Wicker Patio Furniture
Why Buy Wicker Patio Furniture?
- Wicker furniture is durable. Expect well-made wicker furniture to last for decades.
- Wicker furniture is versatile. Update or change the look of wicker furniture by easily replacing cushions or pillows.
- Wicker furniture has character. It is evocative of tradition, quality & craftsmanship.
- Wicker furniture is easy on your budget. Comparatively speaking, wicker furniture is inexpensive.
Learn More By Browsing Our Wicker Guide Below
A Definition of Wicker
Wicker is woven or weaved fiber (historically any organic fiber that could be easily shaped, but recently has moved to synthetic plastics and resins due to strength and durability advantages) shaped into bowls, baskets, furniture and other objects. In the past wicker was composed of branches, stalks or cores of plants such as bamboo, rattan, cane, willow and even various reeds. Typically the frame is composed of a stronger material; past wicker furniture makers would use bentwood, but modern wicker furniture is typically framed with aluminum or other metals. Lightweight and weather-resistant when compared to thicker wood options, wicker furniture can be placed outdoors on a porch, but is considered stylish enough for indoor use. Wicker furniture has been around for millennia and continues to be a popular choice for patio furniture. The word "wicker” refers to the actual weave, not the materials involved. Any furniture that is weaved or woven is considered “wicker”. Wicker has its illustrious roots in ancient and exotic Egyptian empires. Wicker furniture has risen and waned in popularity as fashions have changed, but it has never completely gone away. In recent years, it has had a major resurgence in popularity due to the implementation of weather-friendly resin materials that can be woven into wicker furniture.
The History of Wicker Patio Furniture
Everyone has heard of wicker, the well-liked style of Patio Furniture known worldwide for its strong and beautiful weaves. Many people remember rattan, the popular and comfortable furniture that sat on a porch or in a garden while growing up. Many think rattan is wicker or wicker is rattan. Historically people have confused or combined the two terms, interchanging wicker with rattan and vice versa.
Wicker baskets, boats, tables, chariots and chairs were used by ancient Egyptians, typically made from strong grasses and reeds harvested from the Nile. Wicker baskets have been found under the ashes in the ruins of Pompeii, and eventually wicker furniture became popular in the gardens and verandas of Victorian Era plantations and estates in both England and America.
British and Dutch traders brought the furniture home, falling in love with the exotic look and feel while trading in the Indian Ocean. In addition to looking great, this older wicker was prized for its comfort compared to the seating of the day, particularly with a deep seating pillow.
Wicker is any object that utilizes weaved plants, and can be made from a variety of natural materials such as grasses and vines. For centuries wicker furniture was exclusively made from rattan. Because of this seemingly complete use of rattan in wicker furniture, the terms mingled in the minds of the public, eventually combining to mean the same thing. But they are not the same thing.
Wicker is a production process that produces furniture and other objects. Rattan, on the other hand, is a vine-like plant that grows exclusively in the tropical climates and jungles of South East Asian states such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. It’s been used for thousands of years to construct everything from baskets to furniture from Japan to China. Pictured below left is a motorcycle sidecar made from rattan wicker. The organic cords offered many advantages for furniture: it’s very strong compared to other types of wood, features a uniform diameter, a solid inner core and when heated rattan is extremely pliable and can be bent into virtually any shape. For these reasons the Asian vine always dominated wicker furniture.
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines were traditionally at the center of the rattan trade, with the Malaysian city of Singapore as the major hub in the Java Sea for the export of this material until the late 1980s. This success in the export of the raw material leading up to the 1980s is misleading; Java Sea countries made small profits from the export of raw rattan, while the real value lied in the export of finished products by foreign manufacturers who reeled in large profits.
In addition to low profits, harvesting raw rattan is extremely difficult and required gangs of Indonesian men hiking into dense and challenging jungles to harvest locations miles inside the rainforests. Once cut, the vines were chopped into 10 or 12 foot lengths, bundled together, and hauled by foot out of the jungle to export centers.
Starting in the 1970s these countries began to ban the export of this material. The new laws limited the amount that can be cut, decreasing damage and abuses to the rainforests and the laborers, while attempting to create a new manufacturing sector that traditionally was dominated by China, Japan and Taiwan.
But rattan has recently fallen out of favor of furniture manufacturers and wicker owners. Why? Rattan is a plant which requires maintenance and will deteriorate quickly if left outside in the rain, wind, sun or snow. Recently furniture manufacturers turned to synthetic materials that offer the same benefits as traditional rattan wicker, without the constant maintenance. These all-weather wicker pieces are durable, will never become brittle, and offer colors that will never fade under the elements, UV radiation, humidity and water.
Natural Wicker vs. Synthetic Wicker
Natural Wicker has an organic, hand-made, traditional appeal. It can be woven from diverse materials, including rattan, bamboo, willow and certain grasses and leaves. The material most people are familiar with when it comes to natural wicker is rattan, which is a climbing palm found in the tropical rain forests of South East Asia.
Natural wicker is best utilized in areas that are out of the reach of the weather. A four season room or covered porch is the perfect setting and will add years to the life of the wicker.
Synthetic Wicker was developed to mimic the look of traditional wicker furniture while eliminating the special care and maintenance organic materials require. Synthetic, non-porous vinyl and resins are resistant to breakage, chipping, stretching and fading.
Synthetic wicker requires little or no maintenance, it is impervious to the elements, and gives you the look of natural wicker without the worry. Place it anywhere and forget it - it will be safe from weather damage.
Synthetic Wicker: Care & Cleaning Tips
Synthetic Woven: Use a damp cloth with mild soap and water to clean all-weather wicker furniture. Do not use harsh detergents or abrasives. Do not use pressure washers or bleach. Synthetic wicker should be covered in the winter or stored in a shed or garage to protect it from harsh elements. This will extend the life of your furniture.
NOTE: If you live in a climate with freezing conditions, do not store any product upside down. Water can gather and freeze in the frames, typically composed of a metal such as aluminum or iron, which will cause the frames to burst.
What to look for when shopping for wicker furniture:
- Make sure the wicker you are considering has been treated with UV inhibitors to prevent fading. This is true for both natural and synthetic wicker.
- Well made wicker should have an even weave; there should be no exposed ends or obvious starts or finishes to the weave.
- There should be no exposed aluminum or steel framing (unless it is part of the design); well-made wicker will be completely wrapped.
Wicker Patio Furniture Brands & Manufacturers:
- Ebel - Wicker day beds, dining, deep seating & chat sets
- Caluco - Their modern designs mix wicker with metal materials
- Woodard - A few traditional wicker designs, such as the Belmar
- Royal Teak - Known for teak, they do offer Helena Wicker Dining
- Agio Select - Mostly aluminum, they do feature the Martinique Wicker
- Cast Classics - Classic & elegant Shambala recalls vintage wicker designs
- Leisure Select - Contemporary looks & designs, such as La Danta Wicker
- Alfresco Home - Beautiful wicker dining & bar sets, such as the Vento & Mezzo
- Bahama Winds - Exclusively wicker, they offer classic shapes, patterns & outlines
- Veranda Classics - The modern Mandalay Sectional evokes a South Beach feel
- Domus Ventures - Beautiful wicker daybeds, lounges, sofas & Luxor deep seating
- Summer Classics - Offers everything from classic to contemporary designs
- Chicago Wicker / North Cape - Modern & traditional sectionals & deep seating
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