Wicker furniture, as well as other wicker products, has been in use by humans since ancient times. The history of wicker is far-reaching, going back as far as basket weaving from ancient Egypt and later in Roman Pompeii. During the Iron Age, wicker weaving also seemed to have a strong influence on artistic development, as it is thought that many of the Celtic patterns in art known today were originally influenced by the appearance of wicker objects.
Around the mid-1700s, wicker furniture experienced a period of unpopularity, however it was during the Victorian era that wicker weaving had a bit of a revival – in fact, people believed that the smooth surfaces of wicker pieces were more sanitary than furniture with upholstery, which created a boom in the industry of rattan wicker furniture that reached into North America around the 1840s.
Keeping in mind that wicker actually refers to the style of weaving and not to any particular material itself, wicker furniture can be made out of a variety of things: bamboo, rattan, willow, or fiberglass resin. Rattan is the most popular material in wicker furniture with a wooden look, since it is a sturdy material that can be used in moderate-impact areas of the outdoors, such as covered gazebos or screened porches. Rattan comes from Southeast Asia’s tropical rainforests, making it and bamboo some of the pricier – but more durable – options when choosing furniture pieces.
Synthetic material wicker furniture is not unusual in North America, since these pieces are highly durable and can be left outdoors permanently. Resin furniture also gets its color from dyes placed right inside the resin, ensuring that these pieces will not flake or peel like other wicker furniture that has been painted.
As a result, never use indoor only wicker furniture outdoors, since it has probably been coated with a clear lacquer finish that is only good for protecting against minor scratches that come from daily, indoor use. If you’re planning on using wicker furniture in a covered porch area, these pieces are not acceptable – get pieces that are specifically designed for limited exposure areas, since they have additional layers of protective finish, and may have leather wrapped joints on the furniture’s framing to help preserve the piece against wear.
Outdoor wicker furniture can be placed in one of two categories, either loom-woven or synthetic. When a piece is loom-woven, it uses natural materials such as bamboo or rattan, but is coated in resin emulsions after the fact to create a shielding that is resistant to moisture and durable. Synthetic wicker furniture is made from resin or fiberglass, which already contains UV inhibitors that will repel and preserve against potential damage from harsh weather, the sun, and steep shifts in temperature.
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