Rattan cane furniture styles – the ultimate guide

If you’re familiar with our range of blogs you’ll understand just how expansive rattan is. Over the years there have been many different styles used with this type of furniture, appealing to many peoples different tastes. In this article we will look at some of the styles used over the years, ranging from its first ancient uses to modern incarnations.

4000 BC

Ancient rattan

One of the oldest beliefs about how rattan came about is rather bizarre. Potawatomi Indians believed that a woman lived on the moon who constantly weaved a basket. Once it was finished, the world would end, but a dog interrupted her progress (causing a solar eclipse). Whilst it may not be scientifically accurate, it was the Sumerian civilisation (now known as modern Iraq), that first used wickerwork for a number of purposes – including shelter, flooring, transportation, utensils and much more.

The Further Reach

It wasn’t until the Age of Exploration during the early 15th century that various worldwide locations started to use this strong material, something made possible due to established trade networks. Europeans found out that they could make their current wickerwork much stronger by utilising rattan as an alternative to previous materials. This was mainly along the Silk Route, including Italy and Greece. The Silk Route Due to a rise in demand, later on in the 18th century a new phase of rattan development began. The supply was suddenly cut off from China due to competition with shipping routes, leaving merchants to find other options.

A Series Of Developments

Surprisingly enough, this allowed famous pioneers such as Cyrus Wakefield to discover a brand new rattan style. Working as a green grocer, he collected a large amount of wicker, and used it to create a rocking chair. Although this may be a simple creation, it revolutionised how rattan is used today. It had such an impact it allowed him to create a successful rattan company and he became the leading manufacturer in the field. In 1897, Wakefield merged his company with a wooden chair specialist known as Heywood Chair Manufacturing Company. This is considered a landmark move as it invented a new way to mechanically weave wicker seating. The success was unprecedented, with their joint business becoming the most prestigious in the US.

Britains Influence

With the UK being an integral part of Europe at the time, people had grown fond of wicker and rattan and helped it to flourish worldwide. This was mainly down to having control of the colonies, as merchants were able to distribute the latest in furniture trends. Due to the chilly and damp climate in the UK, these items couldn’t be left outside, creating a new trend of exotic furniture within the living space. In most cases it was the upper class that would own this due to the high cost of manufacturing and imports.

Evolving Styles

As rattan was now firmly established in various countries situated around the world, various individuals aimed to adapt the product in unique ways. In 1886, Austrian Paul Frankl became famous for the modern designs he brought to the American market. He created the unique square pretzel seating design which is often seen replicated by rattan manufacturers today.

Modern Rattan Developments

Rattan chair

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, rattan became one of the most popular materials around, resulting in it being used in a number of different designs. Bookcases, dining tables, sofas, desks, shelves, sideboards and much more were created using this material. The styling of both rattan and wicker has changed over the past 70-80 years and has reinvented itself to modern demands. Whereas these materials were once seen as a product only available to the wealthy, they are now an appealing and trendy option to own.

Synthetic Variations

Although rattan is a versatile and sturdy material, research has continued to create other alternatives. One such creation is synthetic rattan. It allows manufacturers to create impressive furniture pieces without having to ship the real material from Indonesia. Rattan can be vulnerable if left in the wet, meaning it needs to be treated which can cost a significant amount of money. As there’s a high demand for durable rattan furniture that can be left outside through all seasons, the appeal of synthetic version is understandable. Synthetic rattan won’t get affected by extreme temperature, allowing it to resist splitting, cracking or stretching when it gets wet. UV exposure won’t degrade this type of furniture.

Outdoor Rattan

With traditional rattan, it’s recommended that you bring your furniture indoors when not being used. As synthetic rattan can deal with the elements, it completely negates that need. When it comes to the upholstery, in most cases they’re showerproof. They should still be protected from the full force of rough weather, so it’s recommended to take them inside overnight.

Rattan’s Future

As rattan is a vine that grows in abundance even once harvested, it’s a material that will remain appealing throughout time. There are very few similar items that can boast to have the same level of strength without sacrificing visual appeal. It’s this durability that will continue to leave rattan in high demand. The world of science has started to take interest in rattan, and for uses other than furniture. One of the main research projects that has been released to the public is how rattan can be used within the human body. Through different studies, if heated with calcium and carbon, the material can be transformed into an artificial bone. Already this type of item have been implanted into sheep, and the hope is that it can be used in medicine for humans in 2015.

Rattan For The Home

Desser are a proud provider of rattan furniture that can be utilised in a variety of areas. We’re proud to have been in the business for 90 years, serving customers with a superb service every time. For more information get in contact on 0161 834 1795, or join the conversation on Twitter: @Dessercane