Whether you are a green-fingered god in the garden, or prefer the low maintenance approach, being able to spend some time relaxing outdoors is a great way to laze away an afternoon or two.

Having a garden which is stylish yet practical is high on the agenda for most people; spending time in attractive surroundings whilst being comfortable is the perfect setting to really unwind.

Gardens get the most use during the spring and summer months, but with warm autumn days, and with the help of a patio heater, it’s possible to enjoy relaxing outside all year round.

That means having a garden which is suited to all seasons, one that isn’t too delicate to be able to withstand everything the British winter - and summer! - has to offer.

That means picking the right type of stone for your patio or path - some erode far more quickly than others - plants and flowers that are hardy enough to cope with colder temperatures and lots of rain and of course garden furniture that doesn’t need to be packed away at the first hint of a cloud.

As Britain becomes more health-conscious and aims to spend more time in their gardens, the demand for outside furniture has risen. And just because it’s for exterior use doesn’t mean homeowners are willing to sacrifice style; garden furniture needs to be not just robust but also attractive and comfortable too.

green rattan set

Rattan has a lot to offer in the garden

Forget about hard plastic chairs that leave you perched awkwardly, or decrepit deck chairs which leave rusty springs sticking into various parts of your anatomy: modern garden furniture is plush, inviting but hard-wearing too.

Of course, some types of garden furniture are better than others and king of them all is rattan. A material which is ideal for use outdoors and has the added benefit of being incredibly stylish too, we take a closer look at rattan garden furniture and how it could work for you.

Why rattan?

Rattan refers to the material used to create the familiar wicker-type appearance, the tight weave which is used in both traditional and contemporary designs.

Although rattan can be sourced naturally, most products use synthetic rattan instead because it offers a great deal more practicality than the vine.

Rattan is a material which has become increasingly popular in interior design, helping to create a very harmonious design but it’s in the garden where it first experienced a surge in demand. This dual purpose means it’s possible to link your indoor and outdoor furnishings, create a flow between your home and garden. The idea of a seamless transition between the natural world and inside is a very contemporary idea and features strongly in many modern designs.

Rattan is a very low maintenance material and surprisingly easy to look after whether it’s kept indoors or out. There are no regular treatments, sprays or creams which need to be applied and it can be washed down with a damp cloth and soapy water. If you want to make sure there’s no dust or grime building up in the cracks, an occasional blitz with the hoover attachment gives it a really deep clean.

If you spill anything on rattan, it’s unlikely to stain and can usually just be wiped off, again using a damp cloth. This makes it a very practical choice for homes where there’s children or pets that could get a bit boisterous in the garden!

But it’s the resilience to bad weather that makes rattan such a good year-round choice. Unlike some other types of garden furniture, you won’t need to protect it or stash it away in the shed at the first sign of bad weather.

Rattan furniture can be left out all year round, even in the frost and the snow. Water won’t damage the structure, it won’t crack in freezing temperatures and even blistering sunshine - should the UK be that lucky! - won’t fade the rattan in the summer months either. It truly is an all-season material.

Most rattan comes with thick padded upholstery which is removable. This is typically shower-proof but it’s a good idea to shelter these cushions from the weather. The covers usually zipper off and can be cleaned in the washing machine, making it easy and cheap to keep your rattan garden furniture in immaculate condition.

So that your cushions are still close at hand, and can simply be popped onto the furniture when you need them, an all-weather rattan storage box is a great accessory. Designed to hold rattan upholstery, the exterior is made from rattan itself so it complements the furniture whilst still providing excellent protection to the cushions and padding being stored inside.

Rattan furniture won’t get hot and painful in high temperatures, unlike metals such as wrought iron, and you won’t stick to it, like plastic chairs. It’s a material designed to function in all weathers and with its natural-looking appearance, is perfect for the garden.

Types of furniture

It’s difficult to see the advantages of buying anything other than rattan for the garden, with its durability, comfort and attractive design so it’s worth taking a closer look to see the types of furniture which are available.

Sun loungers

For those sunny days when you want to stretch out and doze in the warm sunshine, or perhaps relax with a good book, a rattan sun lounger offers comfort and style. With woven bases, adjustable head rests and thickly padded cushions, rattan sun loungers are a very modern style of outdoors furniture that suits both large and small gardens.

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Relax on a quality rattan sun lounger

If you have a bigger space, you can purchase sun loungers in the same design as table and chairs so that both your formal eating area, and your casual relaxing furniture all match.

Often sold in pairs, some rattan sun loungers include a small glass topped table as part of the package. Also made from rattan with a practical toughened glass surface, this small coffee table can also be left out all year round. Coupled with a patio heater, why not wrap up and enjoy a hot chocolate in the garden on a frosty winter morning?

