When it comes to home décor and furniture, trends go in and out of fashion. Rattan furniture was introduced to the Western World in the early 19th century, and despite changes to styles and methods in the many years since, it is still widely popular today.
Beloved for its uniqueness and versatility by everyone from Hollywood stars to suburban families, it is a timeless material that can look good crafted in any way and situated in any space.
So, without further ado, let's do a deep design dive into the appeal of rattan furniture - from its types, traits and rise in reputation and popularity, to why it makes for great furniture and what pieces you can buy today…
Rattan is the name for an approx. 600-year-old species of Old World climbing palm. They are mostly native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and even right here in Australia, but the main area for production is in the tropical regions of South and Southeast Asia.
Discovered way back in Ancient Egypt, Rome, and China, rattan become a prominent material of choice in the 19th century with the popularisation of weaving during the Victorian Age (1837-1901). These days, around 20% of rattan palm species are traditionally used in producing wickerwork furniture, baskets, canes, woven mats and other handicrafts.
Rattan vs Wicker
When you hear the words rattan and wicker, they are commonly used interchangeably, so their differences and not often known. The main difference between the two is that one is a raw material and the other is a style or method of using the material. Think tomato and tomato sauce.
Rattan is a specific material, and rattan furniture is just made out of only rattan. On the other hand, wicker or wickerwork is the technique of how something is made. So, a piece of wicker furniture, for example, can be weaved and crafted out of various materials such as rattan, or something similar and natural like straw, bamboo, reed, cane, seagrass or willow.
Natural vs Synthetic
Speaking of natural, that's another point of comparison worth mentioning. When it comes to rattan, what is better: natural or synthetic? Both types have pros and cons, and it will ultimately depend on what your purpose or intention is for the piece of furniture.
Both forms of rattan are weatherproof and strong yet really lightweight, making moving pieces around easy. They're deceptively hardy too, meaning rattan is a good choice for many environments and situations, however, if you're wanting to deck out your outdoor entertainment area, synthetic might be your best bet.
Although natural has the slight edge appearance wise, synthetic rattan is more durable and lasts longer when exposed to the elements (although it's not unwise to add an extra layer of protection such as a waterproof cover or a coat of varnish). Natural rattan furniture is best suited to an indoor or undercover arrangement to avoid premature fading or fraying.
Rattan is an attractive resource because it is a lot easier to harvest and transport than timber. As an added bonus, it also grows at a much faster rate than trees.
Entire forests have to be cleared for wood for most furniture. Rattan harvesters can clear vines and pieces that allow for the forest to stay intact, and the remaining product left-over can be used as a building material and even a food source for the local communities.
Pop Culture Connections
Although many pieces of rattan furniture had weaved their way into homes already, the style got a boost in popularity when it achieved celebrity status in the 50s, 60s and 70s. No, I'm not talking about The Wicker Man. I mean the infamous and iconic Peacock Chair.
An instant and exotic throne-like symbol of influence, status, and quasi royalty, the sitter in a Peacock Chair is an instant source of attention and focus, leaning back against a large fan-shaped headrest and flanked by thick, curved rattan arms, like a King or Queen.
From famous photoshoots to iconic vinyl album covers, the chair has held some of the world's most famous derrières in the palm of its palm-derived hands. Marilyn Monroe and Morticia Addams, Dolly Parton and Funkadelic, March Bolan, James Brown, Elizabeth Taylor, and even The Kennedy's just to name a few. Modern artists have done Peacock power poses too, including Beyonce and Cat Power.
The chair's status has even transcended far beyond our planet and into the universe, well, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least. Posters for Black Panther (named after the political and social party of the same name) saw Chadwick Boseman's King T'Challa on a tall, round backed throne – bearing a striking resemblance to a 1960s Black Power poster of party founder Huey P. Newton looking armed and dangerous in a Peacock chair.
Our Rattan Range
They say the classics never go out of style, and this is true in the case of rattan furniture. Its appearance and functionality is versatile and ageless, and it means a piece can look as much at home in an old-fashioned family sunroom as it would on a beach house back patio.
From cosy retro vibes to crisp and modern lines, rattan runs the full gamut of aesthetics and moods. Pieces are easy to style and dress up according to your interior designs and décor, from modernising the colour from natural brown to something bright, or giving it the vintage treatment with luxe cushions and throws. The textures and patterns add tactile character and warmth to a space. Whilst it was once coveted for its exoticism and holiday resort looks, modern pieces of rattan furniture come in a variety of colours, shapes, sizes and purposes.
Here at Family Love Tree, our collections are made by skilled artisans both here and overseas, and they feature many different types of rattan furniture. From gold mirrored bar carts to bed heads, cabinets with woven lattice inserts to coffee tables, Natural and Tahitian privacy screens to planters, chairs, stools, day beds and many more, there's a rattan version of every type of furniture item or accessory.
Our Lorenzo & Lantana ranges are rattan exclusive, and include a quirky, curved 60s style lounge chair, a cylindrical, smoky glass topped side table with in-built storage space, and a Balinese style light shade just to name a few.
So, if you're on board the rattan revival, be sure to browse our entire Rattan Furniture range.