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Rattan Furniture Buying Guide

Rattan Furniture Buying Guide

It’s actually starting to feel a little like Summer here in the UK, and there has been a growing interest in our Rattan Garden Furniture range. Forget the cheap plastic garden chairs this Summer! If you’re looking for a more stylish alternative that won’t shame your garden when you have friends and family round for a barbecue or garden party, you want to seriously be considering rattan garden furniture!

What is Rattan?

Rattan comprises approximately 600 different species of reed palms native to tropical regions of the world, so there is naturally something very exotic about the way that it looks. Rattans are visually quite similar to bamboo, but its stems are solid and require some structural support as they are quite vine-like in the way that they grow. Their vine-like qualities enable rattan to be shaped into all sorts of wonderful styles, making them a favourite for furniture making. The skin of the rattan can be peeled off from the core to be used as rattan weaving material, and you can usually see this decoratively on some rattan furniture as it appears as though “ribbons” of rattan are tying pieces of the furniture together.

Indonesians making rattan furniture, circa 1948Indonesians making rattan furniture (circa 1948)

Rattans have been known to grow to astounding lengths up to hundreds of metres long in the wild, and 70% of the world’s rattan population actually exists in Indonesia due to the tropical environment. Rattan is incredibly lightweight, and surprisingly more durable than bamboo. Like most woods, rattan accepts paints quite well, and so is popularly stained to different colours to suit the colour theme or decor of the garden in which its situated. Though the natural rattan tones are still a favourite for the garden, more contemporary gardens may feature black rattan furniture, white rattan furniture or more brightly coloured colours to accent their garden.

Rattan vs Wicker: What’s the difference?

Rattan Jungle Vines

Though commonly confused with each other, and mistakenly used interchangeably, rattan furniture and wicker furniture are two both very different types of furniture. All you need to remember really is that wicker isn’t actually a type of plant or material. It is in fact the process of weaving used to create the furniture. So wicker furniture can really be made out of anything, commonly straw or bamboo, so long as it was weaved in a certain way.

Rattan furniture on the other hand exclusively refers to furniture produced from reed palm. The tropical jungle vine is harvested from its natural environment and cut into lengths of approximately 14ft. These lengths of rattan can then be steamed to create those curved shapes typical of rattan furniture. The skin of the vine can be peeled and soaked to create the ribbons that we often see binding rattan furniture together. The most popular material for weaving wicker furniture is actually rattan, due to its aesthetic quality and durability. In fact, with regular care, rattan furniture that has been woven can last up to 100 years or even more. As rattan grains grow vertically into vines, unlike most woods, it’s considered to be an extremely strong wooden material that doesn’t just break or splinter and is quite flexible to bend. In rural areas where rattan grows abundantly, natives will even use rattan as a housing material to build their homes due to the natural sturdiness of rattan.

How To Buy Rattan Garden Furniture

Your dedication to maintenance will dictate what quality of rattan garden furniture you get. If you are confident that you can properly care for high quality, expensive rattan furniture for outdoor garden use then it is most certainly worth it. However, you may want to consider cheaper options if you don’t think you could put the time into rattan maintenance. (More on how to care for rattan garden furniture and the benefits of opting for synthetic rattan furniture coming up! This should definitely influence your buying decision.)

Consider where your rattan garden furniture will live during those Winter months when it won’t see any outdoor garden usage. If you have a complete garden lounge set with rattan corner sofas and tables, will they have to be left outside during Winter?

When you are looking at rattan garden furniture, inspect the weave of the rattan as this can affect the durability of the rattan furniture. If the weave is quite dense or tight, the more durable and hard-wearing it will be. Loose weaves will be less so. So you want to keep an eye open for the density of the rattan furniture. High quality rattan furniture tends to be hand-woven by highly experienced and highly skilled craftsmen who are experts at creating strong furniture out of rattan in a whole variety of different styles and patterns of weave.

