Teak is an eco-friendly design choice by default due to its weather withstanding durability, making it a timeless investment. Indy caught up with Mal Haddad, vice president of Westminster Teak, who oversees all new product development and design for Westminster. Products in its outdoor furniture line sit in our own backyard, or shall we say, Gurney’s Resorts backyard, to the far stretches of the globe, with new furniture designs coming out as early as fall of 2020.
How did you get into the business?
I joined Westminster Teak about 12 years ago when our paths, the owner of the company and I, crossed while I was running my own teak furniture gallery. Sharing the same vision and work ethic, it made sense to make the switch after we got to know each other a little better.
Though I come from both an engineering and business background, I’ve always been passionate about design, and having the factory as the backbone of the company brought me even closer to my motivations in bringing good design within reach of more people.
How did Westminster connect with Gurney’s Resorts?
We’ve provided them with some of their outdoor and spa/poolside furniture in the past and still do. I believe the owner and CEO of Westminster Teak, Jim TenBroeck visited and had the opportunity to meet with the area manager at Gurneys. We make it a point to ensure that our customers’ needs are met, not only at the point of sale, but to continue serving them in any after-sales services they may need.
Providing a quality and long-lasting product does come with the responsibility of establishing relationships that are just as long lasting. It’s all about building relationships.
Are there any other notable clients?
Many of our clients are designers and architects, such as Brady Design, Zoe Feldman, and the like, who’ve used our furniture in many of their beautiful projects, both commercial and residential. We’ve also worked directly with clients in the area such as Manhassett Bay Yacht Club, Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, and Equinox.
What countries are in your distribution network?
Though our main market is the continental USA, our products have been installed in some of the most prestigious resorts, hotels, and residences in Hawaii, the Caribbean Islands, and as far as Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Australia.
How does teak, as a material, compare to other furniture types?
Product knowledge is key in understanding the investment value proposition a beautifully crafted piece of teak furniture brings. Unlike many other hardwoods in its category, teak is a durable hardwood with dense grain and high natural oil content, qualities that afford it little or no care. It’s the material of choice for its sheer beauty and dependability.
Its high oil and silica content make it highly resistant to rotting, warping or splitting, allowing it to withstand the extremities of weather including sun, rain, and snow. For these unique properties in its strength and stability, teak has been for centuries, and still is, the enduring material used in ship building, and of course furniture making.
The high natural oil content also means it has a comparatively very low coefficient of thermal expansion, i.e. it does not expand or contract, warp, split, or crack, in humid environments, in contact with water, or even when submerged (in water) over extended periods of time.
What’s the maintenance on teak?
Because of its high resistance to the extremities of weather, teak truly needs very little care. Untreated, natural teak will weather to a handsome soft-silvery patina within a year or so, depending on the amount of sun and weathering it is being exposed to. This will not in any way compromise the structural integrity of your furniture as the change of pigment is only on the surface. The rate of weathering is dependent on the climate and extremities of the weather in your area.
You have so many different collections on your website. What ties them together?
Timeless design and our unrelenting commitment to quality has been the hallmark in our furniture collections. By default, timeless design is good design. And, it can only come from being passionate with every detail of the craft, from concept to completion.
Since teak is a material that lasts a very long time, the furniture design should project a sense of permanence. It should resonate the idea of form and function, and how we live with the furniture, cherished over generations. Good design should be as relevant now as it was 50 years ago, and 50 years from now, long after trends are forgotten.
Tell us about your eco-friendly practices.
Plantation teak is the essential raw material, so we are, by default, a green company. Today, we are both SVLK and Forest Stewardship Council certified, ensuring transparency and traceability of the origins of the wood used in our furniture. As a company that supports the global green movement, we believe it is not only critical as a manufacturer to be environmentally responsible by using teak from sustainably harvested plantations but also to be socially responsible toward both the indigenous people working in the plantations as well as the skilled artisans and employees working in our factories.
All the teak used in the manufacture of furniture are from sustainably harvested, credibly certified plantations under the strict management of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. Our factory was the first to join Nusa Hijau, the Indonesian Chapter of the Global Forest Trade Network, an initiative of the World Wildlife Fund. It was created to eliminate illegal logging, improve the management of threatened forests, and promote biodiversity and the livelihoods of the people that depend on them.
Has the COVID-19 economy affected business?
Broadly speaking, there has been little change from the viewpoint of our customers. Thankfully, Westminster has been able to keep all our employees during these troubling times. Both our warehouses and customer service reps are fully operational. The pandemic has compelled us to make some adjustments in certain aspects of our business in our warehouse operations, primarily in our shipping and furniture finishing departments in following recommendations from our healthcare authorities. We have taken every step to ensure the safety of both our staff and customers.
We are very fortunate that it has not affected us in the way it did many other businesses. Though we have our showrooms and places where our furniture can be seen, we’ve always been primarily an online business. Sales suffered in the early part of the pandemic when it first came to public knowledge. However, when the shelter-in-place order was mandated, it started to sink in in the minds of people that they’re going to be stuck at home quite a lot longer than they’d originally thought. Travel plans are canceled and reimagining the outdoors at home became a reality.
Describe your ideal summer afternoon in social isolation, relaxing on one of your pieces.
Laying in the Horizon Chaise Lounger with a good book and a tall cool drink, if I was by myself. That would be ideal. But with kids around, it would have to be the Maya configured with the Maya Chaise so I can stretch out and hang with the family.
See Westminster’s full product line at www.westminsterteak.com.