How eco-friendly is rattan? + 4 updated ways to use it

Rattan, cane, bamboo… it’s kind of everywhere at the moment.

Woven furniture and homewares is part of a whole movement toward softer shapes, curves, and warmer, lighter colours seen in the interiors world lately. Taking a cue from fashion, it’s safe to say interior decor is heading towards a 1970’s vibe, if it hasn’t already arrived there.

Rattan and cane is a fantastic way to add texture while keeping the colour palette neutral (haven’t you heard, beige is the new grey?!) But just because the materials are natural, does that mean they’re actually eco-friendly? Read on to get to know this material a bit more and discover the sustainability credentials of rattan furniture. Plus, I’m sharing 4 modern ways to use it.

rattan chair_larger.jpg

this is rattan

Rattan v. cane v. wicker

Rattan is a climbing palm plant, growing as a vine on other tropical trees and reaching hundred metres long, mostly in southeast Asia. The inner part of the rattan poles are woven into furniture (see photo on right). Cane, refers to the woven panels you’re seeing lots of. Cane is made from the outer part of the rattan poles by stripping off thin layers which are then woven. Cane panels are also known as ‘caning’ and this is what everyone is really going crazy for at the moment is mostly cane. Since we’re having a little terminology moment, woven furniture and homewares can also be made from wicker but is typically made of willow.


these have cane

in the seats

What’s the sustainability verdict? The good news is, the 70’s vibe rattan brings is #goodinteriorsapproved. It’s properly sustainable for several reasons: it’s renewable, has low impact production, is recyclable and can even help prevent deforestation.

  • Renewable resource: Rattan regrows in just 5-7 years so is a genuine renewable resource. Rattan poles are similar to bamboo, though are stronger apparently since they have a solid core.

  • Low impact production: Manufacturing rattan furniture is pretty low-tech, meaning it doesn’t require chemicals and energy. Sure it is grown in far away places, but it’s light weight makes for lower-carbon shipping.

  • Recyclable: Though it’s pretty hard-wearing, rattan and cane furniture can be recycled once you’re done with it. Since it’s a natural material, it will eventually biodegrade.

  • Protection of forests: Rattan needs trees to grow on since it’s a vine, so the communities that grow rattan have an in-built incentive to keep forests in place. In parts of Indonesia and Malaysia there is now Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified rattan, making it possible for them to command a premium for their products. Also, the growth in demand for rattan eases the demand wooden products to some extent.

How to use it without looking too 1980’s conservatory or kitsch? Here are my top picks for updated rattan:

La Redoute Rattan Mirror; £69. image:  La Redoute

La Redoute Rattan Mirror; £69. image: La Redoute

La Redoute Cane Cupboard, £655 (30% off with code HOME); image:  La Redoute

La Redoute Cane Cupboard, £655 (30% off with code HOME); image: La Redoute

  1. Mirrors. A rattan mirror looks good in almost any setting, and adds an instant eclectic bohemian vibe. La Redoute have a version here and have 20% off right now with code HOME.

    Etsy is also a good place to look, here’s a super chic french vintage one. Obviously second-hand is even better and there’s so much of it around.

  2. Bentwood chairs with cane paneling.

    Add that je ne sais quois french bistro style with bentwood chairs. A good example is shown in the above image (with the caption ‘these have cane’). Bentwood chairs with caning come up all the time on eBay and Etsy, you just have to be ready to pounce!

  3. Cane cupboard.

    La Redoute strikes again with this uber chic cane and oak cupboard (shown at left/above). A bit mid-century, a bit tropical all wrapped up in one. A little spendy, but LaRedoute always have a sale on.

  4. Love seat. Ok this one is a little conservatory-esque, but is a seriously elevated take on a bohemian look. And it’s handmade by artisans in Malawi, bonus! Actually all of the stuff from @theinteriorspy is incredible (see her instagram post below). Actually, check out their lighting too.

It’s a super rare thing when homeware trends collide with sustainability and rattan is one of these instances. I’m not normally a trend person, but may have to make an exception this time. Will you be adding a bit of rattan in your home? Leave me a comment on what you think!

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