Wicker patio furniture has a long and distinguished history. Wicker refers to the weaving of materials into a shape. While originally made from natural materials such as reeds, vines, and tough grasses, wicker can now be made from synthetic materials, some of which are weather resistant and long lasting. Historically, wicker has been used for making a wide variety of items ranging from light, durable manuscript boxes to elegant bedframes, and even massive effigies constructed for holidays and celebrations. The point here is that fibers can be woven into almost any sort of shape or size. As furniture, it is easy to move, allows plenty of airflow--which is a big advantage for summer furnishings, and is amazingly durable considering that its materials often include simple grasses. In spite of its organic origins, Archeologist have carbon date examples of rattan weaving (rattan being a preferred substance for making wicker) back to 8,000 BCE.
The History of Wicker Patio Furniture
Wicker has a long history, with its origins obscured by centuries of human endeavor without benefit of written record. Wicker was usually made of biodegradable substances such as reeds, grasses, and vines, and has therefore not been as well preserved as stone works or even tablet made of clay. It is known, however, that the Egyptians used wicker to make a variety of items, including boxes and chests, while the Chinese prized wicker containers for containing papers. From Egypt, the practice of making wicker items was shared with the Romans, who, in turn passed its methodology into Europe. It is possible that the European Celts already had a type of wicker weaving before the Roman invasion. The word “wicker” owes its origins to the Scandanavian word “wika” meaning to bend, and “vikker” meaning hollow.
Whether already in use, or spread by the influence of the Roman incursions, rattan became popular in Europe. British exploration and trade also encouraged its use as wandering ex-pats brought home their collections of wicker furnishings. It was especially favored during the Victorian Era. The film industry also influenced its use. In the USA, it was popular among the 1970s counterculture, then more recently as part of the Boho movement. Handmade wicker made with natural rattan can be exceptionally expensive.
Chinese Traditional Wicker Furniture
While frequently and erroneously used as interchangeable with wicker, rattan is actually a specific natural material. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines rattan as “a climbing palm (especially of the genera calamus and daemonorops) with very long, tough stems.” Liana is an alternative name for the rattan plants that are best for making wicker. Rattan has specific properties that make it ideal for weaving. For centuries, it was harvested from the wild rather than being cultivated. But by the 1970s, the forests where rattan grew wild were beginning to shrink. Countries where it grew, one after another, banned the export of raw rattan in an effort to realize more profits for its citizens by selling only finished products. By 2011, Indonesia followed suit, banning export of any form of unfinished natural rattan. Because of Indonesia’s steadily shrinking forests, rattan is now farmed by growing seedlings and transplanting them into the forests. This is seen as a possible help for encouraging regrowth of the trees the vines need as supports.
- Stem. The stem of the palm plant that is sometimes called rattan is covered with thorns that must be trimmed away before the plant can be processed. The resultant product resembles bamboo in appearance; unlike bamboo, however, it is solid rather than hollow. This makes it a stronger base for large pieces. There are a few related free-standing palm species that can be used for rattan when they are young.
- Bark. The bark of a rattan vine is often used as caning for chair bottoms and similar applications.
- Leaves. The rattan leaves look very much like any palm frond but can be broken down into fine fibers for weaving.
- Resin. Often used as a substitute for “dragon’s blood”, which is more properly a term for the sap of dracaena draco, whereas the rattan version is daemonorops draco. Both can be used as a stain for fine woodworking.
- Faux Rattan. Partially because of the expense, but also because some types are more weather resistant, faux rattan might be a viable alternative to the natural rattan—especially for outdoor furnishings. Two frequently used types of faux rattan are paper covered wires or extruded synthetic resin fibers.
Benefits of Wicker Patio Furniture
Wicker furniture is wonderful stuff. It has a resilient “give” that makes it feel comfortable while still being strong. It is lightweight, making room cleaning simple and easy. The natural fiber furniture, or that made from paper covered wire, can be vacuumed off with a soft brush hose attachment. Wicker made with extruded synthetic resin fibers can be rinsed off with a hose.
