Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BOT Housing and Furniture

I received these great photos and accompanying comments from Les Duffin about a month ago.  They show the interior of his home in the Bank of Taiwan (BOT) housing area, including some of the beautifully made furniture that he purchased in Taipei.  Unfortunately, I set the photos aside during our recent move and couldn't locate them again until today.

Les writes:

I was happy to see Barbara Auch’s BOT 109 photos, especially since she and her husband were obviously neighbors of ours, at least for a couple of months.  Seeing the interior of her house reminded me very much of our own, so I thought I’d send these photos along.  I think you’ll see the similarities.

And on another subject of recent interest, Taiwan-made teak furniture, you’ll also notice that we had – and still have – quite a lot of it.  Here are a few gratuitous comments: The problem of drying out was well known.  Many folks who left Taiwan wrote back to friends saying their Taiwan furniture had later dried out and cracked.  But that was easy to avoid if you knew the system.  There were lots of furniture stores in Taipei and Shih Lin making teak furniture, but in the early days only Ricardo Lynn had a kiln, and kiln-dried wood was the only kind certain not to dry out and crack.  It was one of Ricardo Lynn’s major claims to fame and undoubtedly contributed to the company’s growth and fame.  Later, by the mid-70s or so, some smaller companies also had kilns of their own, so the cracking problem actually lessened over time.  But you still had to be careful which store you bought from because many still didn’t dry their wood before making it into furniture.

There were other ways to avoid the problem too: you’ll notice in one of my photos a large stereo cabinet and two bookcases.  Those were made to my own design by a furniture maker in Tainan during our 1971-73 tour there.  When I expressed concern that such large pieces would be prone to drying and cracking, he took me up to his attic and showed me several large pieces of Thai teak that he’d been drying there for six years.  It was some of those he used to make my cabinet and bookcases.  Today we still have several rooms of Taiwan teak furniture made by three different companies and none of it has ever cracked; it’s now 35-39 years old and still looks great.  We’ve polished it with lemon oil from time to time, but it was also in storage for six years where it had more than ample time to dry out, and if that didn’t crack it I doubt anything would.

Taiwan teak furniture fell into three categories.  First, there were standard items that most every company made;  Ricardo Lynn seemed to me to be the major innovator and I think many others copied his designs.  The second type were custom-made items built to the buyer’s own design.  And of course the third were those clever APO-mailable items.  It wasn’t unusual to see three or four furniture trucks backed up to the APO delivering things someone had bought while on leave in Taiwan.  The buyer had to meet the truck at the compound gate to sign it in, and it was a well-oiled process that got the items from the truck to the counter where the buyer paid the postage to ship them home.  You’ve mentioned end tables and coffee tables, but there were lots of other things too:  you could, for example, buy a grandfather clock that came in four boxes, each small enough to fit within the APO size limits.  Three contained parts of the cabinet, which bolted together, and the fourth held the movement and weights.  The postage for some of those things couldn’t have been cheap, but it was still a bargain given the quality of the furniture and the fact that it was pretty unique.   It was another great benefit of being assigned to Taiwan.



老屋傳奇 said...

these is realy something I am looking forward to see.
old pictures will be very touching to the board members of Taipei City Culture Bureau, Hopefully we can reserve the whole village.

Please do find more old pictures to support us fighting for the old houses.


Anonymous said...

Just to let you know that when we were in Taipei we had all of our furniture made by Singer Le in Shih Lin and it's still perfect today, even after almost 40 years in the U.S.

He did great work and we still get compliments on the furniture.

I had posted some pix of some of our things much earlier on this blog.

Jim Sartor