Decorating With: Rattan

Wicker, bamboo, rattan, oh my! With summer in full swing, rattan furniture is a great way to bring a warm-weather vibe indoors…

First things first: Rattan is the name for nearly 600 species of palms that are native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Rattans are also superficially similar to bamboo, though unlike bamboo, rattan stems are solid. The inner core of rattan can be separated and worked into wicker, which is a generic term used to describe any product that is made by weaving together stems or vines. The word “wicker” has Scandinavian origins, but the use of woven vines to make furniture dates back as far as the days of Egyptian pharaohs. Got it? Good.

While wildly popular in the 70’s, wicker furniture first became all the rage in England and America during the 17th and 18th centuries, and it’s coming back with a vintage vengeance!

(Domino, eBay, 1st Dibs, Mecox Gardens)
bamboobar plates_on_the_wall

Rattan or bamboo bar carts are one of my very favorite things. Ever. To tell the truth, I try to incorporate some sort of bar into practically every room I decorate (including bedrooms and bathrooms) and this variety is incredibly versatile. Obviously they work in a hallway, but a vintage rattan cart would also look stunning on a screened-in sunporch during a Derby party– top it with an ice bucket, a few bottles of bourbon, and some julep cups…instant Southern charm. Or perhaps you’d prefer to park one in your bathroom and fill the shelves with freshly laundered towels and soaps wrapped in Chinese paper. Or you could use a rattan bar as your bedside table and accent it with a small brass jewelry box and a fab lamp.

(Living Etc, 1st Dibs, 1st Dibs, 1st Dibs)

Without a doubt, the most common piece of rattan furniture is the chair. We’ve all seen ’em on our grandparents porch, usually in various states of unravel…But when you come across gems like these, it’s easy to see the potential of woven furniture. The subtle swoop is the perfect organic shape for this organic material, while the contrast of the angular metal base provides a decidedly modern feel. Many would be tempted to stick these chairs out in the yard where they’d last for a summer, but I’d put a roof over their head and sheepskins in their seat. What a perfect spot to curl up and read…

(My Little Apartment, PP103 Circle Chair by Hans Wegner via Danish Design Store, 1st Dibs, House Of Vintage)

Wanna know a secret? That’s my kitchen! Well, it’s my old kitchen in Los Angeles, before I moved to Chicago. And while the rattan chair may not be the feature of this photo, it’s one of my all-time-favorite finds. I discovered it in a heap of dismantled chairs at the famed Rose Bowl Flea Market and took it home for a song! I loved how the natural wood tones looked against the bright, hand-printed, Finnish-designed wallpaper and that it helped bring the dark wood elk antlers into the space. My kitchen was teeny-tiny, but I was hell-bent on having somewhere for friends to sit while I made breakfast tacos! And yes, if your eye is keen, you’ll also spy a white-painted bamboo bar sitting in front of the hoop chair…

stools clockwise from top: IKEA, Thonet via 1st Dibs, 1st Dibs [pair], Albini-style via eBay, photo via AT0
palm_springs_hall yellow_stools

And last, but most certainly not least, is a great example of how rattan or bamboo stools can bring an unexpected pop into an otherwise typical space. This entryway is the epitome of Palm Springs glam, with the graphic gold and white wallpaper, mirrored Parsons table, and mid-century lamps…The yellow stools provide a bright dose of color and could be brought out as extra seating for a cocktail party (because Palm Springs is all about cocktail parties).

The other stools pictured are a wide variety of woven stools that range from affordable to major splurges. The squat IKEA pouf-style stool is widely loved and used by low and high-end designers. They’re incredible versatile…they look great outside, stacked as a side table, covered with a sheepskin, next to a fireplace, or peeking out from under your bed. Even though it’s bentwood, not rattan, I had to include the Thonet stool in my roundup. It’s a classic and would look amazing painted in most any color. And the pair of stools on the bottom are very similar to the Franco Albini-style ottoman pictured in the middle. Albini pieces are coveted by mid-century enthusiasts and I love to picture the warm wood hue in a mostly-white environment.

Now it’s your turn! Are you a fan of rattan? Tell me if you’re decorating with any of the pieces I’ve mentioned!

Author: dean
Dean Fisher, a Southern ex-pat, recently moved to Chicago after spending the last seven years in Los Angeles working for Kelly Wearstler, Warner Music Group, and Capitol Records. When she's not thrifting or planning her next adventure, she's writing for her blog, My Little Apartment (, and working on launching South Social & Home, an events and interior design company.