Choosing cane and rattan furniture 6



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With the increasing popularity of plantation and tropical decor styles, wicker and cane furniture has made a big comeback. Or is that rattan furniture? These terms are often used interchangeably and it can be confusing to know what to look for.

This post will clarify some of the terminology; shed some light on why there is confusion as well as summarise the pro’s and con’s of natural vs synthetic products.

Often associated with British colonial times, this kind of furniture has actually been around much longer. Finely woven furniture made from reeds and rushes was found buried with Egyptian pharaohs.


Cane vs wicker vs Rattan

Okay, so what is the difference? Well, the word wicker describes the process of weaving no matter what the material. Rattan and cane are examples of materials that can be used in this process but equally willow and raffia could be used.

Rattan is a very flexible vine that grows in rainforests. Furniture can be made from an entire rattan pole, sometimes even with the skin still on it.

Cane refers to a part of the rattan vine or pole which is peeled off and most often used to create cane webbing for seats or binding to hold rattan poles together. What about split cane furniture? Well, split cane is a length of rattan that has been machined (‘split’) from the pithy centre of the rattan vine.

So in a nutshell cane is a part of rattan, and both can be used in the process of weaving.

Sounds simple, so why is there confusion over what to call it? Well, that’s because some furniture is a combination of the two eg. a chair frame made of rattan and seating and binding made from cane.

Okay so that’s the technical lesson over… but hopefully it has helped clarify a few things.


Choosing cane and rattan furniture

If you’re looking for indoor furniture, most cane and rattan will stand the test of time very well. You can also place it on well protected verandahs that don’t get too much weather or full sunlight.

But if you’re looking to use it on a verandah that gets some weather or a full outdoor location you need to be aware that even the best quality cane furniture

  • is vulnerable to too much moisture
  • can become mouldy
  • will become dry and brittle over time , if exposed to too much sunlight leading to cracks and unravelling binding
  • can attract insects and small pests

So if you’re after cane garden furniture you’re much better off going for all weather options that have aluminium frames and synthetic cane binding and weave. Aluminium is corrosion resistant and synthetic wicker is:

  • mould resistant
  • UV treated
  • and super easy to keep clean.

And the look? These days the all weather outdoor cane furniture look very authentic: options range from the traditional white cane furniture to brightly coloured versions all the way through to options that mimic the look of unpainted natural cane with all its texture and varied colour.

The best part: with synthetic all weather products you wont have to worry about repainting or repairing split cane. You get the the look without the hassle. So if you’re after cane outdoor chairs or maybe an outdoor cane sofa set, go for all weather options.


Tell us, do you like cane or wicker furniture?

Bev Mackenzie

With a background in Marketing, Bev Mackenzie runs Petite Retreat Outdoor Living which sells outdoor furniture and accessories ideally suited to small spaces. The business idea was born during her search for stylish items to transform her own small balcony into a tranquil urban oasis.

  1. My father bought me a cane chair when I was a very young girl. I have now passed it on to my daughter’s daughter. I hope it will remain in the family for years to come.

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