In these uncertain times it's reassuring to know that Barlow Tyrie have been designing and manufacturing top quality teak furniture for nearly a century, and they have announced several new ranges to coincide with their one hundredth birthday.
Robert Hall takes an in-depth look at the new Titan Range from Barlow Tyrie in his latest guide to choosing and buying garden furniture…
First impressions count but sometimes they don’t add up. That’s when you can get it wrong, and I have to admit when I first saw the Barlow Tyrie Titan Rustic furniture range I wasn’t overly impressed. It looked overblown, as if on steroids, and seemed to lack finesse and style.
Maybe I can be excused as I am a city boy at heart and this range of furniture is all about a more simple and practical way of life that is closer to nature.
Think French farmhouses from 100 years ago with a much more agricultural slant. The Titan chairs, tables and benches are from Barlow Tyrie’s Rustic range and the clue is right there in the adjective - rustic!
But it’s not quite that simple as this furniture is actually very high tech when you get down to the manufacturing and design elements, which are initially very understated, but if you look hard enough all the evidence is there to see.
The Titan range is a fusion of old and new that delivers all the strength and durability that you need with state of the art sustainable manufacturing methods. And yes, I didn’t get that with my first impression so let’s have a closer look.
Teak is a very expensive hardwood that is noted for its durability, particularly around water and sun which is why it is so often used on the decks of ocean going yachts. And because of its very fine grain it can be crafted and formed with great detail unlike our native oak hardwood that has a more coarse and open grain. Teak benches that stood the test of time were the core products in the life of the family owned Barlow Tyrie company and they still play an integral role today.
Teak trees (Tectona grandis) can take up to 100 years to reach maturity and be harvested so it was with great foresight that Barlow Tyrie started a replanting scheme nearly a century ago in the Indonesian teak plantations that still produce their teak today. It is a very precious commodity and, to protect against illegal logging, Barlow Tyrie are EU FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) licensed which means that all the teak they use is from a sustainable source and has been tracked through the supply chain.
Demand has always been for the soft coloured even teak but this resource isn’t manufactured and you will always find much darker, ebony coloured grain mixed in as providing a stark contrast. Some of this teak can even appear as black and it was often excluded from those early benches.
Cutting any type of wood to shape is always going to produce a degree of waste that is uneconomical to reuse with the exception of maybe creating samples and it was no different with teak until it was decided to try a process that would combine the even coloured wood with some black wood, blemished wood with its grain, swirls and knots and some reuseable wood in the Titan range. This really does create a barn wood feel. At this stage I must point out that all this teak is still certified as Grade A teak.
The most economical and least wasteful route was to cut this wood into elongated brick-shaped blocks and fuse the laminates together before shaping. But the really clever part is stopping any lateral or vertical movement in the components.
To do this Barlow Tyrie have used a very fine ‘V’ shaped form of the old fashioned finger joint combined with what I can only call a wave joint.
This is certainly not something I learned in woodwork classes back in the late 1960’s. I have included some images which will give you a far better understanding than I have explained in mere words above.
A specialist outdoor glueing technique (glulam) has also been used in this process which is finished off with forming and sanding to the desired finished shape. The result is very impressive giving a really dense ‘chopping block’ solidity to the finished article. In truth, there is nothing ‘French’ or ‘farmhouse’ in the construction of the Titan range but that is the lasting impression you are left with. Run your hands over the back of the Barlow Tyrie Titan teak and aluminium armchair and it feels as if the wood has been rubbed and worn smooth by years of handling. It should also be noted that some cracks may appear in this teak over time but this only adds to the character and in no way detracts from its strength. To add practicality the Titan Armchairs also stack into one another to save space if you wish to store them. Seat cushions are also available for the armchairs and benches to add a splash of colour and comfort.
The introduction of the very solid aluminium elements in the chair only adds weight to the overall feeling of solidity without adding too much physical weight to the chair. They have chosen the name Titan for a reason.
The tables and benches in the Titan range are formed in the same style but because they are a lot more angular in design they lend themselves perfectly to this technique. The tables are all wood whilst the benches are available also in an all wood rustic teak effect or with black powder coated aluminium framing to match the Titan armchairs. Style and choice are not forgotten either.
The Barlow Tyrie Titan Serving Trolley completes the range and is just begging for a selection of French cheeses, quince jelly, grapes and home made bread to be spread out on the top surface with a selection of ports and dessert wines to chose from stored beneath.
That might be my imagination running away with me a little and I guess you would have your own ideas about how to fill this static room servant with delights from the kitchen. It has plenty of storage space including a handy drawer, shelving, preparation area and a place to keep your drinks cool during the Summer weather. However you dress it up or plan for use, it’s the perfect compliment to the enduring Titan range.
The Barlow Tyrie Titan Rustic range of furniture commands space and demands attention. It is very generous in its useable size and a heavyweight in every sense of the word. But this is no rough sawn timber hammered together to give the rustic feel but a sophisticated range that is very modern in design allied to a strong conservation and recycling strategy. It is remarkably comfortable to lounge in and extremely tactile to the touch.
Designed as garden furniture it may be but I suspect very many will put the Titan tables and chairs to use in a kitchen or conservatory. It really is that good and that adaptable. This is love at second sight for me!
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