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On the use of OAK in modern Danish furniture

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Product design
- 17 Jan 2018 -
15 posts / 0 new
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Product design

Dear all,


I was recently checking the webpages of Moller and PP Mobler, and realized that they propose the same furniture that made these companies famous, but not using teak anymore. I see teak well present in garden furniture these days, so I am not convinced the wood is so rare to justify a complete abandon.


Could it be that the color of teak is not in fashion anymore? And a lighter colored wood, such as oak, is more attractive to modern customers?


Thank you for your opinion on this,

Ernest.


Comments

- 17 Jan 2018

I think there are a number of factors in play here.

There is still strong demand for "certified" plantation-grown teak for applications where durability exposed to natural elements is required (outdoor furniture, marine products, etc.) and ever increasing prices reflect such. Cost to the manufacturer is certainly an issue. How much can you reasonably expect to sell a dining chair for without negatively affecting your market and/or profit?

Consumers have become much more aware of damage to the environment caused by overharvesting tropical hardwood species and the exploitation of local cultures involved. In some circles, buying these products is considered irresponsible and out of fashion.

Strangely enough, oiled white oak will eventually darken to a color quite similar to teak.

- 18 Jan 2018

Early Wegner designs for Johannes Hansen and Carl Hansen used European white oak more than other woods. PP Mobler is the cabinetmaking heir to the Wegner/JH lines.

Ergo, it is not accurate to say that PP Mobler became famous using teak.

- 18 Jan 2018

But Earnest is right. The only company I can think of that still uses teakwood in reproductions is onecollection.

- 18 Jan 2018

I just checked the Moller website (jlm.dk), and most of their mid century chair designs are still available in teak, amongst other woods.

So, I cannot agree that Earnest is right.

- 18 Jan 2018

Thank you all for your comments.

It's true that Moller still offers most of the chairs in teak, sorry for that. I think the only chairs offered in oak are the 56 and 75 model.

All the best
Ernest.

- 19 Jan 2018

Cdsilva: allright. But you cannot deny the point Earnest made here. Let’s look what we have: PP møbler: no teak. Fredericia: no teak. Carl Hansen: no teak. Fritz Hansen: no teak. Sibast: no teak. Kitani: no teak. Snedkergaarden: no teak. Getama: no teak. Brdr Pedersen: teak indeed. Onecolection: teak. Møller: teak. String: no teak. Miyazaki: no teak. But most of them use walnut, even more use oak. I think that is what this discussion is all about.

- 19 Jan 2018

Just scratching the surface of teak furniture market reports available on the web suggests that cost and availability of quality lumber is a major factor. It seems that growing demand from China has contributed to consistent annual wholesale price increases.

Money, it seems, does indeed grow on trees.

- 19 Jan 2018

HB, I was not trying to be cute or snarky but was responding to Earnest's original email query about Moller and PP Mobler specifically. At the same time, I was also making a point that Danish Modern did not arise around the use of teak. Oak and birch were commonly used by the cabinetmakers in the 20's and 30's, with mahogany as the premium exotic upgrade option.

It wasn't until Denmark entered into a trade agreement with Thailand for importing teak at favorable pricing and Charles France developed a process for cutting teak efficiently that use of teak in Danish Modern took off in the 1950's. After a few decades, teak became perceived as less exotic and more a common material due to its widespread use, and it died down in the 70's. Indeed there are a lot of boring cheap designs from the 70's and 80's made with teak, including more expensive solid plank tables instead of veneer.

Throughout the years, birch was replaced with beech as the low-end option, and oak has remained as a solid middle option.

In addition to cost, nowadays new teak has an association for being unsustainable and bad for the rain forests (whether that is currently true or not probably depends on where it is being sourced). From an architectural perspective, we now specify Ipe (Brazilian Walnut) for many decking and finish items that was previously done in teak. Ipe trees are grown and harvested in a very responsible manner these days. However, I don't think it is used widely in the furniture market yet.

To summarize, the specific use of teak in Danish Modern was a timely concurrence of events during the middle of the 20th century. The modern design mindset is not to stick with historical precedent blindly, but to adapt as required to the current needs of society. The changing of woods due to 1) sustainable concerns, 2) cost, 3) design trends, and 4) market availability, are all natural parts of the evolution of Danish Modern design.

- 19 Jan 2018

While this has been posted before on DA, this video on production of oak Round chairs might just increase your appreciation for its use in Danish Modern.

https://vimeo.com/21091939

- 19 Jan 2018

Thanks a lot, man. That’s the kind of answer I was hoping to get from an architect. Yes, it is of course undesputed that In the times of Kaare Klint, Frits Henningsen or Jacob Kjaer there was practically no teak in Danish furniture. So from a historical point of view the teak period can be seen as an interlude that eventually has been overcome. But not too many people know that. Most poeple, when their hear about Danish Modern, think of teak. And since the resurrection of Danish Modern some 20 years ago there has been an ever growing market and an ever growing demand for teak furniture. I would only expect more companies to try to meet this demand and to produce teak reissues of their old teak furniture in order to increase the sales.

- 20 Jan 2018

I know it's a slight aside but I do find it odd that none of the listed contemporary companies offer an exotic and high end timber option for these things. I guess if you wanted something built in for example: Macassar Ebony or Purple Heart, you'd have to arrange a bespoke production.

- 20 Jan 2018

Wegner and Mogensen’s furniture stayed in production longer and they were always fond of oak.

Finn Juhl was a driving force behind teak and his furniture fell out of favor much earlier and was almost entirely out of production by the 1970s. Teak was popular for a time in the USA export market and when that died teak use died with it for the most part.

The lineages of Danish Modern that survived, probably because they were better sellers in the domestic market, were more fond of a traditionally Danish wood like oak. These were a Wegner and Mogensen. Even in the height of the teak boom many Wegner and Mogensen pieces were only oak or teak and oak.

- 20 Jan 2018

I am glad this discussion is bringing up some very interesting concepts.

cdsilva: thank you for the video too; I watched it yesterday evening with my wife. Good to know how the new pieces are made; it would be great to have another video showing how everything was done back then...

Cheers
Ernest

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