Much loved and super sustainable, cane and rattan tap into the present vogue for all things natural.
Web fashion brand La Redoute is also doing well-priced chic cane furniture. Renters love these pieces, too, because they’re light and easy to move.
Cane is the outer bark and rattan the tubular core of the same tree-like tropical vine that scrambles upwards over other plants before falling back to snake over the ground.
Mix cane and rattan with ceramics, raw timber, linen and dried grasses “for the natural look of slow living”, suggests Dan Rawlings, senior furniture designer at John Lewis.
“Wicker” simply means an item is woven, typically from cane, rattan, willow or seagrass. Most garden furniture described as rattan or wicker is made from durable, woven synthetic strips.
Cane added a natural touch to those cantilevered modernist seats at the end of the Twenties by Bauhaus maestros Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer — still made today by Knoll, with cheaper versions widely available.
In the Seventies, Antonia Graham, founder of Graham & Green furnishing boutiques, had a basement in Notting Hill stuffed with the kitsch curlicues of Peacock chairs.
Today, the G&G rattan edit is sleek and minimal, with black metal frames.
“Rattan is brilliant for small rooms, as its open weave lets light through for a sense of airiness and space,” says Graham. And rattan is the darling of Habitat’s latest “capsule” collection, styled by Hannah Weiland of fashion brand Shrimps. Key pieces are a chunky cubist rattan armchair, a cane lamp shade on a hand-painted base, and a neat little rattan cupboard.
Weiland says: “It’s strong and sturdy but has a natural, soft texture that feels so calm and positive.”
On a mission to preserve cane craft in Britain is Lulu Lytle, of Soane Britain in Pimlico Road. She bought Angraves, England’s last cane workshop, in 2010, where staff had dwindled to two.
Just published is her magnificent tome, Rattan: A World of Elegance and Charm (Rizzoli New York, £50).
“There is hardly a movie star or luminary who hasn’t at some point posed in a Peacock chair,” Lytle observes.
- Go to canestore.co.uk for woven sheets of cane and other materials that make great radiator covers — or glue them to furniture fronts.