teak. Vintage teak, aside from being more readily available, has many attractive qualities. For one, the patina of vintage teak can create beautiful colors in the wood that can only come with age. The higher quality, old-growth trees used in older teak furniture cannot be found in today’s farm grown trees that are harvested at a young age.
Distinguishing the age of teak can help point you toward the type of teak that was used, and the coloring you can expect to see. Old-growth teak, or trees that were cut down when they reached maturity, often have a redder coloring to them. Compare this with young teak, which was planted to help cope with over-harvesting, but was often cut down before reaching maturity. This younger teak is often lighter, with yellow or lighter orange tones. However, even these lighter pieces will darken over time.
Today, quantities of teak are grown on plantations, using sustainable harvesting methods. Despite these teak plantations popping up, finding newly produced teak furniture is still incredibly difficult. Much of what is available is either outdoor furniture or rustic teak pieces made of reclaimed wood. If it’s a modern look you’re after, and teak is your wood of choice, than going vintage is your best bet. Many believe the plantation teak does not have the same appearance as that of teak harvested naturally in Southeast Asia, this is another reason why folks prefer to buy vintage, rather than new. Simply put, they don’t make ‘em like they used to!
Furnish Me Vintage carries the largest selection of Danish teak furniture in Florida and we are among the largest teak retailers in the nation! Visit our downtown St. Petersburg furniture store, or shop online to find those special pieces that will make your space sing.
Purchasing quality vintage teak furniture is an investment. Unlike new furniture, the value of your teak furniture will appreciate. Since old growth teak and master craftsmanship is not readily available on the mainstream consumer market, vintage furniture will always remain desirable. Teak furniture will last many decades if properly cared for. The good news is, teak furniture is low maintenance! Clean your teak furniture my dusting regularly. You don’t want dirt and grime from household dust to coagulate on your furniture over time. Wipe away spills or dirt with a damp rag. Use a mild soap if you require a little more cleaning power. Stay away from strong cleaning agents like sprayable disinfectants or cleaners with bleach or ammonia.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Avoid mishaps by using coasters for beverages and placemats with your kids. Do not place excessively hot plates, cups or serving dishes directly on the table. Teak is exceptionally durable. Damage is typically the result of abuse or extreme injury. If you get deep scratches, white marks from heat, water marks from drinks or chips, seek the help of a professional. Remember, teak is valuable! Do not cause more harm by doing a DIY hackneyed fix. Our restoration workshops spend many hours undoing bad at-home repairs. All that one needs to do to keep your teak furniture looking good and well preserved is regular gentle cleaning and maybe adding a little teak oil once a year or less. With these simple tips, you can enjoy your teak furniture for many years to come and pass it on to your children when it’s time.