Meet the Maker: Old Java Furniture
Indonesian teak has an ancient history, having first been planted on the volcanic island of Java by the Dutch hundreds of years ago. Since then, Indonesians have used teak to build their homes and create the traditional, intricately detailed furniture that this fascinating nation in Southeast Asia is famous for.
Founded fifteen years ago by experienced furniture maker Teun Van Duppen and his brother Maarten, the Old Java range was born out of the brothers’ love for Indonesian teak and their realisation that it could create beautiful, high-quality furniture.
We spoke with Maarten about the inspiration behind the Old Java range, and why the pieces in this collection are truly unique.
What is the history behind the Old Java range, and how did this collection come about?
My brother and I have been producing furniture for over thirty years – much of that time spent living and working in Indonesia - using different styles and species of wood, and we’ve never come across anything as special as Indonesian teak.
As soon as we saw the quality and unique character of the timber used in old homes and buildings here on the island of Java, we fell in love with its weather-hardened qualities and its rich colour variations, and realised it was ideal for making beautiful furniture.
The tone and natural markings of this old wood mean that every piece really is unique. Teak famously doesn’t rot, and its natural strength means that it avoids any warping, cracking or bending. That gives each item a durability that can be hard to find elsewhere.
How would you describe the look of this range?
We take the rustic character of the wood and combine it with timeless design to create a look that’s both contemporary and classic. Because of the individual qualities of the teak we use, each piece has its own natural character that we incorporate into the design of each piece.
For example, a plank of our teak could be covered in scars and scratches from being in use for many years. That plank may have been sawn by hand a century ago and has been in the sun and rain ever since. We work with those unique marks, rather than sanding them down, because we believe that each piece of wood has its own character and its own story to tell.
That’s what makes the Old Java range look so different. You won’t find straight, smooth pieces in this collection. We’re all about character and working with – rather than against – this beautiful wood.
You can see the age and history of the wood in each piece of furniture, and rather than adding artificial finishes, you can see that the knots, marks and grain in our pieces are the real deal.
How important is sustainability when creating the Old Java range?
Sustainability is a major focus for us. We purposefully work with teak salvaged from demolished buildings here in Java because it simply means that less virgin timber is required.
Where we do need to use additional timber, for example when we use layers of pinewood in particular pieces, we primarily source this from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified pinewood plantations in New Zealand. These plantations are extremely well managed and the timber they produce meets some of the highest standards in the world.
We also see our responsibilities as a major local employer as a central part of our commitment to sustainability, job creation and the development of high-value skills. We current employ 520 people at our factory here in Java and are focused on continuing to provide jobs and good incomes to our local community.
For example, we train our workers to become proficient in complex furniture manufacturing skills, working with a range of high-tech machinery and producing pieces that meet the highest international standards. By doing so, we are creating skilled livelihoods for local people while also making the most of the incredible timber this region has to offer.
Discover our Old Java furniture range online, or why not join us in store to see the range for yourself?