Rattan: Not Just For Furniture


You’re probably wondering why rattan furniture is so popular, and if you weren’t before, you are now. It actually goes back to the 19th century, when a lot of British families brought rattan furniture back from tropical and Asian countries where they had been living. Traditionally, rattan furniture had been used outside, but because of Britain’s less-than-tropical climate, most people moved them inside their homes.

By the time the early 20th century rolled around, rattan furniture had begun to make its way to the United States, due to American visitors collecting pieces and returning with them to the US. Hollywood set designers then started to use them as furniture for outdoor scenes, which made them incredibly popular amongst the film-going audience.

Because of this popularity, demand for rattan furniture increased dramatically. Artists started creating new designs and before long big companies, especially in south California, were coming up with their own unique designs.

The popularity of rattan furniture in films waned a bit in the mid-20th century, but there was a resurgence in the 1980s as it appeared in films, TV and other pop culture staples. In addition to general rattan furniture, collectors often acquire vintage pieces.

As we’ve mentioned previously, Rattan is very strong and durable, whilst still being malleable enough to weave and craft with. It is also very lightweight, allowing it to be easily moved or handled, as well as minimising risk around small children or pets. It is also extremely resilient against extreme heat and cold, as well as having a natural resistance against damage from insects.

The durability of rattan and rattan furniture is one of the big reasons as to why it is so popular. Another is the fact that it can fit in well in any environment, whether it is outside, in the living room, or even in a company’s waiting room. Rattan also doesn’t warp and is virtually impossible to misshape, unlike any other furniture material.


Rattan Furniture

Some lovely rattan furniture


Rattan isn’t just used for furniture, either. There are loads of ways people use it, including:

Arts and Crafting

Because of its durable, yet malleable nature, rattan is often used by artists and manufacturers. Baskets made of rattan are one of the more obvious products, but it can be made into anything from baskets to plant pots to musical instruments. Some people even make briefcases out of rattan! On top of that, its resistance to splintering makes it popular for martial arts training, especially with Filipino martial artists.

Shelter and Medicine

People in rattan rich areas often use rattan to help build their homes, due to its sturdiness and low cost. It is also extremely easy to maintain, even when used for a structure. Some types of rattan also bear fruit which exudes a red resin which people call Dragon’s Blood. Sadly, it doesn’t give any mythical powers, but it can be used as a painting pigment and medicine for a variety of illnesses, such as fevers, dysentery and ulcers.

Dragon's Blood Resin from Rattan

An example of ‘Dragon’s Blood’, a resin that can be found in some types of Rattan

Wood to Bone

Do you know something remarkable? In 2010, some Italian scientists decided to test rattan wood in a ‘wood to bone’ process to try and create artificial bone. The process involves combining rattan with calcium and carbon in a furnace, applying intense pressure and then adding a phosphate solution. The whole process takes about 10 days, but creates an almost exact replica of human bone. It has been tested in sheep and there were no signs of rejection. They’re intending to start implanting the artificial bone into humans in 2015.