The Variety of Construction and the Variety of Styles Found in Wicker Furniture

Wicker furniture is a fortuitous comingling of function and art. Just like the many shapes it takes in the hands of a skilled craftsman, or craftswoman, the raw materials it is made of likewise comprise a magnificent array. In the world’s warmer regions, Southeast Asia in particular, rattan, reeds, palm leaves, grasses, and cane are the flexible material used for weaving wicker furniture into shape. But colder points around the planet do not stay behind on innovation for this craft that has been with humans for millennia — rushes, willow, wood strips, and even wild grasses are gathered by artisans to weave and sell their functional designs. Alternative materials include sea grass, abaca, junco fibers, and raffia.

The styles that ensue from each of these different materials, and from the whimsy of the designers and builders, are kaleidoscopic. Wicker bedroom furniture or outdoor wicker pieces, for any room in the house, really, can be found and displayed with taste and glee. Although there are a great many avid antique wicker furniture collectors, most people find satisfaction in the gracefulness of a well-built modern furniture set or individual piece. Of course, no one is likely to turn away a wondrously rococo chair from the long-ago American masters of the Wakefield Rattan Company, should something of theirs come around.

In contemporary wicker furniture manufacturing, stripped rattan prevails as the most popular building material. The reasons for this commercial preference are manifold, but the most salient explanation is that stripped rattan creates comfortable and more pliable, or “soft” furniture.

Moreover, rattan has a polished appearance and it doesn’t experience splintering. It’s also an immensely durable material; its strength is legendary. Taken together, these traits make rattan a perfect vehicle for indoor and outdoor wicker furniture. If rattan wicker furniture is given appropriate maintenance, it will surprise no one if it lasts a lifetime — it’s that strong.

Although lovely in its natural state, or with a linseed oil coating, many folks enjoy the look of lacquered wicker furniture. But regardless of what style you seek, within its great variety, you’re sure to find wicker and rattan furniture to fall in love with.

Sam Walters is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her writing appears in print and online.

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