A sofa is at the heartbeat of every room it graces; the piece of furniture that nearly everyone heads for first and will inevitably use.

Style, comfort and strength are the essential triad of qualities that every homeowner looks for, hoping to find the sofa which represents a great investment whilst being comfortable and fitting in with the decor too.

Rattan is a material best known for use in the garden but its appeal in interior design is growing rapidly.

We take a look at rattan sofas and just why they are the hottest choice for sofas and interior design right now.

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An outdoor quality rattan sofa available from our range

What is rattan?

Not to be confused with wicker, which is the technique for weaving different types of vine and natural materials, rattan is a vine which grows in tropical areas and is renowned for its strength and durability.

A particularly eco-friendly resource, it’s plentiful and also regrows extremely quickly, which are some of the reasons why it’s quite so popular for use in furniture-making.

However, synthetic rattan is also extremely popular and is regularly used instead of the natural vine. Looking practically identical synthetic rattan has advantages if the furniture is to be used outside as it can last much longer in UK climate conditions.

Rattan furniture is one of the strongest types of design available; the strength of rattan has been compared to industrial steel! However, not all woven designs are rattan so it’s important you look for ‘rattan’ furniture not simply wicker.

The term wicker refers to the technique of weaving materials together so although rattan can indeed be a type of wickerwork, not all wickerwork is rattan. Alternative materials such as willow and rush may also be used for wicker and although these are also very attractive they lack the inherent strength that makes rattan such a good choice for large items of furniture such as a sofa.

What to look for in a quality rattan sofa

There are a wide range of rattan sofas available and your choice may well be influenced by the design you like. However, when you’re looking for quality, there are a few tell-tale signs which can let you know whether you’re looking at a piece of rattan which is as good as it should be.

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Quality example of a rattan sofa which also acts as a bed

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Here’s what to look for when choosing a rattan sofa:

The fibres

Whether it’s a natural or artificial weave the quality of the fibres will determine whether or not the sofa will be robust and strong. No matter how good the rest of the design, if the fibres aren’t up to par, the strength and durability will suffer.

As a general rule, thicker fibres are better as they provide a much more hardwearing and durable base for the weave. Some selected designs can still offer high quality despite using a lighter type of fibre, but if you see a thinner fibre being used, inspect the item even more thoroughly to check it’s up to standard.

The fibre should also be treated, particularly if there’s a chance that it may be going in the garden or exposed to sunlight. All rattan should have a UV protective coating; if this isn’t made clear, check the small print to see if it’s included.

Quality of the weave

Rattan furniture is woven around an aluminium frame providing a stable core to support the rattan. The craftsmanship of the weaver plays an integral role in the quality of the final design but this will depend in a large part of the rattan being supplied to them.

Assuming that good quality fibres are replied, the rattan should be woven into a tight weave; this has another significant impact on how long the sofa will last. Those which have a tightly woven weave which is thick and dense should last far longer than any items with a loose weave.

The exact pattern of the rattan may vary depending on the individual weaver and there are several well recognised designs which may be used. But regardless of which of these is chosen, the weave should be dense and tight to provide the best quality.

The frame

The weave is constructed around a basic frame underneath and it’s this which provides the core stability and strength to the design. Rattan is a material which can yield somewhat so having this strong and firm base is essential to the overall durability. This base also helps to prevent stretching or sagging from occurring.

To get the best possible results, the base should be powdered aluminium. This metal is by far the most superior for making rattan furniture as it has an extremely high strength to weight ratio and it’s also non-corrosive. This means that even if it’s left out in the rain all year round it won’t rust or start to break down.

Another benefit to using aluminium is that it is an entirely recyclable resource. As an environmentally friendly material, rattan is often chosen because of its green credentials. Using a metal which is 100% recyclable reinforces the eco-friendly design.

The powdering is also important as it prevents the silvery colour of the metal from peeking through any of the micro gaps in the weave.

One of the defining qualities of aluminium is that it is particularly light weight. This helps to make rattan furniture so versatile. However, very cheap tubular aluminium is so lightweight it lacks stability and runs the risk of being blown away in high winds, Make sure the furniture you choose is a good quality; the sofa shouldn’t be excessively heavy but it shouldn’t be too light either.

Upholstery

Arguably this is almost as important as the rattan itself as it is the cushions and padding which will provide the comfort and the style. Rattan furniture should never be used on its own without cushions because although it might still feel surprisingly comfortable, the weave can become stretched and sag. The cushion helps to distribute the weight more evenly and helps the rattan to remain in pristine condition for many years.

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Rattan sofa with added upholstery – a great look!

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Cushions by their very nature can’t be exposed to the elements in the same way that rattan can so having to store the upholstery in rainy or wet conditions is inevitable. What you should look for though is covers that simply zip off and can be cleaned in the washing machine. Covers which aren’t removable or need to be dry cleaned should be avoided at all costs.

To prevent any inconvenience, a rattan storage box can provide an efficient solution. Made from weatherproof rattan on their outside and lined on the inside to provide even greater protection, this storage box looks great and complements any rattan furniture perfectly. When you want to use your rattan garden furniture, just flip open your box and throw on the cushions and you’re ready to go. There’s no need to traipse to the other end of the garden to pull them out of the depths of the garage or shed, a storage box allows the upholstery to remain protective whilst also staying right on hand.

Overall style

Once you are certain you are buying a quality piece of rattan you can start to deliberate over the design and the specific style.

Fussy, floral sofa sets which were often seen three decades ago are a thing of the past; modern sofa sets feature clean lines, neutral colours and contemporary shapes.

Corner sofas are particularly popular as they maximise the room available and can either act as a useful divider in open plan living or create the illusion of space in smaller areas. These are popular both in the garden and in the home and offer a much greater area for friends and family to gather together than more traditional designs.

But even though corner sofas have an undoubted appeal, they aren’t suitable for every room because of their sheer dimensions. Being in one piece means a substantial amount of space needs to be available in one area to be able to accommodate a corner sofa.