A material which has enjoyed a surge in its popularity, rattan is now one of the most sought after products for the home and garden.

Offering unrivalled strength and durability, rattan has a unique appeal which matches all types of decor and landscaping, both traditional and contemporary.

Although it is now in demand for use in interior design too, rattan is one of the hottest products for the garden. This is due, at least in part, to its resistance to the elements allowing homeowners to leave the furniture out all year round.

We take a closer look at the use of rattan furniture in the garden, and more specifically the type of outdoor storage you might find.

Rattan and the elements

Natural rattan is a material which is uncommonly strong and once processed, is said to match steel in terms of its strength.

However, despite this tough exterior, natural rattan comes from a tropical climate and is designed to cope with those types of environmental conditions. The wet, cold and damp weather in the UK isn’t compatible with natural rattan and will cause it to degrade very quickly. Even when treated, natural rattan isn’t suitable for outdoors use in the UK.

Luckily there’s synthetic rattan which looks identical but has none of the delicacies around being exposed to the elements. PU rattan - another name for the synthetic version - is just as strong but is completely resistant to both the rain and the sun.

This means it is entirely waterproof as well as UV resistant too, so it won’t fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Even when the temperature plunges and your garden are full of ice and snow, your rattan furniture will remain in good condition even if it’s not covered up.

This is one of the primary reasons why it’s as popular as garden furniture; it takes minimal maintenance to stay in tip top condition and doesn’t need to be sheltered from the elements, unlike other types of material.

This provides great convenience for home-owners as they won’t need to drag the tables and chairs out of storage every time they want to use them.

The upholstery

Rattan is an incredibly comfortable material, partially because it offers a soft yield whilst remaining supporting and solid. But to enhance the comfort of the design even further, most rattan furniture also features padding, cushions or other types of upholstery.

This might be to protect your back on in the seating area, but it’s essential that these fabric areas get a little bit more protection than the main rattan parts.

The upholstery on a rattan chair which is designed for use in the garden will typically be showerproof, and the cover can normally be zipped off and thrown in the washing machine. This means that a few spots of rain won’t do it much harm.

But leaving the upholstery exposed to the worst of the weather will ultimately affect not just the colours of the design, but also the composition too, making it thin, damp and soggy.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of putting your rattan cushions into storage overnight so if there is a big downpour, you won’t have to wait days for the upholstery to dry out.

But there’s no point just chucking them into any box you find; in order to provide them with suitable protection, the box will also need to be weatherproof as well.

Rattan outdoor storage

In order to provide the cushions and padding with protection from the elements, in particular the ice, rain and snow, you will need to either take them indoors overnight, which can be a pain unless you have a space already allocated indoors for their storage, or you need a safe space in the garden for them.

This space needs to be adequately protected so that the elements won’t be able to creep in and damage the cushions.

But if you’re using outdoor storage, why not do it in style? A rattan box can use its core qualities to offer protection from the elements, and will have the additional benefit of matching the rest of your garden furniture too.

rattan storage box in black

An outdoor rattan storage box

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Made from a rattan which is fully waterproof, it’s the perfect place to store your cushions so they’re never far away but are still perfectly protected.

Like the rest of the garden furniture, the PVC rattan box will be completely impervious to the extremes of heat and cold, which means it will not only offer excellent protection to what’s inside, it also will carry on looking as good as new for a very long time. It won’t fade in the sun or disintegrate in icy weather so your cushions will be as well protected as if you were out there looking after them yourself!

Designed for outdoors living

The rattan storage boxes are hand woven over a rust resistant frame which means that the final result is tight, secure and entirely unique.

Just like other types of rattan, maintenance is very low, and the storage boxes can be cleaned either with a squirt from the hosepipe, a quick wipe over with a damp cloth, or even a going over from the vacuum cleaner. There are no special fabric cleaners or abrasive products which need to be used so the maintenance really is as low as possible.

The storage box also features a handy liner so that the cushions will remains as snug and secure as possible.

brown rattan box

A large rattan outdoor box from our collection

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This design of storage box is not intended to go back into the house but to stay outside all year round, offering a place of protection for anything made from a lesser material.

Doesn’t garden furniture need to be covered up?

It can be difficult to believe that rattan really is OK in the garden without being covered up all year round, and no matter how much reassurance you get, there is the tendency to think that it actually needs protection.

In the UK, homeowners are told that garden furniture will crack and split unless it’s protected from the elements at all costs but rattan defies this convention.

