What Is Rattan Furniture?

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated June 16, 2021
Women lounging in outdoor rattan chair with blue pillows
Maridav - stock.adobe.com

Rattan furniture is a timeless way to give your home decor a natural look

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You might picture a rattan furniture set straight out of the 1970s, but rattan’s timeless look attracts fans decade after decade. The details of the wicker weave change, but rattan furniture’s natural aesthetic and unique designs remain a favorite for homeowners to decorate their homes. 

What Is Rattan Furniture?

Rattan is a fibrous vine made of material similar to bamboo that grows in tropical climates like those in parts of Australia, Asia, and Africa. No two rattan furniture pieces are exactly the same because Mother Nature decides the details of rattan’s stylish look.

Stripped from the vine, rattan’s outer skin or bark is ultimately woven into creative furniture designs. Each piece has a few distinct markings and comes in a variety of light wood colors. This color and feature combo give rattan its charming appeal. 

You’ve likely seen a piece of rattan when browsing in a furniture store or in someone’s Instagram post, especially after they’ve updated their living space for the warmer months. Rattan adds an easy-breezy feel. Rattan furniture remains popular because it’s lightweight, making it effortless to move from room to room as inspiration strikes, and instantly adding a natural element to your home’s overall design.

The Difference Between Rattan and Wicker

Many people use the words rattan and wicker interchangeably. It's a common mistake because rattan is often featured in wicker weaves. The difference is that wicker is a type of weave and rattan is the material. 

Many materials, even synthetic plastics, can be woven into a wicker weave. Back in the day, your grandma might have had a wicker sofa on her lake house’s back porch (with a wicker bowl and lamp base to match), but it wasn’t necessarily rattan.

Similar plants like bamboo and cane are confused with rattan, but they’re different. Cane is a long grass threaded through wicker weaves, and bamboo is a hollow, thick, sturdy grass better suited for the structure of furniture.

Here’s a little more info about wicker because it is so popular: The combination of natural or synthetic materials woven together is the hallmark of wicker furniture and accessories. The weaving technique takes advantage of the flexibility of materials to form one-of-a-kind pieces, including chairs, tables, and decorative items.

Wicker furniture is lightweight and easily moved around to accommodate an intimate Sunday brunch or a large graduation party. From time to time, scrub your outdoor wicker furniture with a nylon brush and soap to keep guests clean and comfy.

Woman reading indoors in rattan chair
MeganBetteridge - stock.adobe.com

What Are the Pros and Cons Of Rattan Furniture?

Rattan furniture is a classic furniture element with roots dating back to Ancient Egypt, but it's also unique because it shows off its personality organically. Homeowners who want to add a natural feel to their home pick rattan because it brings outdoor, woody elements into the room. 

Rattan is not weather resistant. Because it’s porous, rattan soaks up moisture and eventually grows mold and mildew if left outside. Rattan also fades and cracks in hot, sunny weather, so you’ll have to take measures to protect your furniture from sun damage. It’s best to use it indoors (dust frequently) or make plans to bring it in after a party on the lawn. If you really love your rattan furniture on your covered back porch, make sure your furniture is protected and covered after each use.

Is Rattan Furniture Worth the Price?

Rattan furniture can be expensive because of the source of the material and the labor needed to weave the furniture. Prices vary by manufacturer, but you should find a price point that matches your budget, especially if you think in terms of spreading the investment out over the years. If you lovingly take care of rattan and have a local furniture repair company repair any damage, it’s easily passed on for the next generation to discover its universal appeal.

Outdoor wicker furniture is pricey because it’s woven from a resin material that resists weather. It can also have a steel or aluminum frame, driving up the cost. But if you’re looking for outdoor furniture and it fits into your budget, that could be your best bet. 

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