Rattan Outdoor Furniture

Designers favor rattan outdoor furniture to add a tropical flair to casual or formal settings. Harvested from tropical palms found primarily in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, rattan grows like a vine. Unlike bamboo outdoor furniture, which uses the plant's hollow stalks as framework, hardier rattan stems grow in long, solid vines. These long fibers can be woven into baskets or over metal frames to form the seats and backs of chairs, tables, shelving units, and headboards. For centuries, imported furnishings made of both materials were popular with the British Kingdom when the Empire was a formidable world power which colonized India. In the United States, these kinds of natural fiber furnishings may have become more popular when U.S. troops brought articles home from the Philippines, one of four islands which produce a third of the world's rattan. Wicker, a pliant plant material also used in basketry and furnishings, is similar but actually derived from the inner core of the woodier palm. The beauty and durability of tropical fibers make them a favorite for residential and commercial use. Beautifully designed exterior furnishings can be found in private homes, hotels, resorts, health clubs, vacation villas, or beachfront condominiums.

Paired with brilliantly hued floral prints, or citrus solids, rattan outdoor furniture is a staple in tropical islands, such as Hawaii and the Philippines. Its airy quality is perfect for humid regions where sand and sea would ruin solid wood pieces or metals. The fiber can be stained or painted like wood and protected with a coat of polymer. Imported rattan and bamboo outdoor furniture works beautifully on a patio or terrace; its tightly woven pattern appears in traditional, modern and contemporary styles to suit any decor. A beautiful, high quality piece will have an evenly woven pattern from top to bottom with imperceptible ends. Such weaving is reminiscent of Jesus' robe, which was woven in one continuous piece, symbolizing the wholeness of His broken body. "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did" (John 19:23-24).

Contrary to popular belief, natural woven furnishings are not just for casual settings. Some adventuresome brides opt for garden weddings featuring rattan outdoor furniture placed underneath wedding tents. Chairs and tables topped with white cloths and tropical centerpieces create a romantic island ambiance for informal or formal nuptials, offering guests comfortable seating for an unforgettable reception. Upscale resorts use custom designed rattan and bamboo outdoor furniture in reception areas, lounges, and massage areas to provide pampered guests a taste of the Caribbean. Restaurants and sidewalk cafes frequently use bamboo to add an island flavor to dining areas.

The beauty of rattan outdoor furniture is that it is practically maintenance free. The tightly woven fibers are surprisingly strong and require only a light dusting, vacuuming, or wipe with a soft cloth. Sturdy pieces have been known to last for decades without significant signs of wear and tear. Quality furnishings are also relatively light weight compared to solid wood units; and can be easily transported from porch to patio or near the pool. While woven fibers originate from tropical palms which can withstand water, furnishings are not as weather-resistant. Pieces should not be immersed in water or expected to endure constant or frequent downpours. Most furnishings fare well on a covered porch or patio out of direct sunlight. Rattan tends to fade in direct sun, while bamboo, usually kept in its natural state, is more resistant to heat and water.

Unlike its finer woven cousin, bamboo furniture is constructed from the thick, hollow stems of the woody plants. Fully mature stalks are sturdy, yet lightweight and are used as frames for household items such as bookshelves, chairs, headboards, and desks. Bamboo outdoor furniture works in casual or formal applications, depending on its color and construction. Darker woods have a more formal air and can be paired with white cushions for a dramatic appearance, while lighter, natural colored stalks are more casual. Lighter woods can be also fashioned into sturdy patio tables and chairs, chaise lounges, bar stools, and benches in relaxed settings.

While outdoor furniture can be purchased at retail stores, boutiques, and import markets, individual buyers may also shop online. Contract furniture companies sell to decorators, architects, and commercial enterprises; while wholesale importers may limit sales only to licensed businesses with resale certification. Rattan furnishings may cost slightly more than bamboo units, depending on the construction. Exterior ensembles require metal or heavier wood frames, which can account for the additional cost; while bamboo furnishings are usually made of 100 percent bamboo construction.

