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What is Rattan?

Written by: Abode Haven Sales Team

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Time to read 7 min

So, you've found yourself an amazing furniture piece made of rattan but you're unsure what that really means... 


Well look no further! We're here to help you dive in the fascinating world of rattan. Rattan has becoming increasingly popular over the last few decades, especially in the furniture and home decor spaces. Praised for its natural beauty, versatility and sustainability, interior designs, homeowners and furniture manufacturers around the world have flocked to it.


So whether you're curious about purchasing some rattan furniture for your home or simply asking yourself the question "what is rattan?", we've got you covered right here. 

Origin of Rattan

Rattan is name for the flexible, sturdy stems of the rattan vine which originates from tropical regions, mainly within Southeast Asia. The rattan plant has a long history of use by indigenous and native peoples, prized for its versatility when constructing various tools and crafts and for its relative abundance. It is commonly found in jungles and forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. 


Rattan's own journey from the jungles of Asia to your backyard is a testament to its beauty and versatility. But another aspect makes it truly remarkable, sustainability. The rattan vine is not only fast growing, but the harvesting process involves cutting the more mature stems which regenerate! This makes rattan much more eco-friendly that other materials and a renewable resource. 


Rattan's popularity in furniture construction has exploded in the last few decades, with skilled craftsman, usually using a woven technique called Wicker, creating some of the most quintessential indoor and outdoor furniture we know today. Rattan furniture has continued to turn heads with its natural, rustic feel and the ability to give almost any space a tropical vibe.

Rattan has now come a long way from its traditional roots (no pun intended) and its loved by interior designers and homeowners across the global. 


Characteristics of Rattan 

Rattan's rise in popularity and use in home furniture can be attributed to several characteristics that make it incredibly appealing to manufacturers, designers and homeowners alike: 


Flexibility: One of rattan's most prominent characteristics is its flexibility. Rattan stems can be twisted, turned and shaped without breaking or cracking, allowing manufacturers to construct intricate and creative designs. 


Strength and Durability: Even with its amazing malleability, rattan is incredibly strong and durable. The natural fibres of the rattan vine are tough and exhibit great resilience, making rattan furniture perfect for daily and outdoor use.  

Light weight: Furniture constructed from rattan is much lighter compared to materials such as timber or metal. This allows rattan furniture to moved easily, allowing spaces to be rearranged regularly and flexibility in layout design. 


Natural Beauty: Rattan's natural beauty is large part of its charm. It brings warm and rustic feelings to any space and its distinct texture and woven patterns create a particular aesthetic that has captured the masses. 


Breathability: Rattan is a relatively porous material, meaning air can circulate through it and moisture can circulate through it. This makes rattan furniture especially good for warmer climates, such as Australia, as it prevents the build up and accumulation of moisture and heat.


Environmentally Friendly: Rattan's sustainability and eco-friendliness is another reason why it is such a prized resource. It not only regenerates its mature stems when they are cut, but also grows into a mature state rapidly. On top of this, it also supports local communities and encourages sustainable forest management practices.


Versatility: Rattan is also very versatile. It can be bent, shaped and woven into anything from dining and outdoor chairs to ottomans, side tables and beds. Rattan's versatility is almost unmatched, being used to create almost any type of furniture piece imaginable. 


All these characteristics are way rattan has become one of the most prominent furniture materials today, combining natural beauty with durability and tropical elegance that continues to amaze. 

Types of Rattan

Natural vs Synthetic

Not all rattan furniture is built the same though, as there are two main types of rattan, natural and synthetic. Natural rattan is the one we have been discussing, derived from the rattan vine and is harvested, then processed, to create furniture. It's known for its natural colour and beauty, flexibility and durability. It's often handcrafted which highlights it's distinct features and textures. 


Synthetic rattan on the other hand is a material constructed in a lab as an alternative to natural rattan. It's usually made from plastic or resin and designed to look incredibly similar to naturally occurring rattan. It has some benefits over natural rattan, mainly a better resistance to the elements, especially the sun and from moisture. This tends to make it popular in outdoor furniture, reduces the maintenance needed and is more affordable. 

Colour Variations, Patterns and Finishes

Rattan is known for its gorgeous colours, patterns and finishes which are prized by designers everywhere. The most common colours for natural rattan are shades of light brown, tan and honey, all of which give it a warmth and earthy appearance. Natural rattan can also be stained to achieve different shades and colours, making it highly customisable. 


