Why Wicker and Rattan Furniture

In the world of furniture, there are two categories: wicker furniture… and everything else. That’s a bold statement, for certain, but let’s be honest: wicker furniture is among the most unique furniture you’ll ever be able to find. Furniture that utilizes wicker weaving can be made into trunks, sofas, chairs, T.V. stands, cabinets, end tables, night tables, coffee tables, dining tables, dining sets, mirrors, beds, lamps, hampers, desks, and – well, you get the point. It’s an entire category in and of itself. And yet, so few people seem to understand exactly what wicker furniture is all about. If you ask them about a wicker chair, they might not even know that it’s actually made out of a sturdy and exotic material known as ‘Rattan’. So why is wicker furniture so ubiquitous in our culture – supplying us with a whole range of furniture – and yet so many of us seem to know so little about it? The answer is simple: people love the natural, crafted look of wicker furniture. It looks as gorgeous on a patio at sunset as it does holding laundry in the corner of your bedroom closet. But most of us don’t take the time to consider exactly what it is: where it comes from, how it’s made and – perhaps most importantly – how to take care of it. To many people, simply buying furniture with a wicker “look” is enough, much in the same way someone may indiscriminately pick out a bottle of red wine without taking the time to consider how the individual flavor might pair with a meal. If you want to really understand what wicker and Rattan furniture is – and why it might be the right selection for your next furniture purchase, it’s going to require an in-depth examination of where the furniture comes from. You’ll find those insights all across this book as we examine the history of wicker furniture, the details of the plant known as Rattan, the craftsmanship of wicker furniture, and what it takes to maintain your wicker furniture for the long haul.

The Benefits of Wicker and Rattan Furniture

Before we move on, let’s explore the question first posed by the introduction: why wicker and Rattan furniture? What is it about this special category of furniture that appeals to such a broad base of tastes and interests?

There is no one answer. Instead, there are a number of benefits and advantages to choosing wicker furniture:

  • Wicker furniture is lightweight. Moving a wicker chair for example, is nothing like moving a chair made out of solid oak. Although many wicker and Rattan furnishings are stabilized by wood, they tend to remain lightweight and easy to move.
  • Rattan furniture is highly flexible and customizable. There is virtually no limit to the variations you can find with Rattan furniture. Rattan furniture can be available in any number of colors, for example. It can be used to hold glass (for a coffee table), cushions (for a couch or chair), lamps, laundry, alarm clocks, and even people. There is truly no end to the variations in Rattan design.
  • Wicker furniture is very easy to clean. If your furniture has a natural finish on it, it may only require regular dusting. Cushions are easy to remove from the furniture, for example, and thanks to its weight, you can also easily move the furniture around the room as you clean.
  • Durability. Although many people live in fear of leaving their wicker furniture out in the rain (see the section on maintenance for information on wicker furniture and rain), wicker furniture is highly durable with proper care. Many people don’t associate lightweight furniture with durability, but as you’ll find out in this book, that’s simply a myth.
  • Aesthetics. There’s no denying that wicker furniture is aesthetically-pleasing. It has a very organic, natural look that can be customized into a wide range of creative designs. It can be modified to fit just about any taste. In addition, Wicker furniture looks as natural outside as it does indoors, which is rare for any type of furniture.
  • Safety. A positive side effect of Rattan furniture being lightweight (except in certain exceptions where wood is added to reinforce the furniture), is that generally it’s safer around small children. The regular bumps and bruises associated with children running around the house can be reduced when your furniture is lightweight.

Throughout this book, you’ll see plenty more reasons that wicker and rattan furniture is not only suitable for home use, but may also be ideal for your style, tastes, and furniture preferences. The question “why wicker and Rattan?” will be answered as you learn more about this fascinating category of furniture.

Defining “Wicker” and “Rattan”

Finally, we won’t progress any further until we make clear the definitions of “wicker” and “Rattan.”

Wicker is actually not a material, but a weaving process. Put simply, wicker is when woven fiber is formed into something rigid – furniture being the most obvious example.

Rattan is the material from which wicker furniture is often weaved. Botanically speaking, Rattan refers to hundreds of species of palms that come from the eastern hemisphere including Australia, Indonesia, and Asia. Rattan’s pliability and strength make it ideal for building unique shapes, hence its widespread use in furniture. Rattan has both a skin and core which are both important in furniture-making. We’ll learn more about rattan throughout the book.

If you understand the definitions above, then you know that “wicker” furniture does not necessarily have to be rattan furniture. Wicker weaving can be utilized from other palm plants as well as other fibrous plants such as raffia and willow. For the purposes of furniture, however, rattan is generally regarded as the ideal resource.

For the uninitiated, a “wicker” chair is a chair made out of wicker; to some extend this is true because the chair might have been largely formed from a wicker weave. But really they mean to say that a “wicker” chair is a rattan chair, just as you would say a “wooden chair” or “oak” chair. Rattan describes the material and wicker describes the process.

Of course, you’ve only begun to learn all there is to know about wicker and rattan furniture. There’s even more to discover about this fascinating form of furniture that will leave you wondering why you ever bought anything else.