Indonesian Furniture Style through the Ages

Indonesia is currently playing a global role in international furniture industry. The data shows the significant development of this industry through high export rate. Since 2015, Indonesian furniture export rate has reached approximately US$ 2 billion. The demand mostly comes from Europe (especially Netherland, France, Germany, Eastern Europe), United States, Australia, and so on. Furthermore, Indonesia has joined International Furniture Manufacturing Components (IFMAC) and annually participate in its international exhibition. Surely, becoming IFMAC participant is necessary since this platform is eligibly approved by global giant furniture companies. As the world’s biggest furniture marketplace, IFMAC is a strategic media to push Indonesian furniture industry by global promotion, enhancing investment opportunity, and developing current innovation to meet the global standard. Nowadays, we can find that local furniture manufacturers are increasing in Indonesia, especially in Jepara (and some regions in Central Java such as Solo, Semarang, and Kudus), Bali, Yogyakarta, Sumatra, East Java, West Java, and Kalimantan.

Indonesia has high potential opportunity in furniture industry due to two factors, abundant raw materials and human resources availability. Geographically, Indonesia lies on the equator which results a huge advantage like plenty of tropical forests. Tropical forests produce the abundant raw materials for furniture industry such as wood, pulp, and rattan. Indonesian furniture is mostly manufactured from wooden materials. No wonder, Indonesia is renowned for its high quality wood and makes it the prominent export commodity. In order to produce a perfect furniture, high quality materials should be supported by potential human resources. Indonesia is well-known for its high culture with a lot of traditional artists including craftsmen or carpenters. Indonesian craftsmen and carpenters are typically detail-oriented, very careful, and creative. Both factors can result a ship-shape furniture which meet the standard of export quality. Besides, there are several supporting factors which can attract international market. Here are 7 characteristics of Indonesian furniture you need to know

Nature Element: Indonesian Furniture Signature

As explained above, one of the factors which make furniture industry grow rapidly is raw materials. Indonesian furniture mostly uses wood (especially teak and mahogany), pulp, bamboo, and rattan materials. The most popular one is teak wood. Let’s say that teak furniture is kind of signature in this industry. Nowadays, we can find a lot of local manufacturing companies emerge in several regions in Indonesia. Jepara becomes the center of furniture industry and even the biggest one in Indonesia. It is renowned for its world-class teak furniture which becomes the main export commodity.

From the carpenters’ magic hands, teak wood turns into various kinds of furniture such as chair, table, cupboard, credenza, cabinet, bed, and bookshelf. It is such an endless trend among Indonesians until presence. The durability is the key. The first necessary thing in furniture selection lies in its quality. The aesthetics including design is the next. Teak wood offers a high quality material reflected in the long-lasting and solid furniture. It is typically termite and weather resistant material. Most importantly, it is adjustable for any type of furniture. Hence, teak wood is relatively pricey compared to other wood materials. Considering the quality, it is definitely worth the price. You don’t want to end up purchasing the furniture frequently, do you? A high quality furniture is more than enough since it will last longer. The other perk of choosing teak furniture: save your budget!

Classic Furniture

Classis style is the pioneer in Indonesian furniture industry. This style was formerly popular among the royals only, a long period before independence era. Beside its natural element characteristic, Indonesian furniture style also emphasizes the cultural aspect representing cultural heritage. Indonesia consists of diverse culture and each culture is symbolized in furniture style. Classic style has introduced the cultural statement vividly portrayed by ethnical, floral, and symbolic patterns. In this beginning era, furniture focuses on the function only and did not consider the other aspect like the aesthetics. Furniture trend is only popular among the royal or elite people. The patterns mostly portray the cultural symbols and power identities such as dragon or spirited animals, flower, spears, swords, and many more. Classic furniture trend is timeless and still becomes the favorite until presence. Teak wooden table with Batik pattern, for example, could hit the trend. Meanwhile, people from lower-middle class use the alternative material like bamboo to make an affordable furniture since teakwood is pretty much unreachable.