When it comes to patterns, the most common is a woven design, often seen in wicker chairs, which vary in their complexity and style. Wicker or Rattan furniture can use simple braiding to intricate lattice or herringbone weaves to achieve the desired look. 

For finishes, many prefer to keep rattan in its natural state (understandably) to showcase its raw beauty. Outside of this, a varnish or lacquer might be applied to achieve the desired colour as well as enhance durability. It adds another protective layer and can create a glossy or matte appearance. It's really matter of personal preference and the style you are going for. 

Uses of Rattan 

Rattan in Furniture Design

The versatility of rattan has led it to be commonly used in furniture design. The ability to shape, curve and weave the rattan stems to your hearts desire has let the creative of designers run wild. It allows for the creation of amazingly intricate and beautiful pieces, from rattan wingback chairs to Parisian style beds. Its flexibility means curved and round shapes are relatively easy to construct, meaning items such as round rattan chairs and wingback chairs, can be designed and manufactured without any extra hassle. 

Rattan in Home Decor and Accessories

The use of rattan is not just limited to furniture though, as it's widely used in both home decor and accessories. The popularity of rattan baskets, trays and wall pieces has also exploded alongside their furniture cousins, adding warmth and tropical feelings to any room. Rattan mirrors, lampshades and room dividers are also popular, as well as smaller items such as coasters, placemats and plant holders. 

Rattan and Outdoor Furniture 

Outdoor furniture is a big part of Australian home decor and home entertainment. With both natural and synthetic rattan's durability, weather resistance and strength make it the perfect choice for outdoor use such as deckings, patios or just around the fire pit. It's ability to withstand exposure to sunlight, moisture and the harsh temperatures of the Australian contintent, it's no wonder rattan has become a fan favourite down under. Withlounge chairs, dining chairs and sofas, outdoor rattan furniture has a piece and style to suit you. 

Benefits of Rattan Furniture

Eco-Friendliness and Sustainability

Rattan's eco-friendliness and low climate impact is a huge benefit to its use. It's a renewable resource as it is manufactured from the rapidly regenerating rattan palm plant and can be harvested without adding to deforestation or longer term environmental damage. The fast growing nature of the rattan vine makes it vastly more sustainable than other materials derived from wood with much longer regeneration cycles. On top of this, the production of rattan supports many rural communities in the Southeast Asia, providing employment and income to much needed areas. 

Durability and Longevity

Rattan's durability has also been a huge benefit and reason for its popularity. It's ability to withstand daily use, the harsh climates of Australia and its resistance to cracking, warping and splitting, make it an investment which will last for years into the future. With proper maintenance and cleaning, rattan furniture might even be that piece that you even pass onto your kids! Reducing overexposure to sunlight, moisture and extreme heat will significantly increase the lifespan of your rattan items as well. 

Comfort and Ergonomics

Rattan seating pieces, such as dining chairs, lounge chairs and wingback chairs, are prized for not only their comfort, but also their ergonomic benefits! Due to rattan's natural elasticity, it is able to conform to the seaters body structure which provides extra support and an a much comfier seat. Rattan furniture often makes use of curved backrests and armrests, which encourage proper posture. The woven designs also commonly used also provide better airflow than a solid state piece, perfect for those days in the summer heat.  


On the whole, the benefits of rattan furniture go far beyond its natural beauty. It's sustainability, durability and added comfort have all been huge contributors to its rise in popularity and its now common use all across Australian homes. 

Cleaning and Maintenance of Rattan Furniture

There are a few simple steps one can take to ensure that their rattan furniture becomes a timeless piece: 


  1. Regularly dust with a soft brush or microfiber cloth.
  2. Clean spills immediately with a damp cloth and mild soap.
  3. Protect from direct sunlight and excessive moisture.
  4. Apply a protective coating periodically.
  5. Tighten loose joints and repair any damage.
  6. Store in a dry, well-ventilated area when not in use.

We have curated an entire guide on How to Clean Rattan Furniture?, be sure to check it out!


Conclusion

In conclusion, rattan is a material that is widely used around the globe for its natural beauty, versatility and sustainability. We've explored its origins, characteristics, uses and benefits. We've shown how it may be used to bring warmth and tropical styles to any setting and why it is so prized in outdoor furniture. So, what are you waiting for? Check out our rattan chair collection today!