Wicker furniture such as a stool and chair seat was discovered buried with the pharaohs, including Tutankhamen, in the pyramids of ancient Egypt. The production of wicker originated from the craft of basket weaving and the Egyptian tradition became popular with the Romans.
As the trade with the East increased over the centuries and the stronger and more flexible rattan grown in Asia became available, this style of furniture increased hugely in popularity. It became available in Northern Europe and Britain and by the mid-19th century it was also being manufactured in the United States.
The term “wicker” refers to a style of weaving and includes products woven from a variety of natural materials such as rattan, raffia, palm strips and willow. The Malay word “rotan” which means to “split” or “pare”, gave rise to the English term ‘rattan”.
More than 600 species of climbing rattan palms are found in Southeast Asia and the hard inner section of these palms are used for the manufacturing of rattan products. Since rattan does not crack as a result of heat or humidity, it is ideal for the use in tropical countries.
It was this association with exotic and tropical locations that appealed to Victorian furniture manufacturers who mostly produced ornate pieces. These elaborate designs were in time replaced with more modern and pared down interpretations by designers such as Mies van der Rohe and Gio Ponti and decades later gave rise to a wicker furniture revival in the 60’s and 70’s. Rattan is regarded as a more affordable alternative to timber and as being more breathable than upholstery. Furniture, storage baskets and objet manufactured from rattan, can fit comfortably into any style of interior. It not only brings in a natural element but also the knowledge that a century old craft was used to manufacture it