Wicker style furniture is one of the more relaxed, easy-going looking furniture options out there and suits both the outdoors and indoors. It is a popular option for a lot of people and looks particularly great by the pool. You may not be aware however, that this style has a long history, dating back thousands of years to ancient times. Rather than being made from a particular type of timber or material (synthetic resin for example, is a popular modern option), wicker furniture refers to a particular style, where threads are woven into a shape.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of wicker furniture and other such items.
Interestingly, wicker is one of the oldest furniture making methods in human history, dating back at least 5 thousand years to Ancient Egypt. Originally, it was made from swamp reeds and used to make baskets and other small practical items. But it didn’t take long for the Egyptians to realise they could make small tables using this method as well. Larger wicker items have also been uncovered belonging to the upper classes and pharaohs, including chairs and chests. In fact, Tutankhamun was buried with various wicker items.
The use of wicker was also widespread in later years in Ancient Rome, and all evidence seems to suggest that they picked up this skill from the Egyptians. This skill was used to make a number of different items throughout Europe during the years of the Roman Empire. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that wicker items were used in the city of Pompei, with some being discovered despite the tragedy that occurred there.
In northern Europe too, wicker was growing in popularity, as the people living in modern day Holland, Germany and Scandinavia would use wicker to build cribs and bassinets. Not only was it soft and comfortable, but it was relatively cheap to make.
The Discovery of Rattan
Rattan, a concept which is often confused with the term wicker, is a species of palm that was discovered and ultimately introduced to Europe at some point in the 16th century. The reason that it is often used interchangeably with the term wicker is because the two proved to be a match made in heaven during this period up until today. Rattan was brought in from Asia and used to create wicker furniture of all kinds over the years that followed. It was strong and particularly suited to warmer climates, whereas other materials would crack in the heat. This led wicker to become even more popular and grow, becoming associated with the upper classes in Britain and eventually a staple of Victorian-style furniture hundreds of years later.
Given how cheap it is, wicker furniture soon become available to just about everyone over the past few hundred years, to such an extent that it is now rarely associated with the Victorian era. When we think about antique furniture, we rarely think about wicker furniture, yet antique pieces dating back hundreds of years are highly sought after by collectors.
Wicker furniture remains popular today for the very same reasons that it was preferred all those years ago; it’s affordable, comfortable, durable and requires very little maintenance plus there are lots of different wicker furniture varieties out there!