Choosing a table and chairs can be a big investment and hopefully if the choice you make is a good one, will last for many years.

But with so many different types of table on the market, it can be difficult to whittle down the choices to a shortlist, before making your final decision.

One of the biggest decisions you need to make is the material you want the table to be made from. You could opt for a solid wood affair, a classic design with a timeless appeal or you could instead plump for plastic, because of its low maintenance and budget price range.

But there may be a third option you haven’t yet considered: rattan. Offering the beauty of wood and the economy of plastic, rattan is simple to look after, easy to clean and very durable.

black rattan set

A classic table from our range, the Cadiz

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Suitable for use both indoors and outside, rattan makes an excellent choice for all types of furniture, but particularly a table and chairs.

Below is some more information which could help you invest in the right table and chairs for your home.

What is rattan?

A material often confused with bamboo, rattan is a type of climbing vine which is used to create strong and attractive furniture.

Recognised as one of the most naturally strong substances in the world, rattan furniture is tough, resilient and very durable.

Rattan is used to weave into an intricate woven design known as wicker; this is a timeless technique which hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Wicker was first used in ancient civilisations and remains a popular choice in modern society too.

There are many different types of wicker, not all of which are made from rattan. Reed, rush and willow can all be woven into a wicker design, but none of these have the core strength and stability of rattan. It’s therefore essential to check that the design is actually rattan, not just wicker before you go ahead with the purchase.

rattan trees

Rattan growing in the wild

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You might see that the material is actually a synthetic rattan but don’t let this deter you. It’s very common for synthetic rattan to be used instead of natural rattan, particular in furniture manufacturing.

This isn’t a reflection on the quality of the design as in fact, synthetic rattan offers a far greater number of benefits than natural rattan.

Being waterproof, UV resistant and indifferent to the seasons, synthetic rattan can be used both outside and indoors all year round.

Why is rattan so great?

Synthetic rattan has been carefully manufactured to match the natural qualities of the material, and not just matches, but surpasses these in many different ways.

Rattan is a popular choice for garden furniture because it doesn’t need to be stored away from the elements even in the depths of winter. There’s no need to dismantle the table and store the parts in the shed, meaning you need some time to erect your table when it’s next time to use it.

from above a rattan set

A garden table from our range

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Because synthetic rattan isn’t troubled by cold or wet weather, you only need to protect the upholstery. The best way to do this is to store the cushions out of the wet and the cold, until the warmer weather returns. Most upholstery is showerproof and can easily survive getting a bit damp occasionally, but it’s not designed to brave more substantial onslaughts.

As well as being very convenient for use in the garden, rattan is very easy to clean, with very little maintenance or upkeep required. There are no expensive cleaners or tricky methods, just a damp cloth or a feather duster to get rid of surface grime.

In dining areas, there’s a much greater chance of spillages and mishaps so having a table which can be easily cleaned is a high priority. Knowing that with rattan, any accidents can simply be wiped up can make it one of the smartest choices for dining room furniture.

Choosing the right shape and size

Once you’ve decided to purchase a rattan table, there’s still much more to decide. There’s an endless stream of rattan designs on the market so it’s a good idea to have a rough idea of what you are looking for. Understanding your own priorities before you start looking in earnest will stop you getting distracted by models which aren’t suitable, and will help you focus on the ones which could fit well into your home or garden.

Size and shape are two particularly important factors which are always worth considering. A table which is too small leaves everyone cramped and battling for elbow space. Rather than relaxing and enjoying the food, people will be secretly counting down to the time when they can excuse themselves from the table to escape the discomfort!

But just as tables which are too small aren’t much use, a table which is too big can be awkward and not make for relaxed dining experiences. Imagine a great long table designed to hold an abundance of dinner guests filled with just two people, night after night. Not a relaxing experience for anyone.

To help you make your choices, here’s a rundown of some of the most popular size and shapes and what you might want to consider.

Rectangular

This is a great shape for tables when there are lots of people who will be seated together. Although small rectangular designs are just as good for two people, larger models will create an easy and comfortable atmosphere when there’s a large group.

A regular sized rectangular table can typically seat at least four people but you can buy larger models which can seat six, eight or even ten people.

The only difficulty with rectangular tables is that conversation can sometimes be a bit more difficult when there are lots of people present. This is because you typically end up with two lines of people facing each other, but unable to easily see the others in their ‘line’.

