Rattan furniture has been around for many years yet has recently received a new lease of life thanks to the clean, sharp designs and contemporary colours in the market. Out go dated florals, and in comes soft slate greys and caramel browns offset by cream, ecru and beige upholstery, a very minimalistic look. Rattan furniture has an enormous number of benefits, so it’s hardly surprising that it has continued to rise and rise in popularity. Strong, durable and very elegant to look at, there’s no other material that can offer the same qualities as rattan. However, when you’re admiring the sleek woven surface, it’s easy to forget that below the intricate handiwork, there’s a metal core. We take a look at metal rattan furniture and just how they are made.

Why does it need a core?

Rattan is an extremely strong material and can withstand a great amount of weight and pressure without bending or giving way. Although there’s always a very slight yield, this is part of the overall design and how rattan is able to absorb the weight. But although its strength is unmistakable, there is the risk that it could stretch or sag is subjected to great weight repeatedly. Creating a core therefore which is strong and immoveable therefore provides an element of support to the rattan without detracting from the organic beauty of the design itself. By having this framework, the traditional weaves don’t need to be changed and techniques passed down through the ages can continue to be used on the rattan.

What material?

Having decided to use an inner core, there is a great number of materials which could be considered, but it’s essential that whatever is chosen is of the same high standard as the rattan itself. Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 15.35.40

Rattan furniture is often supported with metal

Because rattan is frequently used for outdoors furniture, a metal frame is the most obvious choice rather than some kind of wood. In addition a wooden frame would be quite heavy relatively, and could make the overall piece feel quite cumbersome and difficult to move around. Plastic could be used in theory but rattan is a high quality style of furniture and a plastic core simply wouldn’t offer the same durability, strength nor premium feel which rattan does.

Steel versus aluminium

Having ruled out all other materials, metal is really the only material which has the qualities suitable for rattan furniture. Although there’s no real reason why other metals couldn’t be used, the main two are steel and aluminium. These two materials have very different qualities. Some companies used powdered steel, a particularly strong material which provides a great deal of toughness to the frame. But although the steel is very strong, it has a number of downfalls and is actually a material only used at the cheaper end of the market. One of the attractive benefits of rattan <INSERT LINK TO 45 BENEFITS OF RATTAN> is that it’s lightweight. This means it can be moved around in the garden, for example, or in the home. As well as more fixed items of furniture such as a table and chairs, some types of rattan will be moved around, such as footstools, and making these heavy would be counter-productive, although admittedly they would be very strong too.

rattan chair

Vintage rattan and metal rocking chair image source The other disadvantage to using steel is that it will ultimately corrode and rust in wet weather. For furniture which is regularly left out in the garden, this is less than ideal. Powdering the metal offers a degree of protection but isn’t sufficient to last the lifetime of the rattan furniture and within a relatively short time the pockets of rust and corrosion will start to poke through. A far better choice is aluminium, a metal which is used in all of the premium rattan products. Aluminium offers great strength and durability, only coming second to steel very slightly in this area, but certainly enough to provide the protection and support needed for rattan furniture. However, unlike steel, aluminium is a lightweight metal which means that the ability to move rattan furniture around isn’t compromised. In the garden, being able to chase the last rays of sunshine by moving a rattan lounger around is half of the fun! pair of rattan chairs

This lounge set has a supportive aluminium frame

As well as being much lighter in weight, it also doesn’t corrode. No matter how long the rattan furniture is left outside, the aluminium metal core base won’t rust or corrode. This means it can be left in the rain, snow or sunshine and there will be no ill effects on the base. Aluminium frames are often still powdered but unlike steel, this isn’t necessary to delay the onset of rust. Instead, it’s purely a cosmetic effect. With rattan, a tight weave is a sign of quality, as this is far harder to achieve. But no matter how skilled the handiwork is, the intrinsic nature of the rattan weave means that in some parts the metal frame could very easily show through. To avoid an obvious glint of metal, the frame is powdered; this disguises the aluminium and means that if there are any gaps, the overall design effect won’t be ruined.

Conclusion

Synthetic rattan furniture is very durable and has the ability to withstand some of the harshest weather conditions the UK has to offer. Having a metal framework means it’s essential that whatever is used comes up the same high standards. An aluminium base allows traditional weaving techniques to still be used, and won’t compromise the end design. The powdering provides a cloak of invisibility and ensures that there’s no tell-tale glints of metal through any of the tiny gaps in the weave. Aluminium provides the lightweight which is essential for rattan furniture, a key quality which is beneficial in lots of ways, but also helps it to remain a solid and tough piece of furniture, which doesn’t stretch or sag and holds its shape for many years to come.

Image Credits: and Ann Watson