4 July 2012
There’s something special, a kind of ethical kudos, in owning genuine wooden outdoor furniture. Something plastics and other manufactured materials fail to deliver. Not only does it look good, but also ‘good’ wood has an ageless structural integrity, lending a sense of warmth, relaxation and dignity to an outdoor setting. Appropriately it enhances what you’re there to do in the first place, chill out.
Visiting Jati’s Melbourne Showroom (They specialise in premium outdoor settings), a very large, typically Aussie Shack, I get an immediate, first hand sense of woods ‘special’ qualities. Almost instantly the atmosphere feels relaxed. The smell of teak wafts through the voluminous interior. The carefully hand crafted pieces are all individual and very, very solid. There is nothing flimsy about their construction, as you might observe in cheaper outdoor outlets. There is an innate, reassuring sense that this furniture is built to last. Speaking to the owner, Zaid Afiff, a very chilled and philosophical soul, my initial instincts are wholly endorsed. This man and his wood are ‘good’. Zaid is passionate about his product, designs and their origins.
First up, and to allay the fears of all tree-hugging individuals, who may think otherwise, it’s actually not a sin to own wood. If it is good wood, it’s actually all good.
Let me define ‘good’ wood.
According to the website of ‘Make it Wood. Do your world some good’ (makeitwood.org) and Planet Ark, wood has a lower carbon footprint than steel, concrete and plastics. The logic goes like this: growing trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, emit oxygen and store carbon. The carbon remains locked in the wood for the life of the piece of timber until it rots, decays or is burnt. By planting trees and using wood rather than other materials, we’re investing in a long-term way to sink and store carbon.
Architect and Grand Designs Australia presenter, Peter Maddison, endorses the message in a commercial for the organisation. In it he argues, ''Man-made materials such as bricks, mortar, concrete, glass, steel, plastics, take a lot of energy to make. Timber takes less,'' Wood stores carbon even after it is harvested. In fact, it’s potentially one of the most environmentally friendly materials we can use outdoors or in. It's a natural material that can be sustainably grown, it takes less energy than other hard materials to turn into products such as wooden furniture, and it absorbs harmful carbon dioxide as it grows.
Naturally, they’re not suggesting wood should be irresponsibly cut down from just any forest. That, of course, would be madness. What the site is referring to is responsibly sourced, certified wood. Zaid points out that the wood used for Jati furniture goes even further, ‘The teak does not come from certified forests, better, we use only premium teak from government-controlled, newly grown plantations from the island of Java, Indonesia, so no ancient trees are torn down. The teak is then tracked through all processing to ensure it is sustainably managed at every stage of manufacture. I can safely and confidently tell you, our teak is equal to and as environmentally monitored as the very best in the world.’
The other hallmark of premium teak is its ability to last. Teak is a dense wood and is extremely stable and resistant to decay, even when exposed to extreme weather conditions. Also, it is not necessary to treat quality teak. Zaid explains, ‘left untreated, it will weather to a silver grey colour over time, just like me! Even after many years, naturally weathered premium grade teak remains in excellent condition, like me too’, he chuckles, pushing the point, like only Zaid could.
Basically, the process of weathering is brought about by the action of the sun breaking down tannins in the wood, which hold the colour, and then the bleaching out of these colours by the rain. Unlike some other timbers, teak will not stain your decking or tiles during this process. It will take about twelve months to attain a beautiful silver grey weathered appearance.
Of course, you can easily maintain and rejuvenate teak at anytime, if you prefer a younger, newer looking wood, and Zaid has all the secrets and wisdom to help you. He even offers free maintenance advice to his regular customers.
Zaid started Jati in 1984 in the garage of a home in Canterbury as the "spare time" venture of a schoolteacher. The business, specializing in teak outdoor furniture, developed experientially over the next few years and soon moved to a small storage space in the back streets of Richmond. Always, Zaid keeps a watchful patient eye on the process, making the important design decisions, wood selection and final quality checks. From these early beginnings his hobby grew steadily until in 1994 it became a full time job selling direct to the public from a warehouse in Stephenson Street, Richmond. In 1995 a showroom was opened in Sydney where a discerning public quickly embraced the brand.
In 2001 Jati moved its Melbourne premises into a much larger showroom at 442 Swan Street Richmond and an Indoor Furniture range was introduced. Due to redevelopment of the site in 2007, Jati Melbourne moved from 442 Swan Street to its current location at 309 Swan Street Richmond.
I leave Jati’s showroom with this assurance, ‘we continually endeavor to source and sell the best quality available, maintaining comfort and aesthetic appeal while keeping up with the latest trends. My product is an investment and that’s why sometimes you might pay a premium, but I know it will last, long after the recession is over. Today, thousands of my proud customers still enjoy their furniture they bought years ago, all over Australia.’
He shows me a twenty year old, weathered piece at the door to the ample car park; it sits alongside a similar piece made just last year. There’s little difference other than the weathered silver look of the older and somewhat wiser piece. Indeed, you may well recognise Jati furniture in many commercial and resort locations. They also sell Australia wide through their comprehensive website and email order service.
The teak is also backed by a generous five-year warranty, further reassurance of the quality of these pieces.
Written by Derek Craig