5 Fascinating things you didn’t know about rattan furniture

At once stylish and sustainable, rattan has been an interior design favourite in our living spaces for thousands of years

Many of us either own or know someone who owns rattan furniture. Handcrafted, beautifully made seating and tables kept in the conservatory, garden room, or summerhouse, rattan furniture usually needs very little maintenance.

Here, rattan furniture experts Desser & Co offer advice on owning these unique furniture pieces and tell us all about where rattan originates from.

Regular exposure to dampness and other environmental conditions can harm wicker furniture made of rattan or other natural materials. Moisture can soften and degrade the material, compromising the structural integrity of the furniture.

Mould and mildew are also concerns associated with excessive moisture. Mould spores can be found everywhere, but they require moisture to thrive. If the rattan becomes soaked, it could create the damp atmosphere necessary for mould spores to take hold and develop.

“Extreme temperatures can cause natural wicker furniture to become brittle and break”

Extreme sunlight may cause rattan furniture to deteriorate. It has the potential to discolour the rattan and leave it looking uneven.

This can occur even if the furniture is indoors and in a bright setting for prolonged periods of time, so we always recommend rotating cushions and rearranging furniture to ensure all sides get an even amount of exposure to direct sunlight.

Extreme temperatures can cause natural wicker furniture to become brittle and break, leaving it too dried out, which can result in shattered pieces.

Thorns of unharvested rattan tree in rainforestRattan survives by climbing other trees and plants, which means rattan harvesters are obliged to protect the rainforests where it grows

It might be challenging to find decent-quality, eco-friendly furniture as we grow more environmentally aware. Cane and rattan furniture are a great alternative to classic hardwood.

Rattan grows at an astonishing rate of more than two centimetres every day and can grow up to six metres every year.

Rattan can be completely grown and harvested within two years, whereas most hardwoods can take 20-30 years, making rattan a perfectly sustainable and ecologically beneficial product.

“Rattan can be completely grown and harvested within two years”

This incredible material also contributes to the survival of many other plants and ecosystems. It survives as a runner by relying on other trees and plants. As a result, rattan harvesters are urged to protect the rainforests where they are located.

Rattan may grow in difficult environments, such as floodwater, which would normally render soil unworkable.

And it provides income to several small farmers in South and Southeast Asia, where it is produced and collected. It gives residents in these places a consistent, dependable income in a simple trade with a focus on labour-intensive operation.

The term “wicker” derives from the Scandinavian words wika, which means “to bend,” and vikker, which means “willow”. Wicker has been present for thousands of years and is one of the oldest known furniture-making processes.

Wicker’s popularity spread from Egypt and the ancient Sumerian civilisations through Rome, numerous European countries, and eventually to America on the Mayflower in the shape of a baby carriage.

Archaeologists have discovered Egyptian wicker fashioned from rattan and marsh grasses unique to the region.

“Archaeologists have discovered Egyptian wicker fashioned from rattan and marsh grasses”

It quickly expanded over the world and was often regarded as a unique form of furnishing with beautiful embellishments that were intricately crafted. Many people adore it for the attention to detail that goes into each piece.

Weaving wicker is still taught to preserve this traditional art form. Although current technology has made the manufacturing process more efficient, every wicker furniture piece is still handcrafted, ensuring that quality and artistry remain a hallmark of this old art form.

Modern wicker furniture is seen as sleek, creative and superior to previous historical materials and processes.

Rattan chair, plant pots, wicker tables and woven lampshade and wall hangingsUsing natural materials like rattan in your home can create a warm and relaxing environment

Rattan furniture is not only eco-friendly, but it also does not emit any dangerous pollutants even after extended use. This will calm your mind, particularly if your furniture will be enjoyed by young children, elderly people, and pets.

Using more natural materials in the home can allow for a more tranquil environment, creating a calm and energising space for you and your family.

Not only does the use of natural materials in our homes, like rattan and wicker, affect our wellbeing and happiness, they are also intrinsically more aesthetically pleasing than manufactured materials.

Contrary to widely held belief, people mistakenly assume that wicker is the sort of material used to make furniture, but it is in fact the weaving technique. Furniture woven in the wicker style is frequently made from rattan.

To find out more about how to identify what type of weave your rattan furniture is, check out the infographic below:

Infographic showing how to identify different rattan types

Desser & Co provide a luxury range of different rattan furniture styles, from traditional conservatory suites to more individual contemporary seating and coffee tables, suitable for bedrooms, reading corners and nurseries. They also provide upholstery services and replacement cushions if you’re looking to give your rattan furniture a refresh.

Read more: 10 Tips for restoring your garden furniture

Read more: 6 Ways to give your living room a revamp

Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter