Most styles of furniture and decor experience a rise and fall, often peaking and receding again in line with trends in the market.

However, rattan has been the exception to the rule. Despite having been around for many centuries, it has continued to rise….and rise…in demand and is now one of the most sought-after materials.

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Inspirational rattan garden furniture from our range

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Rattan furniture certainly seems to buck the trend and there’s no sign that it’s about to fall out of favour any time soon. Some manufacturers have struggled to keep up with demand during peak seasons and in the UK, rattan furniture is so popular there has been a shortage of it in some areas.

So why is it that rattan furniture is so popular and why is it expected to continue to be in demand? We take a closer look at one of the hottest interior design trends to ever hit the market.

What exactly is rattan?

Before looking at the qualities which make it so popular, it’s worth pausing to explain exactly what rattan is.

Rattan and wicker are terms which are often used interchangeably, but they don’t necessarily relate to the same thing.

Wicker is a technique of weaving and can be applied to a great range of materials including rattan, but also bamboo, straw and willow. It’s impossible to be certain of any of the qualities that wicker furniture possesses without knowing the material it has been made from.

Rattan, on the other hand, is a type of material. A vine which is closely related to the palm tree, it grows rapidly, reaching up to 100 feet tall. Shaped like a pole, its diameter is roughly between one and three inches.

Natural rattan is one of the strongest materials available, surpassing bamboo and other types of materials which could be used to make wicker furniture.

rattan in bundles

Natural rattan in its raw state

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It’s therefore accurate to say that rattan is a type of wicker furniture but that not all wicker furniture will be the rattan.

If you want to buy rattan furniture because of its unique qualities, you can’t assume you are buying rattan if it is simply labelled ‘wicker’. Depending on the materials used, wicker furniture can be quite weak and insubstantial so it’s an important distinction to make.

Synthetic rattan

Having established that natural rattan is one of the strongest natural products available, it’s worth mentioning that many top quality rattan products are not actually made from natural rattan!

Although natural rattan is strong and environmentally sustainable, there are several drawbacks. It is not suited to the UK climate and requires a lot of protection and care and even then, may not last as long as most buyers would expect.

For that reason, a synthetic rattan has been developed. This offers the same qualities as natural rattan, being incredibly strong and durable, with an identical delicate woven appeal, but also delivers a vastly improved performance.

Synthetic rattan is also known as PU rattan and is the material of choice for most top quality rattan furniture manufacturers.

The principle regarding wicker furniture and rattan remains just the same for PU rattan furniture; don’t buy wicker furniture if you want rattan, unless it is specifically labelled as such.

For clarity, all future references to rattan in this article will be to artificial rattan, not natural rattan.

Great for the garden

Rattan furniture is suitable for both indoors and outdoors use but is perhaps most closely associated with garden chairs and tables.

rattan patio set

A Cadiz rectangular garden table from our range

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There are very few materials which are durable enough to be used outside and can be exposed to the elements without degrading, but rattan is in this elite group.

Rattan is UV resistant which means that it won’t fade in the sun nor degrade with continued exposure. It’s also waterproof and impervious to extremes of temperatures. So whether your rattan table and chairs are exposed to a scorching hot British summer or a long and icy winter, you won’t find any cracks or splits in the weave.

Because rattan is so resistant to the effects of the elements, it can be used all year round and you don’t need to put it into storage. You may want to put any cushions or pads inside, but the main rattan can be left out without protection all year round.

This is extremely convenient as it means you don’t have to keep dragging a table and chairs out of storage every time you want to use it.

Rattan has increased in popularity all over the home but remains as in demand as ever for garden furniture too.

outdoor rattan set of furniture

Deluxe Macassar Rattan Garden Corner Sofa Suite

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Comfortable yet strong

Wherever you choose to use rattan furniture, you will inevitably want it to look great and complement your existing design and decor. But whilst style is important, it needs to be practical too.

There’s no point investing in a product which breaks quickly or is uncomfortable to use. The good news is that rattan is not just uniquely attractive, but it also is very strong and with the right upholstery, offers a soft surface to sink into.

Rattan furniture is typically built around an aluminium frame; this is what provides the basic shape and the underlying core strength. The wicker weave is then created around this and once in place, rattan is strong and resilient.

Because of how the synthetic rattan is made, you will notice a slight yield as you sit in a rattan chair. This flexibility is deliberately built in to maximise comfort; an entirely solid surface can be uncomfortable and make you feel as if you are perched ‘on’ the chair rather than relaxing into it.

Even with prolonged use, rattan won’t start to sag and will remain as strong as when you first bought it. The slight yield you feel won’t go any further and both the seating and the backs of any chairs or sofas will provide excellent support.

These qualities mean that even without any additional padding, rattan is a very comfortable material for seating. However, most styles incorporate pads, cushions or upholstery just to provide a final boost of softness.

