exterior by Marco Meneguzzi

This quote is much bandied about, and attributed to many. However wicker is not something, I believe, that requires much generational understanding - it's long been admired and used in products as diverse as baskets, trays, handbags, and seating for both indoors and out and used cross culturally and for centuries due to its adaptability. Perhaps the quote came about because of the durability of rattan - the material commonly used in the manufacture of wicker furniture and objects. Rattan furniture is strong enough to be passed down through generations, one reason why it still holds so much appeal.



Rattan itself is a type of climbing vine that grows in rain forests , and produces long, thin branches. The branches are harvested, debarked, sanded down and then woven into the product. It's entirely environmentally friendly - the Rattan plant will regrow and due to its reliance on large rainforest trees to climb up, it's meant that natural rainforest has been left intact in areas that are now suffering from large scale deforestation (such as Indonesia).


The term "wicker" is a general term, used to describe woven product made from anything natural and of plant origin - bamboo, straw, cane and rattan.


Wicker furniture has been around since the Egyptian period, but its popularity really soared during the Victorian era, when conservatories and palm houses became highly fashionable and a process of manufacturing was invented that mimicked rattan, but that made it durable and allowed for a finer weave- Lloyd Loom. Lloyd Loom furniture (this refers to a manufacturing process, rather than a specific brand name) is not made from a plant based material - it's wire with paper twisted and wrapped around it to make a durable, thin and long lasting fibre that is easily woven and shaped. While Lloyd Loom in its original format is still available today, the modern version of this is the plastic wrapped wire - UV stable, able to be left outdoors year round and therefore more suited to modern life without an army of servants to carry the pieces indoors when the weather becomes inclement.

 Interior by Marco Meneguzzi

And perhaps that is why wicker furniture has such romanticism attached to it. Images of wicker conjure up languid afternoon teas in the garden. or reclining on sun lounges in palm fringed conservatories, or sitting outside a cafe in France.

Bunny Mellon's back hall via Architectural Digest

However, wicker has not just stayed stuck in the Victorian/ Edwardian era in styling, but undertook a revamp in the 1950's and 1960's when using materials in innovative ways resulted in a period of radical reinvention of furniture design. Many of these styles are still available today.


I've been particularly taken with the wicker designs of Sika furniture (a Danish company), who have produced rattan furniture since the 1940's and who had Arne Jacobsen, Nanna Ditzel  and Franco Albini to design pieces for them that are still in production. These particular designs are not suited to outdoor use, but their use in interiors is what has interested me at any rate. Nanna Ditzel invented the original egg chair, which is much copied, but still manufactured by Sika



And pieces by Arne Jacobsen such as the Charlottenborg chair and table come in a variety of colours and fit in modern or more transitional interiors.



So, wicker is not all just about French bistro chairs (heavily in fashion in recent years).


But if you don't feel that the furniture has a place in your house or garden, then you can always spring for a wicker bag and carry it around instead. 


17 comments:

  1. I love wicker and how interesting this post is! I never knew rattan was an actual plant. I love wicker's ability to bring some earth into a room without being fussy and messy. My first furniture purchase ever was a beautiful wicker sleigh bed when I was in fourth grade! I still have it, though currently decommissioned. But I've kept it forever because it really is a classic. Your posts are always so informative! Now I kinda want to drag my sleigh bed out...

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    1. Honestly wicker is used so much in interiors at the moment (and probably throughout history too) and it really works in both modern and traditional interiors. And you're right - it's the earthiness that just works. Love the sound of your sleigh bed Steven Andrew - you really should bring it out. I can't believe you bought it in 4th grade too??! You clearly always had good taste! x

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  2. I bought 2 inexpensive wicker chairs and a metal table for our small courtyard. Then I had foam cut for cushion seats and covered then in a bright canvas. The chairs sit under the eaves all year round they really have withstood the element's It's our favourite place to sit in the morning and afternoon. I'm pretty sure that's partly to do with the fact that the chairs are so comfortable. Great post Heidi and I never knew Rattan was a vine. Love the bags.

