What is wicker, and why should I choose it for my home furnishings? Synthetic vs. Natural Options

Wicker results from a technique of bending and weaving material such as rattan, paper, bamboo, other grasses, or narrow woods like willow branches. You can identify these materials yourself by taking a close look and observing certain characteristics. When the material is bamboo, it will be possible to see rings. When tree branches are used, the telltale nature of rough bark will be apparent. With the proper care, the natural fibers of wicker furniture will continue to look in trim condition for years.

2014 01 + 02 WickerThe earliest recorded use of wicker was in ancient Egypt. This material was constructed with reeds and other swamp grasses. In those distant times, wicker furnishings were so expensive that middle-class families could afford only a few small wicker tables. Wicker was a valued material, and its use spread from Egypt to Persia and on to ancient Rome. In Pompeii, it was used for baskets. Willow was woven into furnishings by Bronze Age European tribes. In Asia, Chinese people employed bamboo and aboriginal Malaysian people used rattan.

Wicker that is formed using fibrous vegetable material is both lightweight and strong. Because it’s not especially rigid, it needs to be woven around a frame. Upscale wicker furniture sometimes employs durable teak in the frame construction. Lower cost furnishings use thick pieces of rattan shaped with steam to make the frames.

2014 01 + 02 Wicker3Rattan is a material that is easy to cultivate, and it is a popular source material for wicker. Natural wicker is a renewable resource, while wicker made of plastic is typically not biodegradable and consumes nonrenewable hydrocarbons. Though natural wicker has the potential to be long-lasting, it must be preserved. Protection from a wet environment, insect destruction and desiccation is needed to ensure product longevity.

Synthetic wicker patio furniture can possess many quality features, such as rust-proof and coated aluminum frames and all-weather materials. Synthetic wicker is constructed from polyethylene fibers, which makes this furniture practically maintenance-free and protects it from warping and fading. Its synthetic weave is able to withstand sun and harsh weather conditions yet still remain lovely and durable for years. Outdoor rated cushions and recyclable PE wicker are features to look for.

2014 01 + 02 Wicker4Created from synthetic polyethylene fibers, resin wicker appears similar to natural wicker material, however, it’s far more durable and ideal for all-weather use. Color is added during production and becomes part of the fiber. When finished, resin wicker is both visually appealing and long-lasting. Resin wicker is also resilient, elastic, stable and comfortable, just like traditional wicker. As for maintenance, it’s easily cleaned and doesn’t require repainting.

When purchasing wicker furniture, its comfort and beauty will be self-evident. Synthetic materials provide ease of maintenance, while natural materials can be long-lasting when properly maintained and can help foster environmental sustainability.


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