People often use the terms ‘wicker’ and ‘rattan’ interchangeably to describe the garden furniture that you find both outdoors and inside, especially during summer. Lots of people, even some of those who sell the furniture, believe that rattan and wicker are basically the same thing.
In actual fact, while both wicker and rattan generally fall under the same category, there are significant differences between them. In short, rattan is an actual material used to make furniture, while wicker is not, as many people believe, a material, but rather a technique used to weave other materials such as bamboo and willow.
Rattan is very similar to the palm tree, though unlike the palm tree it is technically classed as a vine and grows in Africa, Asia and Australasia. If you’re in the jungle and you see a pole-shaped plant about 2 inches in diameter, you’ve probably found some Rattan.
It gets harvested, cut into different lengths and usually steamed to make it more malleable, before being curved. Whereas bamboo cane is quite weak, rattan’s core is remarkably strong, owing to its grains growing vertically. The ‘skin’ on the outside is also surprisingly strong, and is often used secure the furniture parts together.
On the other hand, wicker is not a material, but rather (as we said above) a technique that is used to manufacture items and furniture out of materials like rattan, bamboo and willow. Wicker weaving goes back to at least ancient Egypt, and probably further. Most wicker weaving nowadays uses recycled materials to make them more eco-friendly.
So, in answer to the question posed by the title, wicker and rattan furniture aren’t necessarily different. Wicker furniture can be made from rattan, or several other materials, whereas rattan furniture will always be made using wicker weaving.