This season, hand-made bags and market totes in macramé leather, woven straw, and raffia took the runways by storm—it’s a continuation of the craftsmanship we saw at the spring 2020 collections with natural materials cut into all shapes and sizes from woven accessories to raffia gowns. But the taste for materials like rattan, cane, raffia, and Sissel, doesn’t start or stop in the fashion world. It’s had a much longer history within the interior design.
“In the 18th and 19th centuries rattan was particularly favored in the tropics because it wouldn’t warp or crack in the heat and later, it was as much loved by The Modernists who saw it as a comfortable and clean lined alternative to upholstery,” says Lulu Lytle, co-founder of British interiors company Soane and author of Rattan: A World of Elegance and Charm (Rizzoli). The book reads like a love letter to the material which is harvested from a variety of climbing palm-like vines native to tropical regions of Australia, Asia, and Africa. It’s then woven into the most wonderfully durable and design-friendly pieces for your home.
Speaking to the plant’s versatility, Lytle continues, “Depending on how it is treated, it sits as comfortably in grand 17th and 18th-century interiors as it does in a beach house or with contemporary urban designs.” Indeed the look has universal appeal. Rattan and similar materials have been a part of some of the most iconic furniture designs—Thonet’s classic bentwood chairs, Pierre Jeanneret angular armchair, and Soane Britain’s Venus Chair.
And despite its rich history, Rattan and the like somehow manages an enduringly modern look. This is especially true among the wide selection of home decor and furniture pieces made today like mid century modern seating and ’70s-inspired looped rattan bed frames. It’s a material that suits almost every interior aesthetic, design, and style– from traditional to modern and coastal to contemporary.
Rattan’s properties allow it to be bent every which way for more solid, sculptural furnishings while woven raffias and jutes bring an earthy texture to everyday home objects like area rugs and pendant lamps. And don’t forget about the accessories: add a natural touch to your home with tabletop curios like woven fruit bowls, drink coasters, and place settings. Or, go the basket-route and stock up on seagrass storage bins. Neutral in nature, these pieces will easily complement the pre-existing colors or patterns in your home while also adding texture and dimension. Lytle adds, “the material’s visual lightness and softness gives a romance that few other materials possess.”
Though if you’re going to invest in one item, Lytle makes a convincing case for a light fixture. When it comes to developing her own designs with the material, she’s most drawn to what these woven materials can do when paired up with lighting. The patterns created by shadows and the contrast between light and dark help to “softly diffuse light for an atmospheric glow.”
Below, discover 21 ways to bring the timeless natural material into your own home this spring.