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Teak root furniture in New Orleans 

Pieces with earthy, elegant appeal

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Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Someone in the market for a new piece of furniture usually considers the basic factors: the item's form and function. But nowadays, the customer may also wonder, "What will my Instagram followers think?"

  For a photogenic yet practical furnishing, consider teak root, which looks as though it has been plucked from the forest and placed in a living room.

  Teak trees, which can grow up to 150 feet tall and 10 feet wide, are native to Indonesia and some other countries in southeast Asia. Their wood is a popular choice for outdoor furniture, since it's durable and rot-resistant. But their roots also can be pulled from the ground and crafted into one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture.

  The roots' base forms smooth, sinuous lines that often are entangled with one another, making it difficult to discern where the object begins and ends. They are cut to create a flat surface and sometimes are covered with a thin slab of glass.

  Although many teak root pieces are sold in their most natural state, with a simple buffed surface, others are finished with a glossy topcoat in various shades of brown.

  Most of these items are crafted in countries that grow teak trees and are shipped to home decor shops around the world — including a few places in New Orleans.

  Scott McKearn, owner of Discoveries Furniture & Finds (2850 Magazine St., 504-267-2000; www.discoveriesla.com), says the store is carrying teak root furniture for the first time.

  "I've seen it overseas, but I've never pulled the trigger on it," he says. "But I'm seeing it become more and more popular, so I decided to go for it."

  His selection includes a wide console anchored by a group of gnarled teak roots, a coffee table with elaborate fish designs carved into its base, and two benches with a smooth, flat surface for sitting.

  "Customers are intrigued by it," McKearn says. He plans to import more teak root at some point, but explained that it's "obscenely heavy" and difficult to maneuver. For example, moving the console that stands in his showroom required the strength of six men.

  Karen Francioni, vice president of merchandising at Lou Rippner's Compass Furniture (5025 Bloomfield St., 504-733-4641; www.compassfurniture.com), says the store's teak root coffee table is so heavy the delivery men skipped the warehouse when it arrived and immediately placed it into the store's vast showroom.

  This formidable coffee table stands low to the ground and comes in a rich shade of brown with a subtle shine. It's covered with a large piece of circular glass that allows people to see the intricate web of roots below.

  Compass purchased the first teak root piece after spotting it in a showroom in Highpoint, North Carolina.

  "If we see something unusual, we'll buy it as a showstopper sort of thing," Francioni says. "It's different enough to attract somebody who wants something eclectic for their home".

  Michael Dop, owner of Dop Antiques (300 Jefferson Highway, 504-373-5132; www.dopantiques.com) once sold a teak root table to "a rock star" who stopped by the warehouse in search of an extraordinary piece of furniture. Dop says the teak root offerings in his shop range from $600 to $3,000.

  "It's not cheap, because it comes from far away and it weighs a lot," Dop says of teak root furniture. "The shipping is not easy."

  Dop also sells small teak root furniture items that are easier to manage, along with accent elements, like decorative bowls. But for some clients, a majestic console made of teak root is worth the effort and cost. They see it as a conversation piece that can mix with surrounding decor, whether minimalist or shabby chic.

  Dop has a teak root table in his house, a space he described as a modern dwelling furnished with older pieces. His table resembles an animal that's "ready to pounce," because of its sleek contours, resting on what almost looks like a set of paws.

  "It's not harsh, like metal or glass," Dop says. "It catches people's attention."

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