It's hard to think of Mid-Century furniture without bringing up one of its key elements- Danish Teak. But how did a tropical tree become associated with a cold, dark Scandinavian country and its sleek furniture designs? And how did it get to be so popular in the US? Here's some history roughly pieced together from around the web.
There are rumors (We couldn't properly fact check this, so take it with a grain of salt but it does fit the timeline) that Danish King Christian X was in cahoots with the Royal Thai Family in the early 20th century. As part of that relationship, King Christian made a trade agreement that included importing the very tropical Teak wood to the very not tropical Denmark- there was suddenly a large supply which made it a cheap material. Danish Modern design was also beginning to take off during this time period because of industrialization and the Bauhaus school where many Danish designers studied and created together. These factors collided and thus Danish Teak became a staple of design. And despite its initial use because of its economical price/ease of acquirement, teak wood quickly became appreciated because of its functionality, durability, and color.
Then the European post World War II boom happened. There was a sudden need for fast housing and furniture. The teak pieces that had been hand-made in Denmark for years pre-war were easily adaptable to machine manufacturing which meant that they were perfect for the need of the time. Danish teak became the flavor of the moment throughout Europe (again, somewhat because of necessity). But! There were still many Americans still stationed in Europe post-war as things were being rebuilt. But when they left, the trend followed these service members as they returned to America, with fond memories of those warm-toned furnishings of Denmark. So Americans ordered Danish Modern pieces from catalogues to furnish their mid-century homes all over the country and into Canada. From dining tables to bedroom furniture to smaller items like dishes and trays, teak saturated the North American market through the 1960s.
So much so that old growth teak trees were almost completely wiped out from demand. This was an unfortunate side effect of the teak trend, but it also means the appearance of mid-century teak furniture is different than that of contemporary teak pieces which are made from new growth- the older pieces are generally more dense and have a more distinct wood grain it which makes them even more desirable now.
So there you have it- Danish teak in a nutshell (pun intended).
Mid Mod Collective offers Knoxville a premier mid-century modern shopping experience. We are a collective of dealers who share a passion for the amazing designs of the era.