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The Rise of Cane Furniture and Decor

The history of this natural material and how to incorporate it into your home

Jessica Harding By Jessica HardingSenior Creative Buyer

Cane furniture—a breakaway from wood being your home’s principal natural material statement, and a bang-on-trend way to bring texture into any room, item of furniture or accent piece.

Long gone is the association between wicker seating and the conservatory. Now, this prized, plant-based fibre is sought after all over the home so that the beholder gets a taste of the exotic in their interior without oversized palm prints, pineapple or flamingo motifs or a carnivalesque colour scheme.

It’s time now then to dig deeper into its roots (the historical and natural kind), its character and how to use cane furniture to its fullest potential.

What is cane?

First things first, what is cane furniture, and how do you define its relationship to rattan and wicker? Are they triplets or more like cousins—in the same family, related, but with a markedly different biological make-up.

The answer is the latter. Cane and rattan each come from the same incredibly strong, South-East Asian plant—the rattan palm—but when it’s broken down and split into two parts, the thin interior reed is exposed (the cane) and removed, leaving the thicker, outer husk, typically used in rattan furniture.

Luxury Cane Furniture | Interior design by Nickolas Gurtler Interior Design | Photography by Dion Robeson | Shop at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Nickolas Gurtler; Photography by Dion Robeson

Whichever you choose—rattan or cane—both are lightweight, sturdy and relatively less costly alternatives to wooden furniture. Their pliable nature produces silhouettes curvaceous and arresting (look for examples of fan-shaped wicker furniture as a case in point), and they’re an environmentally-friendly option too thanks to their fast-growing nature.

But what about wicker? That’s simply the collective term for both rattan and cane furniture; it’s a description for the process rather than the material. Bamboo, willow, seagrass and many other types of woven vine or grass (be it natural or synthetic) furniture and accessory are all considered wicker too. Therefore, you could describe your new cane dining chair as being your latest wicker purchase, but the materials can’t be referenced so loosely. So know your rattan from your cane.

The History of Cane Furniture

Cane furniture is no newcomer. Ancient history shows records of strips being woven for thousands and thousands of years; a cane bed was buried in Tutankhamun’s tomb, and before that in AD 750, a cane coffin was discovered for a Royal burial.

It wasn’t until the mid 1600s that it appeared in Europe, typically used for the seats and backs of wooden chairs as a form of springy yet supportive exposed webbing. They too were airy, which aided them in being more hygienic—a quality much-needed in interiors of the time.

Luxury Cane Furniture | Interior design by Nickolas Gurtler Interior Design | Photography by Dion Robeson | Shop at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Nickolas Gurtler; Photography by Dion Robeson

Later, an icon was born—Thonet’s No. 14 chair—elevating caned furniture to heights never seen before. The well-known design characterises the celebrated café chair, and continues to inspire cane dining chairs and Mid-century modern interiors today.

Now, thanks to the rise in all things natural in home furnishings, cane furniture is seen on anything from headboards (either with solid wood or rattan frames) to bentwood dining chairs, bringing in a touch of uncomplicated, casual style to schemes of any sort.

Introducing cane accessories into your interior

Before cane furniture came baskets. Cane accessories, therefore, have long been a natural consequence of the fibre. Their delicate lattices are seen on tightly woven coasters, on panels used to wrap around storage pots, and planters, tissue box covers, and even on glassware like carafes, water jugs and glass tea light holders—think of the cane aspect as the summer jacket of home accessories.

Baskets aside, panel form is how you’re most likely to see cane feature in a home piece, presenting a decorative backdrop for bookcases and shelves too.

Luxury Cane Furniture | Shop at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: LuxDeco.com

The beauty of cane lighting

A huge trend from the 1970s resurrected at this year’s Maison et Objet show in Paris, cane lighting is set to make noise through 2020 and 2021. Choose a pretty cane pendant or table lamp, and the shade will not only be a beauty to behold, but it will cast intriguing shadow play around the room.

Whether you opt for a ceiling light or a shade for a floor or desk lamp, the available styles of cane lampshades are plentiful. Go for a scallop-edged design for a pretty take on the style or something slender and cylindrical if contemporary is more to your taste. And keep a close eye out for those more creative cane lighting ideas that feature cane as a cover for the lamp base, teamed with a neutral fabric shade.

Get the look: Cane walls

The ultimate cane accessory statement, room dividers are a reference to the colonial era in their own right, but add cane to the equation and that symbol strengthens in presence still. They’re at once exotic, boho and even mildly Art Deco depending on their silhouette—the more arcs and fans, the more glamorous they seem.

Think about one in a bedroom, to give the illusion of a dressing area, complete with accent chair and dressing table in its semi-private enclosure, or in a bathroom to divide wet areas from dry—remember that cane natural qualities allow it to thrive in a steamy scenario.

Luxury Cane Furniture | Interior design by Nickolas Gurtler Interior Design | Photography by Dion Robeson | Shop at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Nickolas Gurtler; Photography by Dion Robeson

If your sitting room is large enough, you might look to bring a cane screen in so that you turn one room into multiple mini ones—think about cordoning off a separate seating area away from the TV screen or a makeshift study with desk, chair and lamp to set the scene.

Header Image Credit: Nickolas Gurtler Interior Design