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Wicker vs Rattan – What’s the Difference?

Tommy Bahama wicker outdoor furniture

In the world of outdoor furniture, many people are not aware of the origins, definition or characteristics of the material from which the pieces are crafted. But that’s perfectly all right – and the reason why you trust a high-quality outdoor furnishings dealer like Hauser’s Patio to provide the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. Today, we take a look at wicker vs rattan and delve into the characteristic features of each.

Wicker vs Rattan: Why Do So Many of Us Use the Terms Interchangeably?

When you consider the visual similarities, it’s easy to see why people often confuse the two materials. Both are normally a natural color in some tone of brown or beige. Both are woven into the crisscross pattern we are all familiar with. There are many models of outdoor furniture that use either rattan or wicker or both.

How is Rattan Furniture Made?

Let’s start with rattan. The term rattan refers to an actual plant, one that is closely related to the palm tree. It is a tropical plant with a stalk of 1 – 3 inches in diameter which can grow to a height of 100 feet. It is very strong, durable and hard to break. The solid core of the rattan stalk is the part which is harvested for making furniture. That core is cut into small pieces and then steamed to achieve curves, ells and other shapes. But the outer skin of the rattan stalk also makes an appearance in many pieces of outdoor furniture. The peel, which is thin and flat, ties the joints of chairs, sofas and tables together.

How is Wicker Made?

Patio Renaissance weather wicker

On the other hand, wicker is not a material at all. Rather, the term wicker refers to a time-honored technique of weaving strips of natural material together into a pattern. The term is derived from the Scandinavian word “wika” which means to bend. Such materials as rush, rattan and willow twigs are often used as the basis for an outdoor furnishing woven in the wicker technique.

The Differences are Obvious

Marimba chair Tommy Bahama Outdoor
Tommy Bahama Outdoor Marimba peacock chair

Now that you know a bit about the two, it should become more obvious what you are looking at when viewing wicker vs rattan. Rattan is the material itself while wicker is the method of weaving it – or other materials – into a crosshatch pattern. Both wicker vs rattan pieces are available in diverse colorations but wicker will have different textures since it incorporates varying plants.

Modern Wicker Outdoor Furniture

Blue Olive wicker lounge chair
The gorgeously styled Blue Olive lounge chair is made from synthetic wicker.

There is something else to consider when viewing contemporary wicker outdoor furniture: it could be crafted from something that is not a plant derivative at all. Many modern manufacturers are now creating a synthetic fiber made from polyethylene resin to use in making wicker furnishings. It is sometimes referred to as “all weather wicker.” The advantages include its superior durability, its ability to stand up to weather conditions such as sun, sea spray and rain and the fact that it will not degrade over time by fading, warping, chipping or splitting.

island estate lanai ottoman
Island Estate Lanai Ottoman

Which should you select for your luxury backyard oasis? When it comes to wicker vs rattan made from natural materials, these are best suited for indoor applications. Synthetic wicker is preferred for any location exposed to the elements. In fact, the majority of outdoor furnishings on the market today are made with resin wicker. So feel free to browse through our selection of wicker outdoor furniture on our website today, knowing that they are made of high quality materials and made to last, beautifully, for many years to come.

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