Wicker furniture has been around for centuries, with its origins tracing back thousands of years. From ancient Egypt to Victorian England, wicker has been used across cultures and evolved over time. While wicker may conjure images of stuffy, old-fashioned decor, it has seen a major revival in recent years. Wicker furniture and accessories now run the gamut from cozy cottage style to sleek, contemporary pieces. The natural, woven look of wicker lends itself well to many design aesthetics. With innovative new manufacturing techniques, wicker is being used in ever-more creative ways in home decor. This article will explore the history of wicker furniture, its manufacturing processes, popular wicker styles from classic to modern, tips for incorporating wicker into your home, and the future of wicker design. Whether you prefer a breezy, beachy look or something more refined, wicker offers timeless appeal.
A Brief History of Wicker
Wicker has a long and storied history spanning thousands of years. The earliest known evidence of wicker furniture dates back to ancient Egypt around 4000 BCE. Ancient Egyptians crafted wicker chests, beds, chairs and more from indigenous reeds and grains. Basket weaving was an important craft and utility in daily Egyptian life.
Wicker continued to be used across ancient cultures, spreading through ancient Rome and medieval Europe through trade routes. In Europe, the popularity of wicker ebbed and flowed through changing styles and available materials over the centuries. The Victorian era saw one of the revivals of wicker furniture. With mass manufacturing capabilities, wicker furniture became more affordable and a Victorian decor staple. Intricate and detailed wicker chairs and settees became icons of the period.
Wicker remained commonplace through the early 20th century in cottages, sunrooms and patios across America. In the 60s and 70s, wicker took on a groovy, retro vibe in bohemian decor. However, wicker fell out of favor as interior design trended toward sleek, contemporary minimalism in the 80s and 90s. The aughts into the 2010s have seen wicker roar back into the design scene with modern updates suited to current tastes. Once seen as fusty and old-fashioned, wicker has reclaimed its seat as a versatile, aesthetically appealing furnishing material.
How Wicker Furniture is Made
Wicker refers not to a specific material but rather to the woven style of furniture. Traditionally, wicker was crafted from natural plant materials that lent themselves to weaving and basketry. Most common traditional wicker materials include:
- Rattan: Made from several species of palm, rattan is one of the most commonly used wicker materials. Native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australia, rattan vines can grow hundreds of feet long. Rattan is prized for its durability, strength and flexibility which allows it to be woven into various forms.
- Willow: Willow branches have been used for basket weaving and furnishings since ancient times. Willow ranges in color from yellow and tan to deep brown. Its pliability makes it a favorite wicker material.
- Bamboo: A fast-growing grass material, bamboo has been used in Asia for centuries for everything from cooking tools to furniture. Its versatility and sustainability has made it popular for modern wicker furnishings.
- Reed: Growing in wetlands around the world, reeds have long been dried and woven into mats, baskets and furniture pieces. Reed is valued for its thick, sturdy nature.
- Rope: Rope and twine woven from natural fibers is another traditional wicker material, often seen in seats of chairs or small accessory pieces.
- Wood: Thin strips of wood are sometimes woven in wicker designs, bringing interesting visual texture and warmth.
Beyond natural fibers, wicker furniture today is commonly crafted from synthetic rattan, a manmade polymer that mimics the look and feel of natural wickers. While not as eco-friendly as natural rattan and wickers, synthetic fibers bring increased durability and weather resistance.
The weaving process for wicker is intricate and labor intensive. Skilled artisans carefully bend and weave the rattan, willow or other material over and under stationary pieces of the frame to create the woven texture. The variation in weaving techniques influences the look and feel of the final furniture piece. Coarser or tighter weaves, varied patterning, and use of color create unique wicker finishes.
High quality wicker is extremely durable and rigid, holding its shape without sagging over years of use. Cheaply made wicker may warp or wear out more quickly. When shopping for wicker, look for tightly woven pieces made of strong natural or synthetic materials. With proper care, a wicker investment can last for generations.
Popular Styles of Wicker Furniture
From breezy beach decor to elaborate Victorian embellishments, wicker furniture adapts well to a range of aesthetics. Here are some of the most popular styles of wicker furnishings making their way into modern homes:
Casual Cottage Wicker
Cottage style conjures images of whitewashed walls, floral prints and weathered wood finishes. Wicker fits right into this laidback look with its natural, textural appeal. Painted and distressed wicker furniture adds to the relaxed, welcoming vibe.
