Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about the outdoor show, but in the final analysis, what’s it gonna be? Teak or Synthetic Woven furniture for you? Let’s explore this for a moment.

Photo above: The many faces of Teak, in stages from new, to gray, to new again.

Teak can have great style, and it has a real sense of permanence. It’s also a pain to keep up.
Do you sand it, oil it, etc…just to keep that “showroom new” look?

I say no. I think it looks best when you allow it to “weather” naturally. Notice I say “weather” not ruin it in the weather.

Photo Left: newly oiled and finished teak.

If teak furniture is left out in full sun and weather, it will deteriorate. The wood will swell and then dry out, which will cause the joints to get loose.

The silvery gray color will come with the drying out process as well as a splinter or two! It doesn’t matter what anyone says, if you leave it uncovered and fully exposed, the teak wood itself will last, but the construction of the furniture will suffer.

Teak is generally more expensive than Synthetic woven, but don’t‘ be tempted by the myriad cheap teak dealer-Gypsy’s on the side of the road, who put up their portable signs up hoping to snag those Sunday passers- by! Theirs is junk with a capital “J”, and it is everywhere. How do you differentiate?

Ask a few questions: “What class of teak is this?”

You will undoubtedly be met with a puzzled look from the roadside Teak Gypsy. He may even try to answer it, but he will never get it right.

The answer? Simple: Class A.

What you might get as an answer: Best, or First Quality. Both wrong.

“How is the joinery done?” You will most certainly get a blank look from the Gypsy.

Answers range from doweled, glued, reinforced (with what? Steel), or a combination.

If the guy is selling it, he should be able to answer these most basic of questions.

My advice, if you do teak, keep it covered when not in use. It will still weather to a beautiful silvery-gray. You can lightly sand it at the beginning of each season, and the wood will maintain a necessary level of moisture to keep it from becoming dry and craggy.

Care of Teak: Google “teak care” or “teak oil” and be prepare your fingers to hunt and peck through a sea of alternatives and products. I cannot recommend one over the other (at least not until I sign an endorsement for a particular teak cleaning product!), but like most things, the older more recognizable names are usually the place to start.

Now for Synthetic Woven outdoor furniture: This is easy street, just wipe it down and go! Provided of course that the synthetic material is of the quality of Dedon’s Hularo (see my last column). Remember, Hularo has the color all the way through it, nick-it, and the mark will be the same color as the outside. But, even Hularo will fade slightly, but for ease of living, there is no better way to go. Styling and pricing varies widely, so there’s something for everyone.

A few things to note: The frame underneath the woven material is usually aluminum, and it should be powder-coated (painted with a rust repelling coating) to protect it from rusting and deteriorating.

Care of synthetic woven materials: Soap and water and a soft brush or a light power wash will take care more of most clean up. These synthetics are easy to live with and offer a great number of style and type of furnishing alternatives, and is light weight and easy to move about.

Remember, if the outdoor furniture dealer cannot answer the questions posed above, fully and without hesitation, move on!
Lastly, I want to elaborate on the city of Chicago. In an earlier article, I mentioned the weather, and we did have absolutely fabulous weather while there. Now remember, I live in Santa Barbara, CA., and I know what fab weather is, and this was FAB!

I also mentioned that I enjoyed this weather the most on the Architectural Preservation Society’s river boat tour. What I didn’t mention was that this was my third time to have taken the tour over the last four or five years, so the tour is that good.

Scores of high rise buildings by the worlds most famous architects line the banks of the emerald green waters of the Chicago River. Emerald green water you ask? You too thought that the river was highly polluted, and that it flows upstream instead of downstream?

All of the above is correct, except its just that this portion of the river is close enough to the great Lake Michigan that its waters are green from the rich iron ore deposits that lie at the bottom of the lake.

The rivers green color is a site to behold!
Photo Left: Natural green water from iron ore.
Photo Right: Un-natural green water from dyeing the river for the 2005 St. Patty’s day celebration

But there is blight on the river bank. It’s a new building that was just coming out of the ground…
Now, it was a sign on a new high-rise condo building, with a huge over sized banner strung across its hollow elevator shafts that reached for the sky. The pre-sale banner proclaimed in garish red letters: Trump Tower.
I was just sick about it myself. An image I’d seen before of Mr. Trump quickly came to mind, an image of him dressed in a white tennis sweater, trimmed in navy and red, smiling broadly, from the confines of an over-framed portrait of himself.
The portrait hangs in the bar (the former Library) of the venerable Mar A Lago, once home to the late Marjorie Meriweather Post, now owned by Trump.
Oh, poor Marjorie! She must be twisting (her sapphire necklace) in her grave!

He’s turned the whole dang place into a “private” club (meaning no matter how nouveau your money, if you’ve got it, you can belong).

The Master Suite that Post once shared with her then new husband, E.F. Hutton, is now the private quarters of Trump and his wife d’jour.

So what’s he got in store for the lucky citizens of Chicago? Well, first of all the building is planned to be the second tallest building in Chicago upon its completion! Oh yeah, it’ll be nice and tall and flashy for all to see! And, there’s more!

Could there be more? How could there?
Yep, there’s more! Our tour Docent said that it was rumored that Oprah has bought the top floor Penthouse (the entire floor) of the building for her new Chicago digs! Selling price: A cool $38 mil.
A lot of dough, but not the first time the native Mississippian has spent a giant sum for a home. Her Montecito home cost a whopping $46 mil, and she immediately gutted the homes newly completed interiors and re-landscape it to the standards of the Queen’s Sandringham estate outside of London. Queen Elizabeth silly, not Queen Oprah!
Now, Oprah girl, you’ve come a long way baby, so keep it that way, and prove that the old Docent woman was wrong. Say that this is just yet another malicious rumor about someone who is rich and famous!
I don’t know! Trump’s name first came across my radar when he purchased Mar A Lago in Palm Beach. I remember then, thinking as I envisioned the swells from Worth Avenue drowning their sorrows in Palm Beach Punch at the Everglades Club, on hearing the news of Trumps trophy purchase.
Now, where were we? Ah, yes, the final report from the Chicago Casual Furniture Show in Chicago.
All in all it was a great show. In summary, outdoor fabrics continued to improve in both the quality of the textures offered and the pliability and softness factor which is light years ahead of the humble beginnings of Sunbrella fabrics when it was hot, hard, and non breathable, and could cause the skin to peel off of your legs if you sat on it for more than five minutes.
The variety of finishes available on both outdoor wood and natural and synthetic woven furnishings has increased dramatically, including a new outdoor paint that would in fact allow you to paint Grandma’s prized wicker furniture and leave out in the elements 24/7.
Now family squabbles that used to ensue at the settlement of Grandma’s estate over who gets her old porch furniture, have given way to who gets the porch!
Next, join me for highlights of this years Americas Mart/Atlanta 2008 Winter Gift and Home Furnishings Show.
Good Night Moon.

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