There has been a revolution in the garden furniture industry!
Gone are the dark, dank days of mould-covered rattan chairs and sun lounger cushions infested with mildew, and no longer is it necessary, come the autumn, to rush around trying to find somewhere warm and dry to store all your patio tables and chairs. Thanks to ground-breaking new technology, it is now possible to buy rattan furniture that really can stay outdoors.
Our love affair with rattan
The British love affair with rattan first began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when pieces of furniture, woven from this fast-growing, climbing plant, began to be imported from British colonies in the Far East. The middle and upper classes adored its exoticism and couldn’t wait to have a fashionable set of rattan day furniture in their conservatories or orangeries. Rattan filtered into many Victorian and Edwardian drawing rooms too, in the form of small, decorative side chairs and occasional tables.
Rattan’s popularity grew. By the 1930s and 1940s, rattan furniture manufacturers were offering an increasingly wide range of pieces, often blending rattan with other materials such as cane, metal or teak to form sofas and sideboards, coffee tables and dining tables, desks, dressers, beds and nightstands, shelves and storage units. It seemed there was no end to the versatility of this timeless material, and in spite of a minor fall from favour in the 1970s, rattan furniture was still commonplace in British homes right through into the 21st century.
Rattan’s one major failing
However, rattan always had one major failing in the eyes of the consumer: when used outdoors, it struggled to cope with the British climate. Exposed to extremes of temperature and to frequent rain and frost, it would weaken and rot, turn black with mildew and mould, and was incredibly time consuming to clean. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been until very recently, that our romance with rattan has been able to flourish out in the fresh air.
To find a solution, garden furniture manufacturers have turned to the craftspeople of Indonesia, to traditional weavers with the skills, expertise and understanding necessary to transform the natural into the synthetic. The results have been revolutionary.
Three new outdoor rattan weaves
Rattan and Teak’s online catalogue includes everything from outdoor sofas, sun-loungers and parasols to teak dining suites and patio heaters, and among these products are several collections of rattan furniture that demonstrate the huge leaps that have been made in manufacturing over the last decade. Here are three examples of the kind of quality, all-weather rattan weaves available today.
This stunning, high quality, resin rattan is laboratory tested at temperatures ranging from -20 to +60 degrees C and so can withstand the worst that the UK climate can throw at it. Extruded from environmentally friendly, High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) it is outstandingly weatherproof, colourfast, UV resistant, dirt resistant, easy to clean and maintenance free. The rattan, which has a beautiful, natural-look, matte finish, is woven onto sturdy, light-weight, aluminium frames which are also rust free. It is incredibly strong too, so can be woven more tightly around the frame, enabling designers to mould it into curvier shapes as well as sharper bends and corners.
In Rattan and Teak’s Sandbanks range, AquaMax HDPE rattan is married with memory-foam style cushions covered in a revolutionary synthetic leather known as MarinaPLUS. This gorgeous, tactile fabric was originally designed for the yachting world and as a result it can cope with rain water, chlorinated water or salt water as well as extreme temperatures, so it is as happy in the spa or by the swimming pool as it is on a beach deck covered in sea spray or outdoors all year round on your patio. The cushions are low maintenance too: a simple wipe down every now and again keeps them in tip top condition.
Synthetic Water Hyacinth
Water Hyacinth grows so abundantly in Indonesian lakes and rivers that local people have to harvest it in order to keep those waterways clear. When dried, its roots are perfect for hand weaving. Being softer than natural rattan, the roots are sufficiently pliable to be plaited into funky, chunky, contemporary designs, exemplified by Rattan and Teak’s Bude collection. But this furniture is not made from natural water hyacinth. Rather, it is created in an ingenious, eco-friendly, synthetic Water Hyacinth weave that has some amazing qualities.
Firstly, the rattan is thermally bonded which makes it even tougher when wet. Secondly, it is supported by cross-weaves of Strandlene, the first synthetic fibre manufactured in Indonesia to blend HDPE with another synthetic fibre known as Polyamide (PA). The resulting new material combines the best properties of both ingredients – that is, it is strong and lightweight yet sufficiently elastic to allow weavers to create close-knit patterns and fit the rattan tightly around an inner frame, which in the case of the Bude furniture collection is fabricated from rust-free aluminium.
For durability in all weathers, Synthetic Water Hyacinth is UV stabilised and colourfast and, like the AquaMax rattan, also has the advantage of being low maintenance and easy to wipe clean. Finally, there are environmental benefits too. The raw materials used in the manufacture of synthetic water hyacinth rattan are 100% recyclable and little or no waste is created in its production.
Thick Core Synthetic Rattan
This striking rattan is a mixture of 12, 14 and 16mm round core, woven together to create a robust, basket-like yet natural look – the perfect blend of the rustic and the contemporary. Being totally synthetic, this rattan is low maintenance while also being eco-friendly and 100% recyclable.
Like the water hyacinth weave, Thick (or Big) Core Synthetic Rattan is highly weather resistant. It is thermally bonded so it won’t crack, split or rot with time nor will it weaken or fade in the sun or rain.
Of course, there is no point having weather resistant rattan if it is topped off with fair-weather cushions. That’s why in Rattan and Teak’s Poole range, the chunky rattan is matched up with plump, no-sag cushions made from a quality, man-made fabric known as Olefin, which was first developed by Italian textile manufacturers in the late 1950s and which has now perfected to comply with UK fire retardant regulations.
This tough, hard wearing, long-lasting material is resistant to water, UV and chemicals, reducing the chances of the cushions staining when in contact with food, liquids or sun creams.
Like the rattan, Olefin fabric has environmental benefits too. Little or no waste is created during the manufacturing process and the material can be recycled and re-used as many as ten times before it begins to degrade.