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This Side of Paradise: Your Guide to Balinese Furniture

Indonesia has one of the largest furniture industries in the world, creating up to 8 million jobs in the country. Here’s what makes Balinese furniture in such high demand. 

What makes Balinese furniture unique and highly sought? 

Villa, Property, Bedroom, House, Architecture

Balinese furniture is desirable primarily because of the quality of the wood use in furniture-making. Teak and mahogany – both sturdy and durable evergreen hardwoods – are the leading choices. 

Other types of wood commonly used in Balinese furniture include:

  • Tamarind
  • Rosewood
  • Suar

The secret to the superior quality of traditional Balinese furniture lies in the lush tropical forests of Indonesia, which cover about 60% of the country. Furniture makers have access to a variety of hardwoods and wooden products like pulp, panels, and rattan.

Indonesian artisans also make use of reclaimed wood, usually taken from old boats or huts, to create new furniture. Reclaimed wood, which is termite resistant and full of character, brings another level of authenticity and substance to furniture. Age and exposure to the elements give reclaimed wood a weathered texture and rich patina that simply can’t be duplicated. It combines quality and sustainability to create a unique piece of furniture. 

Both high-end and low-end furniture go through the same initial processes in furniture-making. Lumberjacks take logs from felled trees, which are then taken to the local saw mill to be cut into the appropriate-sized planks. The size of the planks varies depending on the age and diameter of the tree. Wider or bigger planks are typically more expensive because they’re sourced from older trees. 

Further best quality teak, which comes from the heart of the tree, is used for upscale furniture while the rest are used to make low-end furniture.

The cut planks are dried inside an industrial oven (also known as kiln drying) to remove excess moisture before they can be used for furniture-making. Kiln drying reduces the moisture content to a level that is better suited for non-tropical climates (i.e. Western markets) to prevent the furniture from shrinking or warping.

Some artisans prefer to kiln dry wood planks before proceeding with furniture-making while others will kiln dry furniture pieces after they’ve been finished. If the furniture-making process entails extensive wooden carving, artisans will typically kiln dry the wood first. 

The drying process is different for low-end furniture: the wooden planks are simply left to dry in the sun instead of gas or electric kiln ovens, which can be expensive to buy and maintain. Leaving the planks under the sun helps reduce manufacturing costs and the furniture can be sold at much lower prices. 

Once completed, each piece will go through quality control, especially the ones meant for export, since the smallest defect will cause the furniture to be rejected by importers or buyers. Further pieces with issues and defects will need to be heavily discounted, potentially resulting in losses.

Indonesia also has a thriving synthetic and/or composite wood industry, so mass-manufactured particle and fiberboard furniture is also available to meet commercial demand. 

What defines Balinese furniture design? 

Bedroom, Decor, Bed, Furniture, Home, Room, Interior

Indonesian furniture designs are reflective of its traditional cultures as well as the influence of foreign traders and the demands and requirements of international markets, which help promote creativity and encourage the use of materials from licensed and certified sustainable resources. 

The majority of Indonesian furniture you’ll find in today’s local and international markets are antique reproduction. Balinese furniture falls under this category, along with a range of styles, including:

  • Classic
  • Colonial
  • French reproduction
  • Palace and Antique
  • Reclaimed teak

It’s also possible to find contemporary-style furniture with traditional Indonesian design elements depending on where you look. 

Modern showrooms usually classify different furniture styles into categories like indoor and outdoor furniture. Pieces can also be categorised by room (e.g. living room, dining room) mixed with other styles and designs without necessarily having to be identified as Balinese, Colonial, and so on. 

The secret behind those intricate wooden carvings

The intricate wood carving for which Indonesian furniture is known also makes these pieces highly sought among collectors from all over the world. Carving styles generally fall under two classifications:

  • Javanese 
  • Balinese (e.g. Javanese-style furniture with Balinese design elements)

Before the 20th century, finely carved wood panels and statuettes were reserved for rituals and religious ceremonies. Today, Balinese wood carvings serve many different purposes, including home decoration. 

As an art form, Indonesian wood carving dates back to the 12th century, exhibiting heavy Buddhist and Hindu influences. 

Wood carving became commercialised in1930s when it was brought to Europe by Dutch traders and generated demand for Indonesian products. 

How to decorate your space with Balinese furniture

From bohemian to contemporary, Balinese furniture goes well with a variety of interior designs:

  • Dining room – Well-crafted Balinese dining tables, chairs, and sideboards make wonderful additions to the dining room, breakfast nook, and kitchen. 
  • Living area – Balinese coffee tables and footstools can make your living area look cozy and stylish at the same time. 
  • Bedroom – Balinese-style nightstands, chairs, and headboards can add rustic charm to the bedroom.

Franklin Hobart offers a selection of boho-style furniture for homes, offices, and cafes and restaurants. Browse our online store today for homewares

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