After decades of sitting pretty on screened porches, wicker furniture is getting a serious second wind. Clean, modern pieces made from jute, rattan, rush, and other durable fibers are easy to find and look fresh indoors year-round. So hang a fixture, or invest in an iconic bed frame or a chair.
Graceful and ultra-sustainable, this material — harvested from the solid core of a Southeast Asian climbing palm — can be steamed and molded to create statement-making shapes. And these days, reproductions of midcentury European designs and other sculptural pieces abound. Consider this sleigh bed and pendant lamp (above) as stylish examples.
Appalachian rockers, antique Chippendale seats, and the modernist Cesca chairs that gathered around many a 1970s dinner table have one thing in common: this intricate material, derived from the outer bark of the rattan palm. It's known for its signature octagons, but "people are rediscovering other classic patterns, like herringbone," says Mike Frank, owner of Frank’s Cane and Rush Supply, in Huntington Beach, California. It's also available in machine-made sheets, all the better to get creative with. To wit: Simple vase covers and light-catching wall hangings are a breeze to make.
Also known as bulrush or cattail, this wetland reed has serious bona fides: It's been used to shape chair backs and bottoms since the time of the pharaohs. In more recent history, American Shaker furniture makers gave their austere rockers' seats this four-flap envelope motif, and midcentury Danish and American designers experimented with the frame’s look. Most contemporary iterations use twisted paper cord instead of natural rush, but both are surprisingly hardy, thanks to the density of the weaving. So sit down and stay awhile.
This invasive aquatic weed may be a landscaper's nemesis, but interior designers love it for its chunky, nubby quality. The stalks can be dried and worked into distinctive baskets, or woven over metal frames to create pieces that bring the outdoors in. "Nothing about it looks manufactured," Frank says. A hamper made from the material lends a spa-like vibe to a bathroom, and extralarge baskets make chic planters.
You've probably seen this fiber twisted into a crunchy ribbon around a bouquet or gift, or braided into accessories like totes and sandals. But delicate raffia palm fronds can also be spun into fabric that resembles grasscloth — for a third of the price, says Frank. And that frees you up to experiment with it: Just a few yards give the doors of this plain armoire a custom, earthy finishing touch.