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    1. Aren't the bags gorgeous! Your little sitting spot sounds lovely Karen, and that's good to hear they're withstanding the elements well… it always makes me a little nervous about how things will weather, even undercover, in Adelaide due to the harsh UV.

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  3. I love wicker in all sorts. I love Soane's furniture line but only a touch would suit the London locale. Koreans have a type of straw rattan rug I love but it doesn't really fit my house. Philippines has some great under publicised rattan ware I love but it's hard to source unless you're there. I said I wasn't getting more bags this year but when I was in Japan I succumbed and saw s father son shop with the son weaving a bag so I got a little summer basket bag which is my new favourite!

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    1. Oh I LOVE soane's furniture too - unfortunately due to the size of the pieces the shipping to Australia is just way too $. Also love all the rattan throughout Asia, and you realise the mark ups when you get home and see the same things in Interiors shops, rather than on market stalls. Love the sound of your basket bag too xx

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  4. I'm with Naomi I love wicker. I have an addiction to buying wicker baskets. It's actually a nice cure to feeling anxious, it's such a nesting comforting feeling, filling up a basket with towels or toys or gifts.
    I have lots of wicker furniture on my front porch which is protected from the elements so I don't have to bring it in and out, I never get tired of it. Looks so good with cushions and just now I have that furniture decorated with red and green wool plaid blankets for Christmas, along with greenery on the windows and doors of the porch.
    This is such a good post and I always learn something about things I like when you write a post on anything. XOX

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    1. My mum used to buy a lot of baskets - her collection was enormous. I think she kept thinking they were handy, so would buy a few more! Plus you often get gift baskets and things, and she'd always hang on to them just in case. Your front porch sounds so lovely - I can't believe you've already got snow though! Crazy. Hope you don't get such a long winter as you did last year Dani xx

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  5. LOVE wicker but I call it cane or straw is this wrong? I have many baskets too x

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    1. No, not wrong..... Wicker is just a general term for any woven article made of a plant based fibre. You're just being more specific! Xxx

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  6. We have an old cane love seat and a matching armchair. Have seen better days but still going strong. Maybe I should say they have patina! We usually call them cane too.
    In Sri Lanka cane chairs were everywhere - in our home and everyone's, in government offices, doctors' waiting rooms, etc. The problem there was that there were cane bugs. Two kinds. Firstly, ones that ate the cane. Secondly, ones that ate you. The bite/sting causes huge dreadful weals - very itchy and sore. If you sat on an infected chair and picked up the cane bugs on your clothes you would then spread them to the next chair you sat on. So most people carried newspapers and before they sat down in a doctor's waiting room would spread the newspapers out on the seat! The bugs are so small you couldn't easily see them.
    When we first lived in Colombo G came home a couple of times complaining about his, dare I say, bum! When he dropped his trousers I was totally shocked - it wasn't a pretty sight. He'd picked them up sitting in a government office. The trousers had to be immediately soaked in some solution to kill the bugs. He quickly learned the newspaper trick. Luckily we don't have them here.
    So interesting to read what rattan actually is! Pammie

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    1. You've just explained exactly how important quarantine is Pammie!! I hope we never get cane bugs, that sounds horrendous. I've seen people do that with newspaper in Asia, but just thought they might be fussy!! Xx

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    2. Absolutely about quarantine! Pammie xx

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  7. I too am a fan of wicker and it appears in all forms in my house, except for furniture. Now I wish I'd purchased some for our outdoor balcony seating as the wooden pieces I have out there (vintage and very well built) are discoloring from the moisture in the air and the drying effects of the sun (at least their varnish is). I see a job for my husband soon!

    Your posts are always so informative, thank you. Always enjoy reading them as I learn something new.

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    1. I love old wicker pieces CD - used to have one of those Edwardian era chairs in my childhood bedroom. It was surprisingly sturdy. I think you should definitely outsource that furniture revarnish! Those are the sort of jobs I dread...

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  8. Love those bags. I have a little summer house at my place and it's filled with rattan. Love it.

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  9. Hello my old friend, have missed you, have been reading all your posts, but only commenting in my mind - until wicker! Love this material can do trad or modern. We have Kenneth Cobonpue set for kitchen and bed and just love it, softens everything and makes it kind and comfortable.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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