Wicker furniture is made by weaving natural or synthetic materials into forms like baskets, chairs or tables. Natural materials include rattan, a very strong pole-like plant that grows hundreds of feet in tropical forests; reeds; willow; and bamboo. Synthetic materials include resin, plastics and fibreglass. The wicker fibres are soaked for pliability then woven around frames typically made of aluminium or rattan poles. Once the furniture is woven, it's dried, sealed and coloured.
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Wicker furniture has existed as far back as the third century BC, when it was made by Egyptians. It existed in England in the 16th and early 17th centuries as "Twiggle work." Wicker was produced mainly in areas where waterside plants grew. More complex forms of wicker furniture, like lounge chairs and footrests, appeared in the 19th century.
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Indoor wicker furniture is made of natural weaving materials, which if left outdoors would decay and rot. Its advantages are that it's lightweight, easy to move, durable and affordable. It has a timeless, handcrafted look and is available in many styles and colours.
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Outdoor wicker furniture is made from synthetics and/or treated with a form of resin, a translucent substance, to protect it from rain and snow as well as the sun. The sun can dry out wicker work, causing it to become brittle. Frames for outdoor weaving fibres are usually made of aluminium but can also be of rattan. Outdoor wicker pieces are not as durable as outdoor furniture made from aluminium or wrought-iron.
upholstered furniture. image by Yuri Bizgaimer from Fotolia.com
There are many types of wicker furniture, including rockers, benches, tables, sofas, garden chairs, and beds. Some furniture can be bought as a complete outdoor or indoor set: tables and chairs with a coffee table, or an indoor cushioned-couch with lamp tables and matching chairs.
Wicker image by Gary Chorpenning from Fotolia.com
Indoor and outdoor wicker furniture needs regular care. Because it's subject to outside elements, outdoor furniture needs to be wiped and dusted more often than indoor furnishings. Spills should be cleaned immediately so they don't get embedded in the wicker. Wicker can also be hosed down with gentle pressure. It can be refreshed with a new coat of paint, followed by a thin wax layer.