Many people choose rattan for their outdoor furniture needs, but most people don’t really know what rattan is or where it comes from, so here’s a little history about this very popular outdoor furniture material…
Rattan is a vine, sometimes a very long, prolific vine, which grows best in the tropical climates of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. These countries have been using rattan for years to make baskets, chairs, and other pieces of furniture. The ancient Egyptians made boats, chariots, baskets, and chairs from rattan. Later, during the Victorian era, rattan was prized for its simple style. In later times, it was the similarity to Victorian furniture, with its simple lines, which attracted people to buy rattan as outdoor furniture. In recent days, new styles have been made, and so there are sets which can be used indoors also.
Many plantations had a veranda with rattan as the outdoor furniture of choice or a room inside decorated with rattan pieces. People felt that rattan was cleaner than other materials, as it did not gather dust and is easy to clean, requiring only a bit of soap and water to keep it looking its best. Another reason for rattan’s popularity was its comfort. Sitting on rattan furniture is really comfortable, especially with big patio chair cushions added.
Rattan is also a very durable material, which adds to its popularity for outdoor furniture choices. It sounds odd to think about a vine being durable until you think about being able to swing across the river on one. To re-enforce its strength, the vines are interwoven which adds extra durability to the finished product. Unlike wood, rattan is also light-weight, does not attract mold, does not gather dust, and is easy to clean. Rattan is also flexible, which allows for smooth, fluid shapes and intricate designs. The strands of the vine can be bent to allow for almost any shape. In addition, weaves allow for easy repair.
The natural resources in the tropical areas of Southeast Asia are rattan, bamboo, sea grass, and banana. These other materials are used in combination with rattan to make outdoor furniture, or they can be used separately to make other types of outdoor furniture as well. In tropical climates, where monsoons are a normal part of the day, rattan works well since it is water resistant. However, rattan should still not be left out in the rain or in direct sunlight all the time. Other countries, such as the U.S., like rattan for the same reason and so the U.S. has to import rattan from other countries to meet the demand.
Recently, new laws have been put into effect limiting the amount of rattan which can be cut, as it is harming the rain forests. Rattan is relatively good for the environment in that it helps with deforestation, but so much rattan is now being imported that it is beginning to harm the rain forests. A mixture of rattan with banana leaf, banana bark, wood, and sea grass might be a solution to the over-use of the rattan vine. The sea grass and banana leaf is flexible enough so that it can be interwoven with the rattan, which means it still retains its strength. As outdoor furniture, it would still retain its flexibility, durability, and charm.
For people with allergies, for people on a budget, for those looking for durable and long-lasting furniture, and for people who are eco-friendly, rattan seems to be one of the best bets for outdoor furniture materials. There are many styles to choose from so you are sure to find a style of rattan garden furniture or patio furniture that suits your outdoor and garden decor.