The weave, regardless of material used, can be shaped into a wide variety of styles ranging from the fussily ornate Victorian peacock chairs to minimalist modern styles that can be blocky or sweepingly elegant. Add some cushions, a select throw, and your wicker furniture will fit with almost any sort of décor. Wicker made from traditional plant materials can give a unique warmth to a room. Resin faux wicker is perhaps not quite as good at this, but it will more than make up for lack of atmosphere in ease of care and durability.
Durable and Handwoven Wicker
What to Look for in Wicker Patio Furniture
The frame should be lightweight and sturdy. Some of the modern faux wicker furniture will have an aluminum or iron tubing as its base. More traditional wicker is likely to have a bamboo frame, but the very best wicker furniture pieces use large liana stems as their base. You can call them liana, rattan, or daemonorops draco, but they are the very best sort of wicker. With good care, it has the potential to last centuries. Also, pay attention to the joins in the furniture since these are likely to be the weakest part of its structure.
Traditional wicker furnishings are made by skills craftspeople using traditional tools. This means that they are made slowly and carefully, and that no two pieces are exactly the same. Look for pieces that are the right size for you or that are sufficiently versatile for different people. Check the way the fibers are joined to the frame and to each other. Some inexpensive wicker materials will have wire cores or will be tacked together with small nails that might work loose. On the contrast, tight and straight weaving also demonstrates craftsman’s professional skills. Try to avoid those loose, as they will cause difficulty later on.
Look for patio furniture cushions that have a resilient core that will maintain their shape over time. If using the furniture as outdoor patio furnishings, select cushions that can dry easily and that are sun resistant or have a storage space that will keep them dry and sheltered from sun when not in use. For a high-end and comfortable cushion, it usually adopts “sandwich”structure, keeping it soft enough as well as won’t be out of shape.
Sandwich Structure Cushion Foam
Modern fabrics are available in a variety of styles, colors, weaves, and fabric types. Canvas duck or sailcloth is often popular for outdoor use, but it can be heavy and slow to dry when wet. If you are using your patio furniture as convenient indoor furniture, slipcovering cushions with a treated fabric can help ward off spills. Also, it is much easier to clean or replace a slip cover than a cushion. Whether your primary upholstery is print or solid, you can use throw pillows to break up the lines of it so that the color of your couch does not overwhelm the rest of your room – or the pattern of the wicker weaving.
Factors to Consider When Buying Wicker Furniture Online
Pay attention to size
Most online sellers will list the dimensions of the furniture – height, width, and length. Measure the space in which you want to place the piece and allow some extra space to be sure that it will fit.
Just as importantly, consider the size of the doors on your homeif you have to move outdoor furniture inside one day. Older homes or small apartments might have a non-standard door width that could make getting a chair with wide arms, for example, fit through the door. It is not much fun to go through exercises such as removing the door from its hinges in order to get the parts of a sectional inside.
Consider the description
Do you want three perfectly matched pieces of wickerwork? Or would you prefer some variety? Would a sectional be better than a couch and chair set?
Read the Return and Warranty Policy
This cannot be over emphasized. Does the company have an unlimited return policy? Does it require returning a piece for repairs? Or does it simply move straight to replacement of the item or to refunding purchase price if you do not like what you receive?
Look at customer reviews
In this age of paid reviews, or promotional reviews, not every evaluation will be honest or helpful. But read a broad cross section of reviews, look for the small things they note as being a problem, especially those that are frequently repeated. And look for the good things, as well. Usually, a review with a buyer’s show is trustful.Faux Rattan Bistro Set
Wicker furniture is furniture that is made by weaving fibers over a stronger frame. The technique has been around since before the Ancient Egyptians, and has been used to make chairs, couches, chests, strollers, cradles, baskets, tables and much, much more. Traditional fibers include lianas (also called rattan), reeds, grasses, and even different types of bark or leaf fibers. Modern materials might be raffia, which is a sort of paper wrapped wire, or resin fibers. Regardless of whether you are going traditional with your frame and fibers or whether you are embracing modern counterparts, wicker is beautiful and comfortable, whether used inside or outside your home.