Tables and chairs

Nothing beats a spot of al fresco dining when the weather is amenable, and having a table and chairs ready and waiting makes it possible to make a spontaneous decision to eat outdoors. Because rattan doesn’t need to be protected from the bad weather, your table and chairs can stay set up so when you want to take a seat outside, there’s no need to haul everything out of storage.

You don’t need a huge family to benefit from a garden table and chairs either; rattan sets start at a compact bistro design, perfect for informal brunches or more intimate dinners for two.

For those occasions when there’s more people to fit round the table, rattan garden tables can seat as many as 10, in either circular, square or rectangular styles. There’s also bench, individual chairs and stools so you can pick the type of seating which suits your family and friends.

There are deep padded seats and cushioned back supports so whatever design you pick, you’ll be able to linger over your meal in comfort.

If you’re a bit pushed for room, there are also space-saving designs such as cubes which fit snugly together when not in use. Corner seating is another option which uses up all the available space far more economically.

Accessories

Although there’s lots of rattan furniture for the garden, the accessories can really help to maximise the impact of the overall design. Just a few well-placed items can help to create the impression of a well-styled garden, plus they are very functional too.

Storage boxes are a very practical addition to every garden, whether you use them to store your rattan upholstery and cushions or perhaps other outdoors essentials, such as extra blankets or plates and cutlery for the table.

rattan baskets in the sand

Rattan lanterns look great in the garden

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Rattan storage boxes are totally weatherproof, just like other rattan furniture so can be left in the garden exposed to the elements all year round without fading, cracking or splitting. On the inside however, they are lined to ensure that the contents remains completely protected no matter how inclement the weather conditions may become.

Helping to complement the storage boxes are rattan planters. These can look particularly good in small gardens, or in homes where there’s no keen gardeners. Much easier to keep neat and tidy than full flowerbeds, planter bring a touch of colour and greenery to a garden without the demands of a fully landscaped area. And with planters made from rattan, the containers will look as good as the plants!

Matching table, chairs, loungers and storage boxes, rattan planters can contribute to an overall garden design.

There are few garden accessories in fact which can’t be found in rattan, so it’s possible to plan an entire garden, and keep it looking stylish throughout.

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Rattan garden planters – a creative solution

Being such an attractively furnished garden doesn’t mean having to compromise on practicality at any level, so whether you are searching for patio heaters to warm up those chilly winter days or a parasol to protect you from the blistering sun in the summer, you’ll find them trimmed with rattan to fit right in.

There’s also gazebos fitted with the same types of material as the rattan furniture so even without the woven finish, you can still benefit from having complementary pieces.

And it’s not just about the big showpieces either; every little touch is what can make the difference between a garden that looks good, and one which looks absolutely fabulous.

On the dining table, a rattan-edged lazy Susan can be a small feature but once again, echoing the rest of the design can be remarkably effective.

Versatile practicality

Unlike in the house, you may well want to move your garden furniture around more frequently. The sun loungers might change position to capture the best of the sunshine whilst the table might be moved under cover to avoid a sudden shower when eating a meal.

Planters could also be switched around fairly regularly; either to keep your garden looking fresh and new or to make sure your blooms aren’t exposed to too much sunlight.

One of the benefits of rattan is that although it’s very robust and strong, it’s surprisingly lightweight too. With the woven synthetic vines wrapped around a rustproof aluminium frame, lifting chairs around the garden doesn’t take a strongman to manage.

This deceptively light weight means that it’s possible for the design of the garden to be far more flexible as moving around the furniture is not a mammoth task.

Keeping it looking great

Rattan garden furniture is low maintenance but by taking just a few simple steps you can help to extend its lifespan and keep it looking its very best for as long as possible.

If you spot any cracks or splits in the weave, you need to get some more moisture back into the material. The best way to do this is by using boiled linseed oil and rubbing it on with a brush, and then cleaning the surface with a soft cloth when no more can be absorbed. Once this oil hardens the cracks and splits will be far less noticeable as the rattan will swell to fill the gap.

Giving it an occasional wipe over even if it looks clean will also help to preserve it for longer and will prevent airborne dust and grime from accumulating in the crevices.

rattan patio scene

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Unlike plastic and metal, rattan is surprisingly comfortable to sit on even without the upholstery or cushions. Although it will bear your weight perfectly well, it’s not a good idea as it can lead to sagging or excessive wear. The cushions help to ensure that your weight is distributed far more evenly.

For garden furniture that looks great

You may not have previously realised just how durable rattan is and the number of benefits there are to choosing this versatile material, particularly for outdoors use.

Good quality rattan looks good both inside and outside, and can be the perfect furniture to create a home which is as stylish as it is comfortable.

Image Credits: Meg Phillips and Charlotte Franklin