Marine furniture materials and maintenance
With such a vast array of materials available for the manufacture of marine furniture and furnishings, making the right material choices to suit the design, style, function and practicality requirements aboard is never an easy decision. Ultimately, the decision lies with the individual - it’s based entirely on the personal tastes and budget of the decision-maker on board.
The basic line of yacht furniture items - marine tables, chairs and furniture sets – along with complementary furnishings and accessories, can make a remarkable difference to the overall look and feel of the superyacht and its separate rooms or areas.
Marine furniture materials
Teak wood furniture
Nancy Joseph at Summit Furniture explained why traditional teak wood furniture is so suited to life on board a superyacht. She said, “Teak is highly valued because of its beautiful grain and colour, and is preferred in shipbuilding and furniture-making. Teak is strong and durable, almost immune to decay and contains an oil that is resistant to insects.”
Furthermore, teak is resistant to prolonged sun exposure, unlike its plastic alternatives, and can be more comfortable to sit on than plastic and metal furniture, which often get hot in the sun. For these reasons and more, teak wood is also often the material of choice for heavy-duty and deck furniture aboard the world’s superyacht fleet.
Alternatives include, iroko wood - a cheaper and faster-growing African teak with similar characteristics, but teak is not the only choice, composite materials can also be incorporated into furniture design with each combination of materials having properties specific to the particular application.
Composite materials: Carbon fibre furniture
Alloy, plastic, natural wood and composite cored lightweight panels can be incorporated into yacht furniture for beautiful designs with a lightweight construction – perfect for life on board.
Back in 2014, Gosling Marine pioneered the world’s first carbon fibre furniture range, designed specifically for outdoor and marine use due to its lightweight, durable and weatherproof nature.
Carbon fibre furniture is ideal for use aboard a superyacht because it will not discolour, requires minimal maintenance and can be easily stowed or transported on tenders where necessary, all without appearing to be temporary while on board. These designs move away from traditional wooden furniture, while still staying in touch with its heritage by including elements of teak inset into the carbon fibre.
Ethics and environment
When considering the furniture and furnishings for your superyacht, an owner or designer may wish to ensure that the materials are ethically and environmentally sourced.
The majority of furniture and furnishing suppliers are today aware of the expectation for ethically and environmentally sourced materials; it’s therefore worth explaining your preference for such materials before working with any new business to guarantee their suitability.
Furniture safety at sea
Marine furniture and furnishings aboard a superyacht, including yacht bedding and upholstery, must comply fully with SOLAS guidelines published by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
When purchasing new furniture and furnishings for a superyacht, it is therefore important to liaise with the chosen supplier to ensure that the necessary tests have been carried out, and that they are able to demonstrate traceability of test results and production records. Testing must be carried out by a suitable laboratory that is recognised by the government of the country whose flag the yacht is entitled to fly.
Maintenance of marine furniture and furnishings
The care and maintenance of superyacht furniture will depend on the type of material that has been selected. As with anything left outdoors, deck furniture will be subject to airborne impurities such as pollen and dirt, and so depending on its material, frequent hosing off will help it to stay clean and weather evenly.
Caring for teak wood
The beauty of teak wood is that it is virtually maintenance free in its natural state. It does not necessarily need to be protected or varnished, surviving the most extreme weather conditions. However, teak is not typically recommended for full or prolonged exposure to the sun. A teak sealer containing UV protection can therefore be applied to protect and enhance its colour.
Nancy Joseph of Summit Furniture talked us through her tips for the maintenance of traditional teak furniture. She said, “Your teak, over time, will turn from its original golden brown colour to a silvery-grey patina. During this transition period, you may notice a ‘moiré’ effect caused by the oils in the wood coming to the surface and mixing with the moisture in the air. This is a normal stage the teak goes through as it starts to weather and can easily be washed off with soapy water.”
Over time, teak wood may gain a blackened-tone from the growth of natural fungi living on and eating the wood. To prevent teak wood blackening in this way, experts recommend the use of salt water to clean marine furniture, as salt is a known fungicide.
Nancy recommends that you deep clean your teak furniture periodically using a soft cloth or brush with a mild soap diluted with water, or a specialist teak cleaner to prevent this colour change. Once clean, flush with plenty of salted water until there is no remaining dirt. Any roughness or surface scratches and abrasions can be removed with light sanding. Nancy recommended the use of 100 to 400 grit sandpaper. A teak sealer can then be applied to preserve its natural colour while still letting it breathe.
Oil stains from sunscreens, tanning oils and al fresco dining experiences are almost impossible to remove from teak wood. Any oily residue will need to be removed from the teak before any maintenance work is carried out on the surface.
Whatever your choice of furniture, it is always advised that the manufacturers’ instructions for maintenance are always followed precisely, or a professional drafted in to avoid costly mistakes.
Caring for soft furnishings and upholstery
Similarly, staining and tearing of soft furnishings should ideally be tackled by a professional dry cleaner or upholster when in port to ensure no further damage is done to precious fabrics and materials.
The care, maintenance and cleaning of soft furnishings and upholstery will also vary by material. Read our cleaning services guide to keep carpets, fabrics and upholstery spick and span.