Either rattan or bamboo outdoor furniture is an exceptional choice for discriminating designers, restaurateurs, club owners, or resort managers who want to make a distinct statement and inject a tropical flair into casual or formal settings. Natural woods are warm and inviting and can be paired with pristine white cushions, tantalizing tropical prints, or citrus solids. The versatility and durability of rattan outdoor furniture lends itself to a myriad of design applications at vacation hot spots, tourist attractions, casual dining venues, or sidewalk cafes. From patio and chair ensembles, chaise lounges, stools, and benches; to bookshelves, credenzas and wall units, imports from Indonesia, Bali, and Sri Lanka have impacted interior design at home and abroad.

Wicker Outdoor Furniture

Wicker outdoor furniture and wicker indoor furniture has been around since the Egyptian Empire in 3000 B.C., and included chairs, wig boxes, and chests made of reed that was woven together. Wicker is the weaving process, not the material used. This type of furnishing was commonly used in the 16th and 17th centuries as well, but became highly popular in the Victorian period. One reason that type became so popular was the simplicity of it, and the fact that it could be woven into so many different styles and designs. People wanted durable and attractive furnishings to grace their gardens, conservatories, or expansive front yards. The lightweight and summery feel of these furnishings contributed to its popularity. There is no mention of certain types furnishings in the Bible, but some references to furniture remind us of how differently they lived then. "The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle, (Exodus 31:7)

The ease with which one can clean these pieces is another factor adding to its popularity. This material can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner to get rid of surface dirt, and brushing crevices with a new, clean paintbrush. Spills can be wiped up with a clean cloth dampened with mild detergent or Murphy's Oil Soap in water. No need to hire someone to come out and clean. Water can ruin the finish, however, so one must be very cautious. The humidity level is important to the preservation of these pieces. Air that is too dry will make the reeds dry and brittle; while to high humidity subjects it to mold and mildew.

If mildew actually occurs on wicker outdoor furniture, it should be cleaned immediately with bleach in water, rinsed well, then thoroughly dried in the shade on a warm, windy day. It should not be put back in the same place where the mold or mildew occurred when it's ready to be used again. Padded chair cushions will increase the life of both indoor or the outdoor furnishings. These woven pieces must be protected from harsh weather elements of sun, rain, snow, or wind. The sun will cause the fibers to become dry and brittle, and the glue joints to loosen. In the excess moisture resulting from dew, rain and snow, the hardwood frames can warp. Of course, for the person who wants the look without the trouble of the natural fibers, there is faux wicker made of resin, plastic, or fiberglass.

There are several different materials that are used to make wicker outdoor furniture and wicker indoor furniture. The largest source is an Asian climbing palm tree found in tropical rain forests called Rattan. Rattancan grow to be as long as 600 feet, but usually is no more than two inches in diameter. Cane is the stem of the larger rattan trees, and fine cane is used to make natural wicker, or for stained pieces. Reed is a term used to describe all the swamp grasses that are similar to straw. Those early American chairs that are sometimes found in antique shops, or in the possession of collectors, are made of reed. Bamboo is classified as a large tropical grass that can grow to over 100 feet at a rage of 36" per day. Bamboo thrives in the warm areas of temperate climates.

Americans buy wicker outdoor furniture more than indoor. Its form provides very comfortable seating and convenient tables for the patio or yard during the months when it's pleasant to entertain outdoors. White is often the preferred color for outdoors, but natural wood colors are used as well. When well taken care of, these pieces will last a very long time. When comes to wicker indoor furniture, pieces can be found for every room in the house, including the nursery. Living room chairs and couches in a variety of styles are available in this material, and dining room sets that are mostly casual in style.

Bedroom furnishings that are graceful in style and sturdily built is available in both adult and child-size furnishings. Even prams have been part of the wicker indoor furniture history. Hardwood frames provide the base for the weaving design in all of these pieces. The woven reeds are made to the size needed for the piece being constructed; then is steamed to make it pliable, is shaped for its intended use, then allowed to cool. When cooled down, the woven part retains its shape forever, providing a place of comfort for the owner, or a decorative piece.

Not every furniture store carries this furniture, but many do. If a customer is unable to find one nearby, there are a large number of companies on the Internet through which one can order whatever wicker outdoor furniture or wicker indoor furniture, and the prices are, for the most part, quite reasonable. They are listed in categories so that finding a particular piece is relatively simple. It may take a little time, but the end result will most likely be well worth the effort.

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