Cane is on the brain right now. But the world of caning isn’t an easy one to wrap your head around. So let’s get this tricky bit out the way, as it’s actually commonly misunderstood. Firstly, cane is the material, the process is caning and the product is caned furniture – not to be mistaken with cane furniture which is any furniture made from rattan. Woahhhh we told you, it’s deep.
Caned furniture has a rich history. From Victorian royalty to Egyptian pharaohs, caned furniture has adorned castles, villas, hotels and our homes today. It’s one of the most ancient techniques of furniture making, used by Tibetan warriors and princesses, and trickled its way through the British Empire. The best way to recognise it is by its open-weave:
Where does cane come from?
Cane comes from the outer skin of the rattan stalk, which is a vine-like plant within the palm family. It’s a sun loving plant (like us) as it grows solid stalks which extend hundreds of feet towards the sunlight in tropical forests. It’s native in Asia and Africa, and once harvested, its bark is separated from its core and processed into thin strands which are woven to make caned furniture and all sorts. As it’s the skin of the rattan plant, it’s incredibly strong, flexible, glossy and non porous, which explains why it was so widely used in the old germ ridden days.
Ok, how ancient is it?
Caned furniture is always a strong feature in colonial interiors, be it the Caribbean, or in a regal property. But just to demonstrate how truly ancient caning is, a woven cane bed was buried in Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1323 BC, and it was used all throughout Asia and Africa found on objects from the 14th – 16th centuries AD. I know, we’re getting historical here, but isn’t it fascinating to see how far it’s come? You’ll never look at caned furniture the same again.
So how did caned furniture travel so far?
In the 19th century, caned furniture became linked with Dutch and English colonial furniture, because these countries had colonies in Indonesia and India where rattan had a long history and was easily accessible. Thanks to its pretty aesthetic, it spread around the world to other European colonies and tropical climes – as it doesn’t crack with heat. Practical and beautiful.
In the mid-19th century Thonet revolutionised furniture with his No.14 chair which used caning for the seat material, and this style transcended throughout the 20th century replacing heavy duty and germ riddle upholstered chairs.
Today caned furniture is so versatile it can slot into any interior styles, from the most Bohemian to modern luxe.
Cane (rattan) pieces to shop: