Woven in time

Woven in time

Loved for its flexibility and sustainable properties, rattan is also a style statement that has stood the test of time, as design writer Amy Moorea Wong discovers.

Rattan, wicker. Wicker, rattan. The words have come to trip off the tongue interchangeably, because we all know what we mean – the woven wood-y products that are increasingly popping up in homes. But for when it next comes up: rattan is the core of a vine-like plant (there are over six hundred varieties) whereas wicker is a style of weave. So, rattan pieces are made from rattan stems; wicker products can be woven from multiple materials, including rattan. Cane is the tough outer skin of rattan, if you want to add an extra layer of complication.

Something of a marvel, rattan is renowned for its inherent strength; it’s remarkably hard and durable, yet lightweight and flexible enough to be skilfully bent and woven into intricate forms. Found predominately in the tropical forests of South East Asia as well as parts of Africa and Australia, it grows upwards, climbing trunks and branches at phenomenal speeds, reaching up to two hundred meters in length and coming in as one of the world’s fastest growing plants. Joyfully sustainable, it regenerates speedily and grows all year round, before being carefully harvested by hand from the wild.

Harnessed over two thousand years ago by indigenous cultures, rattan was initially used for weaving furniture, baskets, utensils, and tools. Skilled artisans often created intricate designs specific to their community, embellishing function with beauty and meaning, and passing making techniques down the generations. Sailing to Europe in the seventeenth century as trade routes expanded, its ‘exotic’ feel fascinated Victorians, and tying into the nineteenth-century trend for all things handicraft, rattan furniture officially announced its arrival into the era’s interiors scene as part of the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Style icons such as Italian designer Gabriella Crespi gave the unassuming material a cosmopolitan rebrand in the 1960s and 1970s, rattan becoming the go-to for a sophisticated yet serene home as a free-spirited antidote to the preceding cold, hard lines of modernism. Today, the rattan renaissance is part of the contemporary movement towards embracing the relaxing ambiance nature brings indoors, as well as its obvious sustainable credentials.

Neptune’s new season lighting collection is infused with ageless eco-elegance. In rattan, the vase-shaped Athena table lamps are a laid-back, organic twist on classical ceramics, while the art deco-esque scalloped edges of the pendant and wall lights adopt a whimsical, romantic feel when woven. Each piece is a journey along the design timeline with its roots deep in the ancient jungle.

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