Teak: King of the Woods

teak trees

Teak is In

In the age of steel and concrete, wooden furniture and fixtures remains a staple in contemporary homes. From that polished modern walnut table to the rustic vintage cherry armoire, a home designer is faced with a multitude of choices about the type and style of wooden furniture for their abode.

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For the passionate wood connoisseur, teak furniture is a particularly prized treat. Teak wood is a beauty in itself that is praised for its naturally rich and elegant colours, which vary from a brilliant gold to a stately dark brown. What truly differentiates teak from other woods is its inherent natural properties that make it the prime choice for hardwood furniture.

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Also known by its scientific name ‘Tectona grandis”, teak is a species indigenous to the Southeast Asian region. Teak timber is one of the key exports for Myanmar and Indonesia and they make up most of the world’s supply. Teak trees are blessed with longevity, living up to 100 years old. The crème de la crème of wood furniture are carved from mature teak trees that are over 80 years old. Such expensive furniture can be found in the homes of the wealthy in Asia since the 7th century as highly desirable status symbols. Teak has continued to feature heavily in contemporary Asian homes as a signature of the oriental style.

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Why Teak? 

Do a little research and you will see that teak wood is much more expensive by far for both woodworkers and ordinary consumers. That is because the composition of teak wood strikes a unique balance between craftwork, durability and natural aesthetics, making it an excellent material for stunning furniture.

teak bow of old sailboat(resize)

Teak trees secrete an abundance of natural oil and rubber from their heartwood. These oils and rubber create a natural weather resistant defence that is far superior to any other wood, and this resistance is retained even after the teak has been fed through the furniture manufacturing process. Historically, teak is a tried and proven weatherproof wood that has been heavily utilised in shipbuilding by the Portuguese and the Dutch since the 15th century. The high silica content in teak also makes it slip resistant; therefore it is seen as an ideal wood for not just the ship floors you see on luxury cruises but in modern homes as well. 

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The same oils and rubber also protect against dry rot, fungi and parasites that can damage or destroy other woods completely. Teak’s antibacterial properties make it resistant to decay from mould and mildew, which serves well as the go-to wood for indoor and outdoor furniture. Less effort and resources are needed to maintain and treat teak furniture, and such hassle-free benefits and cost savings on long-term maintenance justify the initial investment into the purchase.

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As a native wood of the tropics, teak trees face harsh weather conditions – monsoons, high winds and droughts are not uncommon. As a result this hardwood has a natural tight grain with thick yet elastic fibres that allow it to stand its ground and to bend with the winds instead of breaking. Teak is thus characteristically favourable for woodworking for the close grain allows for intricate and accurate craving. Moreover, the density of teak resists shrinking, swelling and warping, thus enabling teak furniture to hold true to its structure and design for years on end. The sturdiness and durability of fine teak wood through the ages is a testament to the wood’s suitability for crafting heirloom furniture that will last your family generations.

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A note of caution to those eager to lay claim to these teak pieces for their own home; as the saying goes, the highest praise is imitation. Inspect with a discerning eye before handing over your credit card. Furniture made from teak substitutes such as shorea wood and iroko aka ‘African Teak’ are commonly misconceived as real teak even though they do not have the same beneficial qualities. Ask for a certificate of authenticity, especially for antique teak heirlooms with exorbitant prices.

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An investment into the home is an investment of the heart; like that dining table that you’ve always had your family meals or the master bed frame that you will lay on for the next 20 years. Each piece of furniture is invested with care and consideration for the past, present and the future. To have furniture can serve faithfully and grow in value with your family is a small blessing.

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And that’s why we choose teak as the king of all woods.

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