Cottage wicker often features curved lines and decorative details like a scalloped edge. White is a quintessential cottage color, but soft pastels like robin’s egg blue and buttery yellow also complement the style. Neutral rattan makes a classic statement too.
Woven headboards, vanities, wardrobes and benches make excellent cottage-chic additions to a bedroom. Lighter rattan sofas with fluffy pillows furnish the living room with cozy charm. Cottage wicker brings vintage character to a sunroom or enclosed patio space.
Coastal Wicker Style
Nothing says carefree, beach house vibe quite like wicker and rattan furniture. The breezy look of woven seating fits perfectly into coastal decor and lends itself to creating hangout spaces. Porous, natural wicker fiber dries quickly in oceanfront humidity, making it ideal for seaside furnishings.
White wicker instantly evokes images of the Greek Isles with their whitewashed villages and pristine walls. Weathered grey wicker also brings a casual, salt-kissed look perfect for porches and patios. Pops of ocean blues and greens in pillows and accessories complete the coastal vision.
Woven headboards, dressers and vanities furnish bedooms with a dash of seaside charm. Relaxed sofas and chairs clustered around a weathered wood coffee table make a cozy seating area. Even outdoor wicker seating can move indoors in a casual coastal home.
For those desiring a more polished and elegant look, traditional woven pieces strike a classic and refined pose. Styles hearkening back to Victorian wicker’s heyday capture the timeless appeal. These pieces often feature detailed wood trimming with curved embellishments.
Neutral natural wicker makes a sophisticated statement in a formal living room or lounge. Ivory and parchment rattan exude elegance and vintage sensibility. Mahogany-framed wicker brings warmth and richness. Tufted cushions on a settee add comfort without detracting from old-world glamour.
Carved wooden feet and legs on benches and chairs provide beautiful accents. Elaborate woven patterns and inset panels on cabinets and wardrobes add striking focal elements. Classic wicker captures heritage appeal for traditional homes.
Modern and Contemporary Wicker
The clean lines, sleek profiles and fresh colors of contemporary wicker breathe new life into this age-old furnishing material. Modern wicker incorporates on-trend aesthetics while maintaining the natural beauty inherent in rattan, willow and bamboo.
Contemporary wicker furniture often has a sparse, straight-lined frame accented by organic, woven elements. Neutral beiges and greys bring an urbane, sophisticated look in harmony with the woven textures. Pops of bright colors in throw pillows provide an energetic contrast.
Unexpected modern shapes like a half-moon woven chair or zig-zag corner shelving highlight rattan’s sculptural versatility. Glass table tops lend lightness to woven bases. Metallic accents like copper or brushed steel make a striking pairing with natural wicker hues. The juxtaposition of high-tech materials and earthy wicker creates a unique modern dynamic.
Tips for Incorporating Wicker into Your Home
Wicker offers timeless appeal that adapts beautifully to various decors. Here are some top tips for seamlessly bringing wicker accents into your living spaces:
- Vary Textures: Combine wicker with contrasting textures like velvet, linen, weathered wood or cool metals to add visual interest. Too much wicker can feel overwhelming.
- Mind the Colors: Wicker comes in versatile neutrals that mesh with most color palettes, but be strategic with pops of color. Opt for throw pillows and accessories that enhance your overall scheme.
- Soften with Plants: The natural look of wicker furniture calls for equally natural decor like fresh flowers and potted greenery to create a cohesive aesthetic.
- Make Conversation Areas: Wicker’s casual vibe lends itself perfectly to creating comfortable conversation spaces. Cluster woven seating around a coffee table to foster connection.
- Use Wisely Outdoors: While all-weather wicker holds up better than other materials outside, some natural wickers like rattan will break down in full outdoor exposure. Use outdoor-rated pieces.
- Clean Regularly: Dust wicker frequently and hose down outdoor pieces to prevent buildup of dirt, pollen and environmental debris that can stain over time. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- Condition Periodically: Applying protectants formulated for wicker every year or so will maintain suppleness and prevent drying and cracking, especially on pieces used outdoors.
- Store Cautiously: Avoid standing wicker furniture directly on wet, cold or hot surfaces that could warp the fibers. Keep cushions dry.
- Rotate Evenly: Rotate outdoor wicker seating seasonally to ensure even exposure to sun and environment. This will extend the life of the entire set.
