When it comes to buying garden furniture it is important to know what materials are used, how they differ and what benefits they each offer so that you can make an informed decision about which material is best for your needs.

"Rattan is a close relative of the palm tree."

- White Stores

What is rattan garden furniture?

Rattan, Rattan Effect, Wicker, Woven and Synthetic Rattan are the most common materials and techniques used for garden furniture and many of these are simply referred to as ‘rattan’ so it is important to know how they differ and what you are buying.

Rattan is a close relative of the palm tree. It is a type of vine that rapidly grows in the jungles of the South-East region. Rattan is one of the strongest woods available and possesses the ability to grow as high as a hundred feet. Its flexible nature and easy availability has made it a popular choice for furniture for hundreds of years. However, genuine rattan is not often available in the UK as it tends to rot when exposed to damp conditions which does not suit the UK’s climate and does not allow the furniture to be left outside.

So, in the UK Synthetic Rattan or Rattan Effect is used, these two names are given to the same materials, but both are often simply referred to as rattan. Synthetic rattan is commonly made from PVC, PU and PE materials. These materials vary in quality with PE being the highest quality, lasting the longest and requiring the least maintenance. Synthetic rattan/rattan effect is famed for its weatherproof qualities such as protection from UV rays and damp conditions.

So, what's the difference?

Wicker is not a material but is an ancient technique used to manufacture items out of natural materials such as willow, rush, rattan, and more. The technique involves making the natural materials wet so that they can be easily woven to create wicker design furniture pieces. So, rattan furniture can be made via the wicker technique, but wicker furniture is not restricted to rattan materials and can use other materials such as bamboo or straw. The durability and strength of wicker furniture depend on the material used, with rattan being the strongest.

All rattan furniture is woven around a frame, firstly the vertical strands are stapled to the frame and then the horizontal strands are woven to create the dense finish seen in quality rattan furniture. All rattan furniture is hand woven and therefore every piece is unique and there will always be slight variations between items. To suit the UK’s climate, good quality rattan furniture will see the synthetic rattan material woven around a powder coated, aluminium frame to prevent rust and corrosion

Wherever you are in the world, we recommend synthetic rattan furniture made from PE materials, woven around a powder-coated aluminium frame. Using this technique and material you are sure to have a durable, sturdy, piece of furniture which will not fade when exposed to sunlight, is protected from damp, rust and corrosion and is not likely to unwind. Wicker furniture also possesses many of these great qualities, but we believe only wicker furniture made with synthetic rattan materials will match woven rattan in strength and durability.