Bernice's furniture has had a hard year. Half of her dining room chairs collapsed. "I think it's because of my hubby's beer belly," she jested. A few months later, the dining room table lost a chunk, a casualty of her two-year-old's wooden sword wielding. Then that same busy child carved a personal etching into her bed and the matching hope chest sitting nearby. "We are in serious need of some new furniture," she moaned to me, "preferably indestructible." Bernice was doing her complaining from a 15-year-old teak deck chair that still looks great and is as solid as the day I bought it despite heavy use. "Maybe I could find someone who sells great teak indoor furniture," I offered.
I found just such a place at Homeliving Furniture (858-586-2184) on Miramar Road. "The teak wood that we bring in is from Indonesia," said owner Peter Bragg. "Teak is a hard wood; it has high density and a high resistance to moisture. By nature, the A-grade teak, the highest quality teak, is an oily wood. Which also means that here in California the termites hate it. Mahogany is a sweet wood so the termites love it. But teak is a bitter wood, not that I have bitten into any teak lately. And it is a precious wood; it will last a lifetime."
Usually, teak furniture comes from old-growth forests in the Asian tropics or from teak plantations. But Homeliving Furniture uses reclaimed teak. "Reclaimed teak means it has had a former life," Bragg continues. "It has been a Javanese building, or a bridge, or a door. Some of our wood can be up to 200 years old. Part of our philosophy here is to be environmentally friendly. So none of our wood is from freshly cut plantations. The beauty of reclaimed teak is that teak by nature is an oily wood. Sometimes, as it dries out, if it is not dried out correctly, it will crack. So an advantage of reclaimed teak is it has already aged. A lot of outdoor furniture out of Indonesia, the drying process is just leaning it up against a fence or a wall and letting the sun dry it out. All of our furniture, even though it is reclaimed, we still computer kiln dry to bring it to the right moisture content to minimize the risk of cracking in dry climates."
What about colors?
"The grayish color is an aged teak. When teak is freshly harvested, it's generally green, and then it will be kiln dried. What we do for indoor teak is we stain everything. There are six different colors from light right up to black. It's all custom stained. A customer comes in here and likes a piece of furniture, we have color references for them."
"All of our furniture which we have in our showroom we have designed. We buy direct from our factory in Indonesia. If someone comes into the store and they see a piece that they like but it's a little bit too big, or they have a specific requirement to change the dimensions, we will custom design it for them. From the time they sign off on the final design, it generally takes about 8 to 12 weeks.
"What we are finding is a lot of people, particularly in San Diego, have smaller living environments. There is a huge need for storage. So our furniture reflects the needs for the local San Diego community. Our beds [starting at $699 ] can accommodate storage underneath. We do hope chests [starting at $499 ]. A lot of customers want benches [starting at $399 ] for their kitchen tables [starting at $499 ] instead of chairs [starting at $99 ]. We make storage benches for them, which the top of the seat comes up for more storage. We also have a lot of customers coming in who want to design their own entertainment system cabinets.
"Some of the more interesting items we have done are the unusual hi-fi cabinets, the media centers. We do specific carvings on the doors for media cabinets. We've made teak banquet tables, 10-foot-long banquet tables out of 200-year-old Indonesian doors. We also have smaller tables, six feet long, which can be done in round, square, or rectangle. The dining tables have antique hand-carved inserts in them. We have the carvings taken out of an old gate or an Indonesian place of worship. And the highlight of them is the center of the table. An antique hand carving that has been hand-painted, it's...history. They are conversational pieces."
How would you describe the style of your furniture?
"It's a little exotic," Bragg answered, "it has very clean lines. We don't do heavy-looking furniture. Some teak furniture from Indonesia is heavy-looking, or it is very traditional. Our teak has very clean lines, it's very contemporary."
What about maintenance for the furniture?
"We recommend wax and polishing twice a year, depending on use. We do say to keep away from aerosol sprays because that tends to build up layers and after a while it can get sticky. And also it could take off the original beautiful finish."
Bragg recommended checking to make sure that the furniture you are buying is solid wood. "There is a lot of misconception in the furniture industry of what people are buying and solid woods and different types of woods. In some discount department stores, you may not really be buying 100 percent teak."