One of the most important questions you will have to ask yourself when shopping for rattan garden furniture is how and where will it be used? If the furniture will be sheltered at all times, or will not be exposed to some of the wetter weather conditions, then it will obviously require less maintenance. Else, you may also have to look into waterproof cushions and weather resistance for rattan furniture. If it will be in contact with direct sunlight, you may also want to consider UV protection.

As rattan garden furniture comes in a huge range of different styles to suit your garden, you can really find some stylish lounge sets perfect for your garden. In pretty much any colour of your choice with cushions to accent. Whether you want to create a rustic, organic looking lounge area in your garden or a bold, contemporary outdoor hangout, you can achieve any number of different looks with rattan. So think carefully about the style of rattan garden furniture that would complement your home or garden.

Contemporary Rattan Garden Furniture

Why Buy Synthetic Rattan Garden Furniture?

Authentic rattan garden furniture, although beautiful, has a tendency of rotting when exposed to damp conditions. They make gorgeous additions to the sun room or conservatory, but they’re just impossible to leave outside in the garden without constant maintenance.

Synthetic rattan garden furniture is barely distinguishable from their genuine counterparts, and requires very little maintenance in comparison. Synthetic rattan garden furniture also commonly features UV protection to prevent fading when exposed to long periods of sunlight, alongside general weather resistance to protect it from the rain.

Commonly made from PVC or HDPE (more durable and more environmentally friendly than PVC), you’ll be able to just hose your garden furniture down lightly every now and again. High quality synthetic rattan garden furniture is usually woven around a strong aluminium frame to further increase its sturdiness.

Due to the cost of manufacturing, in comparison to genuine rattan garden furniture, they also work out far more cost-effective too as they are made from a durable resin material. In addition to being more cost-effective, you may also find that synthetic rattan garden furniture is actually more hard-wearing too. If you are looking for a cheaper (or easier!) alternative to natural, authentic rattan garden furniture, without skimping on the quality both functionally or aesthetically, synthetic rattan could be your perfect solution!

Contemporary Black Rattan Garden Furniture

How To Care For Rattan Garden Furniture

When it comes to wicker furniture, whether it’s rattan or any other material, you will need to regularly and thoroughly clean the crevices of all dust, dirt and debris that may build up over time. This will prevent any infestations, moss and bacteria from reducing the quality of your garden furniture.

You can do this by giving a good brush of your rattan garden furniture, cleaning it of all dirt and dust, then using a small brush working in between all of the gaps in the weave and on the surface with soap suds before a gentle wipe after. It is recommended to do this at least once a month.

Important: Always allow rattan furniture to dry completely.

With genuine rattan garden furniture, you don’t want to leave it outside to combat all weather conditions. It will lose the war. You can use covers when the furniture is not in use or simply bring it indoors or somewhere sheltered like the garden shed. You may think that this contradicts the earlier stated “durable” qualities of rattan but, though strong, rattan won’t look quite so glamorous after long periods of challenging weather. Rattan will survive most extreme conditions, but it may get a bit mouldy…

If you have been leaving your rattan garden furniture outdoors throughout the year and you’re starting to notice the effects of this (such as chipping, splitting or colour fading), you’ll be pleased to know that there are steps that you can take to help restore your rattan garden furniture.

  • Remove the old paint or finish (you may need to use liquid paint stripper) from the furniture and clean the furniture thoroughly. Try not to drown the furniture in water, using the suds or foam from a bucket of soapy water rather than the water itself. Get all the residue and grime out from the cracks and crevices using a toothbrush and a warm damp cloth.
  • When cleaning rattan, it is important to not use any kind of pressure washer or abrasive/scouring tool as this can scratch or cause damage to the rattan surface. You will want to use a pH-neutral soap (no bleach or all-purpose cleaners) and will require a cold rinse if you are cleaning using a luke warm solution.
  • Find any areas of the rattan furniture that have become damaged (splits in the rattan, etc) due to becoming dry over the years, and brush linseed oil over the dry spots until fully absorbed to restore its moisture.
  • Once the rattan furniture is repaired and cleaned from top to bottom, you can apply lacquer or paint the rattan according to your preferred style.


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