You can buy covers to put over rattan in the winter months but it’s entirely unnecessary and can in fact do more harm than good. If rattan isn’t allowed to breathe under its cover, it can quickly become rather sweaty and stinky, a particularly unattractive state of affairs.

Therefore if you opt to cover up your rattan you will need to make sure it is well ventilated and it’s not becoming sweaty under its hood.

rattan cover

Cover for rattan furniture

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Although you can purchase these covers for your furniture, the only important part is to remember to pick up your cushions for the winter months and place them in storage which is moist-free and secure. This storage can be rattan itself because after all, it offers some of the best protection from the elements possible !

Using your rattan furniture all year round

Although your garden furniture might get much more use in the summer months you may well find that during the winter you also use it rather unexpectedly.

A bright sunny wintry day can be a great incentive to go and enjoy a cup of tea in the garden and you may well feel the urge to sit down and relax in the crisp, fresh air. Many people actually use their rattan furniture all year round, so covering it up would actually reduce the amount of time they spend using it.

If you are a particularly hardy soul, you might even enjoy taking some lunch out into the garden on days which aren’t wet or too chilly. Wrap up warm and it’s still possible to enjoy eating al fresco even in the depths of winter!

If you choose to use your rattan furniture without a cushion, you will find that it’s surprisingly comfortable. A slight yield to allow you to sink into the style and then solid support, rattan furniture is easy to relax into even in its purest form. However, with the cushions stored within easy reach in your storage box, you can easily pop them straight back on as and when you want to use your garden furniture.

brown box rattan

A rattan deck storage box Image Source 

Using rattan storage for your dining area

If you have a permanent table and chairs in your garden, you might find it’s useful to keep accessories and utensils close at hand, rather than traipsing back in and out of the kitchen each time.

Even if you don’t need a rattan storage box for cushions, you could easily use it to safeguard your other accessories such as placemats, coasters, cutlery or even serving equipment such as a Lazy Susan.

Patio heaters are another piece of outdoors equipment which can be purchased with a rattan trim, and could make up part of your overall dining set. This could certainly allow you to use your rattan furniture even in the colder weather, warming up a chilly day and allowing you to enjoy a gentle warm glow from above. On a snowy winter’s day, this could be an almost magical experience.

Wide range of furniture

There’s a huge range of rattan furniture which can be used in the landscaping and decor of any garden.

Gardens are quickly becoming a true extension of the property, rather than a separate space, and decor and proper landscaping are gaining in importance.

For this reason, if you have rattan garden furniture, you might want to opt to complement the design with a few well-chosen accessories dotted around the garden. In some cases, less is more, particularly in more bijou areas, but opting for a similar colour theme to the interior of your property and matching the rattan accessories outside can provide a beautiful effect.

The lines between home and garden are becoming increasingly blurred which is why the upkeep and maintenance of your garden can play a big role in the overall appearance of your home.

In the summer months, you might like to consider a gazebo to provide shelter from the sun, or a parasol to keep the rays off you and your guests while you are eating.

Sun loungers can be purchased which combine a stylish rattan base with a thick and sumptuously padded cushion on top, or there are day beds which can be used for either topping up your tan, or just stretching out with a good book.

Rattan planters can complete the landscaping design, and it’s these small details which can really enhance the overall look of a garden.

A natural look

One of the reasons rattan is so popular is because it looks like an entirely natural substance, even though it may be synthetic.

There’s a huge demand for eco-friendly and sustainable furnishings and even though synthetic rattan isn’t produced in the same way, the fact the design matches has led to the material being regularly chosen. In the garden rattan furniture can be chosen to complement the flowers and plants, and you can create a joined-up theme which incorporates both furniture and blooms.

With each piece of rattan furniture woven by hand, there’s a unique appeal in the idea that not every chair and sofa was simply slotted through a machine handling thousands of items every day.

making rattan furniture by hand

Traditional rattan furniture making, Indonesia in 1948

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A superior material

Rattan provides a beautifully intricate woven design that hasn’t changed in the many centuries it has been used, despite the introduction of technology to help speed up the process. Studies have shown that the wicker making techniques used in ancient civilisations are broadly the same as those in use today.

However, rattan succeeds where many other materials fail; even solid wood fails when faced with wet, damp and humid conditions.

Rattan possesses qualities which are simply not found in other materials: the combination of strength, weather resistance, aesthetic appeal and low maintenance are a home decor dream. It’s for these reasons that rattan continues to grow in popularity and is expected to continue to do so for both interior and garden design.

Image Credits: Erika Finks and Wikipedia