Rattan and wicker furniture are two terms that people often use, thinking that they refer to the same thing. But that misconception can quickly lead you to buy the wrong type of furniture for your home.
Part of it is probably down to clever marketing that some companies take advantage of to sell cheap synthetic rattan as something that is the same grade as natural rattan furniture.
So, to help you understand the terms and use them properly in your shopping research, we’ve put together this guide that addresses the correct definitions of wicker vs rattan.
Yes, they mean two very different things.
The main difference between rattan vs wicker is that rattan is one of the toughest natural materials. And wicker refers to woven furniture made popular through the arts and craft movement of the 20th century.
Natural rattan is a type of wood that grows on palm and vine-like plants, mainly in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. It’s ideal for making outdoor furniture as it’s hard-wearing and creates an amazing-looking furniture set.
One of the main attractions for it in recent years has been that it’s eco-friendly and sustainable, as harvesters don’t have to cut down an entire tree. Each rattan vine they cut will regrow over a few years.
And because it’s pliable and tough, it allows manufacturers to come up with great-looking styles.
While many people refer to wicker outdoor furniture and assume it includes rattan stalks, the term doesn’t actually refer to any specific material. Wicker baskets, chairs, and tables can be made of any natural or synthetic fibers.
And with some synthetic wicker weaves looking very like the real thing, it can become a bit more difficult to tell the difference.
Let’s take a closer look.
Rattan furniture is defined as anything made of natural rattan material, and it has become one of the latest home decor trends.
Here’s the thing, though.
A rattan chair or table doesn’t necessarily have to include a cane webbing or wicker weave. It’s possible to use thick vines with a solid core to make the frames in furniture production. It’s very durable and hard-wearing, making it a better choice over the majority of synthetic resins.
But you will find that most rattan furniture makes at least some use of a wicker technique. And how much of the woven material you see will all depend on whether you choose a classic or more contemporary style.
The rattan material itself comes from climbing palms in Asia. Dating back to Ancient Egypt and Roman times, this is a material that truly has stood the test of time. And because it’s so pliable, it’s ideal for any kind of weaving technique.
Most of the time, when you see wicker furniture advertised in furniture stores, it’s made with synthetic materials. In some cases, it’s a resin-based material, but more often than not, it’s some form of plastic.
The main advantage is that it’s a lot cheaper, and you can still make good-looking woven furniture with it. Because it naturally repels water, it can be a good choice if your woven wicker furniture will be outdoors most of the time with harsh weather conditions.
But synthetic material wicker also has its downsides.
You’ll probably find that the wicker breaks a lot easier than natural rattan, and daily wear and tear will make it look scratched and worn pretty quickly. There’s also the impact of UV rays on the color of synthetic weaving.
This can result in faded sections that make the furniture look ugly. And fixing that kind of problem won’t be possible with a bit of paint or wood stain.
The great thing with wicker furniture is that the woven sections can be made of many different types of natural and synthetic materials. And the majority of them are suitable for outdoor furniture with just a bit of care, maintenance, and protection.
Wicker in many tropical regions uses materials like bamboo and seagrass, and you will start to see these sustainable materials a lot more in America.
Because they don’t add to deforestation, there’s a big shift towards these types of wood and reeds.
But based on all of our research and testing on different stylish options, we still find that durable rattan wicker is the best option if you want your furniture to look great for decades to come.
If you decide to go for synthetic wicker, then make sure you do your homework to avoid most of the plastic ones where the production has a big eco-impact, and there’s a big issue with properly disposing of them.
Now that you understand the difference between wicker and rattan, you’re in a much better position to go looking for indoor and outdoor furniture.
A lot of people like the easy cleaning and maintenance aspects of synthetic wicker furniture, but you have to keep in mind that it doesn’t tend to last as long as other materials such as rattan or even bamboo.
If you’d like to get some inspiration for your home, garden, or patio area, check out the wicker furniture in our collection. We have great indoor and outdoor use options, and all our wicker items are made to order in America.