Rattan furniture – seems like it’s everywhere these days! Much like flared jeans, corduroy, fringes, tassels, and macrame, rattan has seen a resurgence from its 1960s & 70s heyday, and has taken interior styling by storm over the past few years.
But, what exactly is rattan? Is rattan furniture the same as wicker furniture? Is there a difference between rattan and cane?
Let’s find out…
What kind of material is rattan and where does it come from?Rattan is a vine-like, climbing palm plant that grows in tropical regions of the world, such as Southeast Asia, Australia and Africa.
The appearance of rattan is easily comparable to that of bamboo. Rattan grows quickly, is easily transportable and is also easier to harvest than trees, also much like bamboo. But unlike bamboo, which is a hollow plant, rattan stems are solid and require the support of nearby trees and plants to support itself.
Rattan is incredibly versatile. It can be worked into so many different forms, including baskets, pendant light shades, occasional chairs and bed heads. It can also be woven into beautiful patterns to add decoration to furniture pieces.
That’s where cane comes in.
What is cane?What we think of as “cane”, at least in terms of furniture production, refers to the thin outer part of the rattan plant. The skin is peeled into thin strips, which are then intricately woven to form the gorgeous webbing patterns we see in lots of rattan furniture pieces.
You’ve probably seen rattan cane woven into the seats or seat backs of armchairs and dining chairs, into panels on bed heads, and into cabinet door and drawer fronts. The patterns are varied, but always beautiful!
Furniture producers tend to use cane more for detailing than for structural purposes. Rattan cane is a naturally strong and flexible material – it’s perfectly safe to sit on if you have a rattan armchair or dining chair. But it relies on the outer frame of the furniture piece for structural support. You won’t ever just have a bed head made purely of rattan webbing, for example.
The term “cane” should not be confused with bamboo cane or sugar cane, which are different materials altogether. Wicker, on the other hand, is not exactly a material at all…
What is wicker?
Many of us often think of wicker as another natural material, similar to rattan or bamboo. Wicker is actually a weaving technique, also known as wickerwork.
Weavers use rattan, bamboo, seagrass and other flexible, natural materials in wickerwork. Wicker is also made with synthetic materials, like PE plastic.
In the case of wicker outdoor furniture, the material is almost always synthetic. Natural fibres are susceptible to rotting and damage. Synthetic materials don’t tend to face these issues.
Why do we love rattan, cane and wicker?
Wicker (natural or synthetic) and rattan furniture all deliver that highly sought-after natural look to our interiors. They’re perfect for the Australian coastal lifestyle, but also work well in bohemian, tropical, Hamptons or even retro themed spaces.
The natural look of rattan and wicker adds texture and warmth to a space. It can also make a room feel light and open. Rattan accent chairs are lightweight but strong and you can easily move them from one room to another.
Tightly woven rattan cane perfectly suits busy family homes because it offers as much durability as flexibility. Synthetic wicker outdoor furniture won’t succumb to rot or decay, so it’s great for sitting poolside or out on the patio on a steamy February evening.
As you can see, there are so many reasons to love rattan, cane and wicker!
How do I care for my wicker or rattan furniture?
You should always follow the manufacturer’s care and cleaning instructions supplied with your rattan or wicker item.
Some general care tips include:
- regular dusting with a soft, dry cloth
- light vacuuming with an upholstery brush attachment
- dusting with a small brush, such as a paint brush or a toothbrush, to get into those tough nooks and crevices
- bringing wicker furniture undercover and out of the elements when not in use
- for a deeper clean, mix dishwashing detergent and warm water, apply lightly to the rattan and allow to air dry (be careful not to over-wet the rattan, as this may lead to rot)
These care tips are a guide only. Always follow the care and cleaning instructions supplied by the item’s manufacturer.