The word “wicker” might bring on flashbacks of the dusty rattan seating sets of the ’70s and ’80s or the last wicker crush in the ’90s, but today’s wicker — the technique of weaving reeds and other natural fibers into furniture and accessories — is worth reconsidering.
Wicker is older than any fad, after all. (The Egyptians buried rushwork with the pharaohs!) Just remember that a modern take on woven natural materials is best done judiciously. Add one or two natural elements and pair them with, say, upholstered chairs to get a good mix going on. “It’s really about the balance of hard and soft, warm and cold,” says Elisa Shankle, who is the founder and principal of Simplexity Designs in Brooklyn and who also works for interior design companies 5N1 and Homepolish.
Adding a dash of rattan or sweetgrass is a way to unlock today’s hottest home design trends, whether you’re drawn to the nautical, beachy, boho, organic, well-traveled or handcrafted style. “People are tired of the matchy-matchy look,” says interior designer Barbara Brown of the District. “They’re more interested in the layered and collected-over-time look, and bringing in those woven pieces adds to that goal.”
An unexpected place to see rattan is in a Screen Room Divider ($298, urbanoutfitters.com). And yet it can work well in nearly any space. “I consider woven pieces as neutrals,” Brown says. “So they work with any style and color scheme.”
Brown says that a wicker ottoman or end table “is a great way to bring texture into a space.” The Susila Rattan Ottoman, made of rattan reeds wrapped together with leather, is intended for indoor use ($198, anthropologie.com).
Go small with natural fibers, Shankle says. You don’t want a whole set of rattan furniture in your family room. One element will do, and it can be as big as a sofa or small as the Whitewashed Rattan Hurricane ($118-$148, serenaandlily.com). The lanterns can be hung by their leather handles from outdoor ceilings and moved inside in the fall.
Shankle likes to look for natural-fiber objects and furniture at West Elm, Dot & Bo, CB2 and AllModern, which offers this Rattan Magazine Rack and Newspaper Basket by Kouboo in honey brown and a refreshing black ($32.50, allmodern.com). Want vintage wicker? Try chairish.com or 1stdibs.com.
For a sweet accent in a small space such as a powder room, try Leif’s eight-inch-tall sweetgrass Silver Living Woven Vase, handmade in Rwanda ($48, leifshop.com). Use it as is for quality silk or faux foliage; line it with a smaller glass vase for live greenery in water.
“I love to incorporate different textures and materials in my projects,” Shankle says, “and bringing woven materials inside and combining them with more-modern elements is one way to do that, to balance clean lines with more organic materials.” The Modernist All Weather Wicker Sofa achieves Shankle’s aim in one piece ($1,498, terrain.com). Though it’s not a natural material, poly rattan offers a natural look with the ease of synthetic, making it extra durable.
Seagrass hails from the tropics, so if you want that laid-back vibe in your main living residence, it’s a good material to consider. Pier 1’s Seagrass Block Headboard lends an exotic touch to a master suite or guest room ($200 for full, pier1.com).
Ikea recently collaborated with Swedish glass and ceramic designer Ingegerd Raman to design a collection of handmade glassware and — you guessed it — woven pieces of natural fibers. The Viktigt Chair, made of paper cord and rattan, riffs on Marcel Breuer’s classic, caned-back Cesca Chair, tipping it backward and updating it in black ($129, ikea.com).
Natural manau rattan mixes with synthetic rattan to make the Rattan Cafe Settee fun
and functional inside and out ($798, shopterrain.com).
The Mayhew All Weather Wicker Patio Club Chair comes with cushions in seafoam, tan, turquoise, orange, navy and green, to match any scheme ($270, target.com). Use several outdoors as dining chairs or only one indoors as an accent chair.
Historically a material used for furniture — Cyrus Wakefield started it all when he found discarded rattan in the mid-1800s and bent it to make a chair — rattan is now used for accessories, too, as with West Elm’s Woven Rattan Trays, in which natural rattan is hand-woven over a metal frame ($59, westelm.com).
Hang one or a few of Uttermost’s Knotted Rattan Pendant Lights to emphasize whatever style you’re going for ($284, nordstrom.com). Brown says it’s all in what you pair them with: crisp, clean lines and the look is nautical; palm prints and lots of white and the look is tropical. “They’re kind of a chameleon,” she says. “They go with a lot of different looks.”
If a room in your house feels too cold, stark or formal, turn to natural fibers to add a “casual element,” Shankle says. “If you’re outfitting a space with high-end furniture and everything is stark and has rough edges — or maybe you have steel — it can soften and warm up a space.” Set a softer table with Wisteria’s casually refined Rattan Chargers ($24 for a set of two, wisteria.com).
A craftsman for Ikea wove the Viktigt Basket of water hyacinth into a size ideal for collecting just about anything in classy form: toys, laundry, recycling in the office, shoes by the door and more ($18, ikea.com).