Month: July 2015

Three Reasons to NOT Buy Teak Furniture

From time to time, Dapwood receives requests to build Teak (Tectona grandis) furniture. While Dapwood is always open to customer requests (because after all we proudly promote the fact that unlike most competitive brands, we craft furniture to customer’s individual specifications) we do not believe teak furniture to be an eco friendly, or quite frankly, a morally acceptable hardwood. Let us explain.

1. Teak is a tropical hardwood which comes from Southeast Asia. One third of the world’s supply coming from Burma (officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar), with the balance of teak production coming from Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia. As an imported product, U.S. regulations require teak (as well as mahogany and other tropical hard woods) to be heavily fumigated to kill various worm and insect larvae commonly found in wood products coming into America. Research has shown that toxic pesticides used in the fumigation process are effective in as much as they penetrate into the wood and kill any infestation. Unfortunately, these toxic chemicals do not magically go away. Of particular concern is the fact that most humans spend one third of our life in bed- a time in which the human body is particularly susceptible to absorption of chemicals in the environment.

For this reason alone we do not believe teak furniture and other imported wood products are suitable for bed frames, nightstands and other bedroom furniture. But the issue is more compelling than this alone.

2. Teak grown in Southeast Asia is subject to the most environmentally irresponsible harvesting practices on our planet. Due to over cutting, teak is now classified as near endangered. This over exploitation has resulted in deforestation which in turn has caused massive floods in the region causing hundreds of deaths in recent years. Damage to the environment is incalculable. Is the want for a piece of teak furniture worth the environmental damage?

3. Perhaps most worrisome, teak from Myanmar and teak furniture from Thailand are associated with some of the worst human rights violations in the world. Burma has long been considered a pariah state, isolated from the rest of the world, using teak as a source of foreign exchange as a primary means of supporting one of the most brutal military regimes in power. The U.S. and other nations canceled foreign aid due to the 1988 massacre where it was estimated over 3000 pro-democracy protesters were killed. Furthermore, pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007 resulted in hundreds more killings.

In 2010 Burma held its first general election in twenty years. There is cautious optimism since the election that Mayanmar is slowly transitioning from military to civilian democracy. The U.S. and other countries have only recently started up diplomatic relations with Mayanmar but limit help to strictly humanitarian aid. With the Peoples Republic of China being Mayanmar’s primary ally, only time will tell if Mayanmar will gradually emerging from isolation and its brutal past.

When everything is taken into consideration, we at Dapwood believe that it is not only irresponsible to import teak furniture but equally dangerous to live with this wood. Teak is in stark contrast to Dapwood’s goal, as well as other Certified B-Corporations, of contributing toward a better world.

We would love everyone to choose our products but if you don’t, please ask makers where their wood comes from and if it at least has an FSC listing. Or better yet, choose furniture and other products made from sustainably harvested, American hardwoods.

Modern Furniture to Contemporary Furniture

We are often asked how to describe our hand crafted furniture. While the obvious answer is that we make Dapwood furniture, that does not really help others understand our style or our drive to make the best American made eco friendly furniture. Unfortunately, like most things there is no simple answer so we often are left to use terms like:

Modern Furniture
Contemporary Furniture
Amish Furniture
Arts and Crafts Furniture
Craftsman Furniture
Prairie Style Furniture
Stickley Furniture
Scandinavian Furniture
Danish Furniture
Urban Furniture
Reclaimed Furniture

So we thought we would do some research and try and answer this question for others as well as ourselves. We will start with Modern Furniture with a dusting of Contemporary Furniture and move on to the others in time.

We must note that as with all things labeled, there are always exceptions or disagreements with how to categorize “things”. We will do our best to give an overview and include individuals that are typically considered to be a part of the movement.

Modern Furniture

Modern Furniture grew out of the Modernism movement with popularity gaining in the early 20th Century. It was a response from architects and designers to the much more highly decorated styles such as Art Nouveau, Victorian and Neoclassical. Much of the Modernism movement aimed to distill down an object or building to its most basic components and cut out the rest. Designs were simplified, especially post World War II, when much of the war efforts’ assembly line manufacturing methods was applied to consumer goods. Furniture was no exception to this new business practice and products were made with increased efficiency and streamlined production. Products were marketed for the growing middle class and their expanding families in ever increasing numbers. Clean lines and simplicity and repeatability were major goals.

Notable influences:

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Walter Gropius
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (Le Corbusier)
Frank Lloyd Wright
Louis Sullivan
Charles and Ray Eames
George Nakashima
Bauhaus
Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene (Greene and Greene)

Postmodern Furniture

Postmodernism started to gain popularity in the mid 20th century and was a rejection of modernism ideals that all things had one ideal form for a particular place. Postmodern furniture is more playful and colorful allowing personality and individuality to blossom- instead of adherence to the system. Building are often criticized for having functionless forms which waste space.

Notable influences:

Frank Gehry
Antoine Predock

Neomodern

Neomodern architecture and design is a rejection of Postmodern complexity and look back to the Modernism movement of simplicity and functionalism. Monolithic skyscrapers built today are good examples of this idea.

Notable influences:

Renzo Piano

Neo-Futurism

Partnering cutting edge technology with new materials to create forms and function that was not previously possible. Eco sustainability ideals run deep.

Notable influences:

Buckminster Fuller
Eero Saarinen
Santiago Calatrava

Contemporary Furniture

Contemporary history refers to people, places and things captured in living memory. For some it may mean the postwar years to today. For others it may be the release of iPads through present day. Thus from a furniture design standpoint, we can think of it encompassing all styles of the 20th and 21st century. It isn’t a particular style but a period of time.

Summary

In our quest to define ourselves, we found out that we really do have our own style that draws on many different periods. We revel the simplicity of a bed frame with no headboard as well as the organic beauty of a gnarly wood slab mounted to adjustable techie legs for use as a treadmill desk. Since we can’t be all things to all people, we will continue to work hard to offer the best eco friendly furniture with style(s).

What is a Platform Bed

A platform bed is a bed frame that does NOT need the use of a traditional boxspring with a mattress on top. The mattress can lie directly on the supporting structure which is most often made of slats or for some manufacturers- plywood sheets.

Example of a platform bed frame with slat set that supports the mattress. Shown with premium solid poplar hardwood.
Example of a platform bed frame with slat set that supports the mattress. Shown with premium solid poplar hardwood.

Better quality platform beds have regularly spaced slats that support the mattress but also allow air to circulate into the mattress and keep it dry and comfortable. The spacing between slats can vary depending on strength of slat material and is more of a requirement of the mattress manufacturer. From experience we have found that most mattress makers want 3″ between slats with the slats being approximately 2-1/2″ wide. Other mattresses prefer to have tighter 1-1/2″ spacing or 1/4″ spacing.

Examples of premium poplar slats (top) and pine slats (bottom)
Examples of premium poplar slats (top) and pine slats (bottom)

 

People who might have a bospring and wish to continue using it, can still use a platform bed frame. However, it should be noted that most platforms are typically around 12″ high. If a boxspring and mattress are placed on top of that, the finished bed height may be 30+” tall which could be too high for some people. Additionally, having a boxspring and mattress can cover up a large portion of the headboard because of the extra thickness. Luckily, Dapwood Furniture’s bed frames can be crafted to accommodate the extra thickness caused by the boxspring and additionally, the platform height can be lowered to make the bed easier for people to get in and out of.

Platform beds can also be used with traditional Japanese futon mattresses which are usually made of cotton, wool or more recently- synthetics. Futons and platform beds are NOT to be confused with Japanese style Tatami mats which are typically arranged on the entire floor of a room and provide some cushion.