The Future of Wicker Furniture
Wicker furniture and accessories have evolved significantly from their ancient origins, and continue to be used in new creative ways. Some directions for wicker in future interior design include:
- Unexpected Shapes: Look for wicker used in innovative forms like room dividers, zig-zag shelves, orb chairs and curved profile seating with a modern flair.
- Digital Printing: Advancements allow photo-like imagery and digital patterns to be printed onto wicker for personalized, artistic pieces.
- Minimalist Design: As wicker moves solidly into contemporary spaces, expect very stripped down, geometric frames accented with small woven details.
- Eco-Conscious Materials: Bamboo wicker and natural paper-like fibers derived from plant materials combine sustainability with sleek, modern appeal.
- Wicker Hybrids: Natural wicker components may be mixed creatively with metal, lucite, rope, and recycled materials to make artistic hybrid furnishings.
- High-End Luxury: Top designers are incorporating wicker into exclusive, high-priced collections that redefine its status as a premium material.
While staying true to its woven identity, wicker continues to transform and adapt to changing tastes and technologies. The incredible versatility of wicker ensures it will retain popularity as both a historic and cutting edge interior design element for years to come. Woven furniture offers timeless texture, comfort and aesthetic intrigue.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wicker Furniture
What are the pros and cons of natural vs synthetic wicker?
Natural wicker has an organic beauty, ages gracefully, and is eco-friendly. However, it can weather and degrade more quickly without maintenance. Synthetic wicker has added durability while mimicking natural wicker. But it lacks the aesthetic variation and sustainbility of true rattan and willow.
How do I clean indoor wicker furniture?
Use a soft brush weekly to remove dust and debris from indoor wicker. Vacuum crevices. Spot clean stains with mild soap and water. Disinfect occasionally with vinegar or diluted bleach solution. Avoid harsh cleaners or excessive moisture that can warp wicker fibers.
What’s the best way to maintain outdoor wicker pieces?
Rinse outdoor wicker every few months with a hose to keep it free of dirt, pollen and environmental buildup. Allow to air dry fully. Apply protectant formulated for wicker once or twice a year. Bring cushions indoors when not in use. Consider covers for extended protection.
What are good ways to incorporate wicker accessories into a space?
Wicker baskets provide handy storage solutions while complementing woven furniture. Wicker pendant lights or wall sconces bring eye-catching coastal flair. Woven trivets and placemats bring texture to tabletops. Macrame wall hangings paired with rattan furnishings amp up the natural vibe.
Can I use an oil or stain on my wicker to change the color?
Yes, it is possible to stain or paint wicker to dramatically change the color, but proceed cautiously. Look for stains and paints specifically made for wicker to ensure proper adhesion and durability. Consider handling just the trim rather than large rattan sections to minimize damage. Test small areas first before applying to the entire piece.
How can I make old wicker furniture look more modern?
Replace older cushions with sleek, contemporary fabrics. Add on-trend accessories like faux fur pillows or metallic side tables. Sand and restain wood trim in a cool grey wash. Switch up traditional skirted bottoms for metal or lucite legs. The right styling choices can give wicker a fresh modern edge.
What are good spaces to use wicker and rattan furniture?
Wicker works wonderfully in living rooms, enclosed patios and sunrooms, bedrooms, kids’ rooms, bathrooms, libraries, cafes, poolside lounging areas, balconies, entryways, and more. Its casual, welcoming vibe suits many needs.
Is wicker furniture durable enough for high traffic areas?
Quality wicker is quite durable for high traffic spaces. Look for densely woven rattan, along with generous thickness for cushioning. Turn cushions frequently to distribute wear. Add on ottomans or tables to keep feet off wicker. Stay on top of cleaning and conditioning. With proper care, wicker can withstand years of use.
What’s the best way to mix wicker with other furniture materials?
Pair woven rattan or willow seats with wood or metal frames for an organic-modern feel. Coordinate with wood tables and shelving for a cohesive, natural look. Contrast with stone, glass or lucite pieces to make wicker pop. Layer plush area rugs underneath for added visual interest. Mix and match thoughtfully!
With its storied history yet on-trend appeal, wicker furniture adds comfortable, eye-catching texture to any space, indoor or out. From breezy beach abodes to urban oases, classic to modern, wicker’s versatility suits varied tastes. With proper care to keep it clean and conditioned, high quality wicker can last for years of enjoyment. Allow this ageless material to infuse your rooms with beauty, comfort and timeless craftsmanship. Wicker truly offers the best of past and present in interior furnishings.