This styling means that rattan furniture is practical, functional but also very supportive and comfortable too. Some would say this is the perfect combination for any type of seating or furniture.

Wide variety of designs

When rattan was first introduced to the modern market, the styles and designs were quite narrow and all rather similar.

As demand for rattan has continued to explode, manufacturers have brought out increasing types of style to accommodate an ever-growing market.

Floral designs were typically seen with rattan furniture and a certain style of sofa and chair, most suited to occasional use in conservatories.

Modern rattan furniture doesn’t really bear any resemblance to these more old-fashioned designs.

Floral designs can still be found but they jostle for shelf space alongside clean, minimal beige and creams and bold contemporary colours and patterns. Rattan has come of age - and the wide variety of styles on the market shows just how far it’s come since it first emerged.

The strength of rattan means that it’s entirely suitable for more frequent use, and as eco-friendly styles have also started to become more sought after, rattan is being used in the main rooms of the house too, not just peripheral areas such as the conservatory or garden.

Sofas, chairs, dining sets and daybeds are all available in rattan and they are tough and durable enough to be used every day. Rattan doesn’t need to be tucked away in a corner, it’s one of the strongest materials on the market and its beautiful weave means it deserves centre stage.

rattan as a bed

Rattan daybed

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This great variety of styles means that it can blend in with both contemporary and more vintage furniture and decors too. Although it has a reputation for being a modern invention, rattan has been around for many centuries. In the right style, it can look equally at home in a Georgian home as a more contemporary modern property too.

The other benefits to the increase in designs mean that it’s possible to use rattan all over the home. Ideally suited to bathrooms because of its innate waterproofing qualities, it also looks great in children’s bedrooms too.

Wicker storage in kitchens can create a quaint farmhouse appeal and when coupled with toughened glass in tables, makes a practical yet pretty dining set.

Low maintenance

With such a delicate appearance, it’s understandable that rattan looks as if it could be difficult to keep clean and would quickly break down and split.

However, the paradox is that it’s actually one of the easiest materials to look after and with the tiniest bit of upkeep will stay looking immaculate, pristine and as good as new for many years.

The wicker weave can offer dust particles a place to settle so it’s important to make sure that it’s clean in between the cracks. If you don’t do this, grime can start to accumulate which can make your rattan furniture look grubby.

Rattan recliners

Rattan garden furniture with covers

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The good news is that it’s very quick and easy to clean the wicker weave and you don’t need any special cleaning products to do so. A quick flick over with a duster is usually enough to remove most of the dust and you won’t need to do this any more often than once a week.

To give it a deeper clean, the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner will suck all the dust out of the nooks and crannies and will make sure there’s no dust lurking in the depths.

Because of rattan’s resistant qualities, spillages and mishaps are also very easy to clean up, especially if you do it straight away. Using a damp cloth should wipe away any marks or stains, even on the lightest rattan materials.

If you leave dark stains to soak in for a lot longer, you may find it a bit more difficult to eradicate completely - such as red wine on a white rattan for example. However, in the vast majority of cases, the rattan will repel the liquid and won’t absorb any of the spillages.

You shouldn’t ever use special cleaners or abrasive fluids on your rattan, either for dusting or deep cleaning. This can damage the coating so should be avoided at all costs.

The covers for the pads, cushions and upholstery are typically machine washable so can be easily cleaned at home to keep the colours bright and vivid and the white and creams flawless.

It’s a good idea to reposition the covers and rotate the cushions; this helps to ensure there’s even wear and prevents excessive use in just one area.

Just these few simple measures will be enough to keep your rattan furniture looking immaculate and in great condition for many years after you purchase it. And it’s this ease of maintenance which is one of the reasons why it continues to rocket in popularity.

Expect demand to keep growing

Rattan furniture has grown in popularity in recent decades and given its unique qualities, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that rattan is such a great idea.

There’s no other material that can offer the same strength, resilience, durability and innate beauty. Rattan has gone from being a material most associate with outdoor furniture to one which can be used in decor all over the home.

It clean, contemporary lines and natural-looking material mean that it fits in with modern homes which are intended to look minimal and in harmony with nature.

Many people also have busy lifestyles which mean they simply don’t have the time to spend on extensive polishing or cleaning regimes. A material which is easily cleaned and maintained, it fits in with modern needs.

If all of the above wasn’t enough of an incentive to opt for rattan furniture, it’s remarkably economical too. High-quality rattan furniture can be purchased at a surprisingly reasonable price, and it’s an investment which will last for many years.

When you buy your rattan furniture, look for a structural guarantee; this will demonstrate that the materials you are buying are top quality. Don’t be tempted by cheap, low-quality designs or wicker that isn’t made from rattan; you simply won’t get the whole host of benefits you deserve.

Image Credits: Affinity International Furniture, Kathryn Tilley and Zinnia Garden Design


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