Rattan Defined

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Taking its name from the Malaysian rotan, rattan refers to over 600 different species of Calameae palms native to tropical South-east Asia.

By turns charmingly rustic and chic, rattan comes in an array of natural colours and accommodates unique and shapely designs. This organic material is equally at home inside and out.

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From L to R: Satara Rattan Core Coffee Table, available in brown and white, and GYMS Messina 5 piece Dining Set, available online at Zanui.

The look

Rattan introduces a textured element into your home. It’s ideal for outdoor suites on account of its weather resistance, providing enduring good looks. It’s popular in Hampton’s style homes as well as Scandinavian and French provincial interiors.

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In addition to outdoor lounges and chairs, rattan is commonly used in crafting wicker baskets, creating chic storage. En-vogue right now, it’s also making its way into coffee and side tables, consoles and mirrors.

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From L to R: Palace Souls Palace 6 Piece Outdoor Setting and GYMS Marinella Outdoor Dining Set, available online at Zanui.

In plant form

Rattan is reminiscent of bamboo in appearance, but does not have its sturdy vertical structure. Atypical of palms, most rattan species do not have strong spines. Instead rattan grows like a vine with wiry slender stems that scramble their way through forest vegetation. Its core is strong yet supple.

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Images sourced L to R: thehousedirectory.com and discoveryindochina.com

The where

Approximately 70% of the world’s rattan is found in Indonesia. And in your home? Rattan works both inside and out!

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Earth-friendly benefits

In many forests where rattan is grown, it offers a more sustainable economic alternative to logging. Rattan is simple to harvest – it’s lightweight and easy to transport, grows quickly and is low-maintenance when it comes to processing. It will be sorted, cut, dried and packed before being exported overseas, fed into looms or steam-bent and hand-woven into furniture and crafts.

This focus shift to rattan allows for more forestland to escape logging. Over-harvesting of rattan cane however can also be harmful to these areas.

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Images sourced: feedly.com

Uses

Rattan is extremely versatile, ranging from slender (just a couple of millimetres thick) to substantial (5-7cm) in diameter. Both the skin and the core can be used to fashion furniture – in particular outdoor furniture and occasional chairs – as well as in basket weaving, urns, plant pots etc. The skin is generally used to bind furniture joints.

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Rattan’s durability, flexibility and resilience make it a very popular and long-lasting material.

It is also used in construction in some second and third world countries as well as in drum + walking sticks, umbrella crooks and school canes (back in the day).

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How does it differ from wicker furniture?

Wicker is a term that is used to describe the technique of weaving materials like rattan, bamboo, straw, even synthetic alternatives into furniture, baskets and the like.

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Fun fact

Some rattans bear fruit that exudes a red resin called dragon’s blood, thought to have medicinal properties in ancient times. This resin can be used to endow furnishings with a peach-like hue.

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Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.