No longer confined to retro schemes and conservatories, nature's most versatile materials are making a stylish comebacks, says Gabrielle Fagan.
We’re all waking up to the magic of weave, with rattan – that blonde, slim, easy-on-the eye material – enjoying a starring role in homes right now.
Pinterest and Instagram are full of stunning examples of how rattan can lend a ‘wow’ factor in a way that solid wood simply can’t, and it’s totally in tune with our growing desire for natural products and organic designs in our living spaces.
Rattan was a huge hit in the Seventies, a trend that stuck for at least a decade, and has endured as a staple of the conservatory – but perish the thought that this is just a predictable reincarnation.
Designers have so transformed it, with punchy colour and imaginative chic new shapes, that pieces are good-looking enough to be focal points in all areas of the home.
Not only that – they’re seemingly so entranced by all things woven right now, they’ve also turned their creative attentions to raffia, bamboo, and even simple straw.
“Rattan really is the ‘super food’ of the homeware world,” declares Sophie Garnier, founder of Kalinko (kalinko.com), specialists in hand-woven rattan furniture and accessories made in Burma.
“Practically, the material is solid all the way through the vine, which makes it incredibly strong, and its flexibility means it can be woven into any shape. It also accepts paints and stains like wood, so can be made in a variety of colours and finishes.”
Not least, it’s a good choice, Garnier points out, if you want to burnish your eco-credentials. “It grows very quickly all year round and is harvested without harming the tree and also grows back very enthusiastically, so an A-star for sustainability,” she enthuses.
Lightweight yet sturdy, it can also look fresh and modern depending on the shape and finish you choose, notes Garnier.
Summing up its appeal, she says: “It brings the essence of the outdoors inside, which is very soothing and, while an obvious choice in the summer, will look great all year round in both classic and contemporary homes.”
What are you waiting for? Work the weave at home, with a variety of beautiful products…
Keep it light
Woven furniture won’t dominate a space, which makes it ideal for compact spaces and especially good for renters as it’s easily transportable, says Kate Butler, head of product design at Habitat.
“Fast-growing materials like rattan and bamboo are increasingly becoming key materials for us, and we’re incorporating these strong and lightweight materials into more modern designs that take advantage of their versatility,” she explains.
“They allow us to create more interesting 3D shapes, from fluid curves to angular forms, so we’re moving away from traditional rattan associations – which confined it to the conservatory – to more inspirational, contemporary ideas for the home that allow you to add more personality to a space.”
She highlights the Nadia bedframe (designed by Matthew Long), made from four individual rattan sections which clip together for easy assembly, and Habitat’s range of rattan light shades, which simply fit over a bulb.
Mix ‘n’ match
Double up for maximum effect – two chairs are better than one because they’ll look as though you’ve committed to a style, rather than bought a random piece.
If you want to make a statement, choose a rocker or a classic Peacock-style chair. The latter with its high back, which is also called a fan chair, originated in the Philippines and its striking style has featured in many iconic photographs over the years.
If you like a laid-back vibe, hanging chairs are ultra-fashionable currently, and Cox & Cox has an open weave Round Rattan Cocoon Chair, £650. It comes with a stand or a hook so it can be hung from the ceiling. Enhance the cosiness by draping with a Curly Sheepskin – Natural, £175.
Store & stun
We can never have enough storage – but there’s no reason it should be boring. Turn it into eye-candy with wicked weaves featuring soft, blushing shades, which can hold everything from household essentials to toys.
Divide & Rule
Unique pieces, like a folding screen, will conjure a tropical vibe in a living area. And you can ramp up the effect with other accessories, such a mirror, wall-mounted woven platters, occasional seating or a lamp.