The history of rattan garden furniture

Go to any garden centre, or visit the outside spaces belonging to your friends and family, and you are bound to stumble upon several pieces of rattan garden furniture.

Rattan is probably the most popular material used for making garden furniture, but what exactly is it?

What is rattan?

Rattan and wicker can be very similar in appearance, with both featuring a woven finish that is both attractive and durable. They are not, however, the same thing.

Rattan is a natural material that comes from a group of palm species that are native to South East Asia – Malaysia in particular, and the name has its origins in the Malay language. It is not a wood, but rather a ‘liana’ – a type of vine with its roots in the soil that climbs up trees or other means of support to access the sunlight above the forest canopy.

Rattan therefore comes from climbing palms rather than trees – although trees do have a crucial role in supporting the plants as they make their way up towards the sky. The stems of the plants are woody, yet flexible, which makes them ideal for weaving.

Rattan vs wicker

Wicker is the name given to the weave, rather than the actual material used. In terms of garden furniture, any type that is made from some sort of woven material can be classed as wicker, whereas rattan refers to the specific plant product that is used for the weave.

The main uses of rattan

Rattan is most often used for making baskets or furniture, and for the latter it is chiefly used to produce furniture that is suitable for outdoor use. It also a popular choice for furnishing conservatories.

One of rattan’s most versatile features is the fact that it can be stained or painted as well as woven. It can thus be transformed into items featuring a broad range of weave patterns, and with a variety of colours and finishes.

Rattan is also used as the ‘reed’ in the type of scent diffusers that are now widely available and used to perfume the home. Most polo mallets are also made from rattan, and it is commonly used in the construction of housing in those countries in which it grows.

The benefits of rattan

Rattan is deservedly popular in the production of garden furniture, precisely because if offers a unique range of benefits.

The comfort factor

Rattan is a supportive material, yet the natural flexibility of the fibres that make it ideal for weaving also mean that is has some ‘give’. Rattan furniture can therefore work with you rather than against you, providing a softer, more yielding surface than hard plastic, metal or other more rigid materials.

It’s lightweight

Rattan can be moved around easily, thanks to the fact that it is a very lightweight material. This makes it perfect for gardens, where you might want to move around to soak up the sun’s rays or retreat into the shade. It is also ideal for conservatories, and can even be moved between indoor and outdoor spaces without any heavy lifting, strain or hassle.

The price tag

Garden furniture made from rattan is generally very reasonably priced, making it as light on the pocket as it is to pick up. It offers great value for money, and will provide the purchaser with a long life product that is light, versatile, comfortable and attractive.

It’s versatile

The flexibility of rattan means that it can be woven into an impressive array of styles and shapes. Rattan garden furniture is therefore available in a great range of types and sizes, that will suit everyone’s needs, budget and preferences.

Get real

Rattan is a natural product, and thereby gives a rustic look to any indoor or outdoor space. Just as real wood is a perennially popular material for flooring and furniture, rattan gives a similar warm appliance thanks to the natural variations in tone and pattern. Alternatively, it can be stained or painted for a sleek, streamlined look.

Synthetic rattan

The benefits of rattan have been harnessed in the manufacturing of a synthetic version of this natural product. Offering the prized qualities of the naturally occurring plant, this man made rattan can be made to provide protection against UV light and rain. It can be completely weatherproof, making it a very low -aintenance choice.

Types of rattan furniture

Dining out

Garden furnishings made from natural or synthetic rattan come in many styles, shapes and sizes. You can buy a set of rattan dining chairs that comes complete with a glass-topped rattan table, such as Lifestyle Garden furniture sets or the Supremo Bari garden furniture range.

A cosy armchair

You can purchase rattan armchairs, either separately as part of a set like some of the Lifestyle Garden, Norfolk Leisure and Supremo ranges. There are also rattan stools or benches in a variety of sizes that can provide seating for one or more people.

Recline in style

Some manufacturers even make reclining armchairs from rattan, such as the Supremo Bari Dual Reclining Lounge Set, which includes two footstools as well as a pair of reclining armchairs, and even offers a selection of colours to choose from.

Modular sets

Lifestyle Garden supplies an Aruba Cushion box made from synthetic ‘Petan’ rattan, in which you can store the seat pads from your outdoor furniture. The company also makes modular outdoor furniture sets, as do Supremo and Norfolk Leisure, that can provide comfortable seating for an entire family – plus guests.

Whether synthetic or natural, rattan is the number one choice for modular furniture sets. These ranges provide sofa-style seating, and usually include either a coffee or dining table too. Such sets are very versatile indeed, as they can be moved around with ease and used in different areas as well as for various purposes. Modular rattan furniture also comes in more compact ‘mini’ sizes or as larger sets, meaning they can easily fit into your outside space and lifestyle.

A swing seat in the sun

For the ultimate in escapism, Supremo’s Tuscany Deluxe Double Hanging Egg Chair can make you feel like you’re on holiday in some far-flung and exotic location – especially when the sun shines!