Some space saving designs offer seating which tucks away under the chairs before it all slots in together. This can be a great choice if you won’t need the extra seats on a regular basis but want to have the capacity just in case more people arrive for dinner one night. Space saving designs are very appealing physically, but also very popular as they won’t have chairs and awkward angles sticking out into the space when the table isn’t in use.

If a rectangular table is being used outside and the weather is hot, you might want to consider incorporating a parasol into the design. This will provide good shelter and shade for all those sitting at the table and won’t be too intrusive either.

Square

Square tables provide a similar opportunity to chat and be intimate but are better suited to smaller groups of people. Either two or four people are usually best for this shape of table.

What’s particularly nice about square tables is that there’s no obvious ‘head’. Because all sides are evenly shaped, everyone can feel like they’re in the conversation equally with no one person more important than the other.

Just like rectangular designs, space-saving models are often perfect for square shaped tables and can shave off precious inches whilst it’s being stored rather than used.

Round

A circular table is another great shape for promoting conversation because individuals are evenly spaced around the sides and allows everyone to face each other rather than being in a long line.

Round tables are usually best suited to at least four people but can increase in size to seat as many as ten people. The dimensions don’t affect the qualities of a round table and it remains a very sociable layout, no matter how many people are present.

However, it’s not very economical on space and tends to use up more space than rectangular designs which seat the same number of people. This is because a round table provides more room per person, because of the way the space is used. This means that circular tables are not a good choice in areas where space is at a premium.

If you have babies or young children in the house, round tables are a far safer choice as there’s no nasty corner lurking reading to cause an accident.

Inside or out

Another key consideration is where you think you will most use the design as inside and outdoors tables might be used differently.

Outdoors tables can be relatively smart, but overall are usually a much more casual affair. Rarely a venue for formal dinner parties, outdoors tables are more frequently used for the family eating al fresco or perhaps a barbecue with friends. A fun and informal affair, tables which are going to be used outdoors can be slightly less serious, perhaps by opting for more relaxed seating.

Although comfort is a key factor, the overall look of the table is an important factor in your decision to purchase. If you are looking for a more formal design, there’s lot of models where the overall look is elegant and sophisticated, and the chairs are more upright. This doesn't mean you’ll be perched on uncomfortable chairs; you’ll still enjoy the same comfort, solid support and deep cushioning that you’ve come to expect.

When looking at the comfort of a table, it’s a good idea to see what the cushions on the accompanying chairs are stuffed with. Cheap copies will use foam rather than the proper fibres. This won’t provide the same degree of comfort and will quickly wear out and grow thin, even if they look comfortable at the start.

If you’ve chosen rattan as a design you won’t need to worry about picking an all-weather material for an outside table, as you will already have that quality built in. Rattan will look great for any table indoors or out, and will offer a convenient wipe-clean surface.

You will find that most rattan tables are coupled with toughened glass. This glass shares many qualities of the rattan and is easy to look after, even when used outdoors.

Built to last

It’s important to keep in mind at all times that the choice you make is likely to last several years, particularly if your choose rattan. You shouldn’t let anyone dissuade you from your choice as picking furniture is highly personal and you will quickly resent a table which was forced on you by someone else.

Rattan comes in a whole host of colours and designs and with a choice of upholstery. In many cases you might find that if you like the design but not the upholstery, the seller may be able to switch them around for you.

The rattan itself is available in a number of different colours from soft golden biscuit right through to a rich chocolate brown, and all the shades in between. It is sometimes possible to find rattan furniture which has a combination of colours; this kind of highly decorative finish looks best with a plain type of upholstery.

Enjoy your food

Meals should be a social affair and there’s nothing better than sharing a space which is comfortable and stylish.

In the warmer weather being able to gather together in the garden is the perfect end to the day, and patio heaters can provide a touch of much-needed warmth if the evening feels chilly.

nice rattan dining set

Fine dining is one of the many ways to enjoy your rattan furniture

If it’s a lunchtime affair, a parasol can shelter diners from the heat of the sun.

Having a table and chairs that you don’t need to pull out of storage each time you want to use them means if you fancy an impromptu picnic outside, you can just take your plates outside and relax. Rattan allows you the spontaneity by providing a surface which can be left ready and waiting for use all year round.

If you’re eating indoors, you will still want to be comfortable and stylish surroundings can help you to enjoy being at the table, and can help you to unwind after a long day.

Rattan offers the ultimate in comfort, style and practicality and is the best choice of material for your table, wherever you plan on eating.

Image Credits: N.Rio, Wicker Paradise and Dina Benedum