What is rattan and why is Bahay Living so crazy about it?

What is rattan and why is Bahay Living so crazy about it?

When I think rattan, a few particular eras come to mind: 1930’s/40’s art deco, 1970’s jungle décor vibes and now. There is no doubt rattan has made a serious comeback after a few quieter years, although personally I don’t think it ever really went away. Remembering my 80’s childhood, one of my favourite things at our house were two mini rattan armchairs that my sister and I used to pull up to each end of the coffee table so we could have dinner and watch tv at the same time (because back then dinner inconveniently clashed with essential Home & Away viewing). These chairs lasted well into our teen years, and were probably only retired because our growing hips were no match for their petite size. My first ‘grown up’ bed was also rattan and is still going strong now (albeit living a quiet life at my Mum’s place).

A few people have asked me lately what exactly rattan is. We probably used to use the term wicker more often to describe woven pieces and when I did some recent fact-finding I learnt wicker actually refers to the method of weaving and not the material the piece is made from. Wicker furniture can be made from various materials including willow, cane or even synthetics. Rattan refers to the material a piece is constructed from. It is a super fast growing plant native to regions of Asia, Africa and Australia, though the tropical areas of South and Southeast Asia are the main producers. The core of the rattan vine is used to shape the pieces being constructed and the outer bark is stripped off and used for the woven panelling (such as on the seats of those beautiful bentwood chairs we have all had a love affair with at some stage of our lives, or on the outer of our two tier plant stand). How versatile is that?

To find the best, we turned to the best. For our initial rattan range, which includes our pendants and planters we chose to partner with a family business in the Philippines who have been creating beautiful rattan pieces for decades. While they abundantly supply direct customers, hospitality venues and retailers in the Philippines, it was the first time exporting on a large scale and we were delighted to bring their beautiful workmanship to Australia.

For smaller pieces such as wall hooks and trays, we turned to Indonesia, which has been the obvious choice for Australian importers of rattan for years, due to its proximity, expertise and design skills.

Rattan is obviously a huge trend at the moment, but here at Bahay Living we think it’s timeless and love that a well-constructed piece from quality craftsmanship will stand the test of time. The fact it's a natural, renewable material hugely adds to its appeal. Above all though, it's the ability of it to be formed into beautiful shapes and curves and enable the craftsmen working with it to play with light and texture that wins us over every time.   

I’ll leave you with a few little gems about the differences between rattan and bamboo shared by Sika Design, a Danish company producing amazing rattan pieces for over 60 years:

1. Bamboo does not bend. It is harder than mahogany and cannot be curved
2. Rattan is a solid while bamboo is hollow
3. Despite being one of the world's strongest woods, rattan is flexible and can be shaped into intricately designed furniture. Therefore an easy way to check if your furniture is rattan or bamboo is to see if any of the canes are curved or bent and if so, your furniture is rattan


Hopefully you found a dinner party conversation starter for you in there (while entertaining under your fabulous rattan pendant lights, of course).


Bahay Living Founder


Rattan pendant light shade with black band

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