Colonial Style

Colonialism, specifically Dutch colonialism, has influenced all aspects in Indonesia including furniture. During the colonial era, Indonesian furniture style is much influenced by European style. In the first colonial period, the common wooden materials are black ebony, calamander, and teak with European symbols like the figure of angel, crown, lion, and so on. The statement furniture we mostly recognize is the high seat-back chair called English chair, Dutch high back chair, or Raffles chair. Those are commonly used in the government offices or churches. A curve or oval part is the highlight of colonial furniture and it is timeless. You can even find the wooden chair with an oval-shaped part until now. In 1900s, furniture style is much influenced by modern cultural movement like Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and Bauhaus. People are getting into geometric patterns rather than natural patterns. The bold and well-structured geometric lines strengthen the artistic visual power of the furniture. Different from classic style period which emphasizes the function aspect, this era begins to pay attention on aesthetical aspect depicted in the strong artistic patterns. Furthermore, people start to enhance the raw materials by producing more rattan furniture.

Indonesian Yankee: The Original Indonesian Furniture Style

Yankee, or commonly known as jengki in Indonesian term, is a turning point of Indonesian furniture era within 1960s – 1970s. The political struggle after independence era remains the political movement to determine national identity in all aspects including architecture. People begin to produce and consume jengki furniture style to convince the national identity. Jengki style becomes a movement to against colonial architecture and furniture style. Jengki furniture more represents Indonesian nuance and its uniqueness. The signature of jengki furniture is clearly depicted in the chair design. It’s a typical flat chair with the sharp edges. It perfectly combines two different materials, the authentic wood and steel. Surely, wood is not the single material used in jengki furniture. Many people use rattan and rubber as the complement materials. Rattan furniture also has the good durability just like teak wood. People start to use rubber as a seat back of steel chair. This kind of chair is suitable for your terrace to create a cheerful nuance in your home.

Indonesian Retro

1970s – 1980s is the era of infrastructural development including architecture. Modern buildings starts rising which much influence the furniture style. It inspires so-called retro furniture, a typical style of urban people at that time. Retro furniture features bold colors like red, blue, purple, or yellow combined with earthy tone colors. Similar to previous era, retro style also plays with pattern customizing the previous geometric patterns to be more repetitive and neat. Dotted (or polkadot) and straight lines pattern are the signature style of retro furniture. Applying synthetic materials is also another way to get a retro style. The common synthetic materials are rubber, plastic, vinyl, or fiber combined with metal materials like copper, steel, or bronze. The popular furniture types in this era are folding easy chairs with rubber pads, two-door cupboard with big mirror, and rotatable round dining table. Retro style will never be so-last-year in Indonesian furniture industry and always be an endless inspiration for designers. Nowadays, this style has its own value and tends to become an urban taste. It lately inspires many coffee shops and cafes bringing the retro concept.

First-wave Minimalist

In the beginning of 1990s, Indonesians are getting familiar with minimalist design inspired by American and European minimalist concept. The high demand of minimalist furniture shows the trend of minimalist life style among the urban people. People change their preference from the old-fashioned classic style to minimalist furniture. Society is dynamic and life should be more practical and simple. The change in life style trend makes Indonesian furniture characteristics look simpler, modern, and monochromatic minimizing detailed ornaments or decorations. However, teak furniture is still popular in elite people. Some of them are willing to purchase more furniture as a symbol of social status since teak furniture is relatively expensive. The favorite teakwood products are console table, bedroom set, dining table, and big sofa. Sometimes, the furniture size is not adjustable to the room space. In this case, the values of Indonesian furniture are not only about function and aesthetics but also social status representation.

Modern Minimalist

Entering the millennium era, minimalist concept still hits on a trend but looks more modern. Furniture has versatile function and becomes more flexible. The term of furniture no longer covers chair, table, bedroom set, cupboard, or dining set only. The term has broaden following the development in technology. 2000s is the rising of digital era in Indonesia. Furniture is also produced to support technology need. The real example is computer desk. Bringing the minimalist concept, Indonesian furniture still maintains the simplicity with soft monochromatic color palettes. The raw materials becomes more various although teak wood is still the best one. The businessmen start to consider the production cost reduction by selecting alternative materials like plywood or chipboard. Chipboard is made from reclaimed paper stock and frequently used for desk, cupboard, bookcase, or computer desk. Plywood is typically more solid than chipboard. However, both materials have lower durability than teakwood but the price is relatively affordable. Recently durability is not the first priority in selecting furniture since furniture becomes more commercial as people also consider its function based on their need.

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