Lightweight, strong and beautiful, wicker outdoor furniture is a classic choice for relaxed living. It first became popular in North America in the mid-1800s, gracing the deep porches of Southern plantation houses and the fern-filled conservatories of Victorian town homes alike. But wicker weaving is actually one of the oldest forms of furniture-making in the world.
What Is Wicker?
Although people often use the terms “wicker” and “rattan” interchangeably, wicker refers to the technique of weaving thin strips of material over a rigid frame. It’s crafted from many different plant fibers, including rattan, willow, raffia and bamboo.
Traditionally, the materials were soaked until they were pliable enough to shape and weave, becoming strong and supportive as they dried. Using that time-tested technique, wicker artisans create a vast array of furnishings, from simple baskets and stools to elaborate sofas, rockers, dramatic peacock chairs, ornate plant stands, baby carriages and even the passenger gondolas of hot-air balloons.
A Brief History of Wicker
While America’s love affair with wicker is only a century and a half (or so) old, wicker dates back to ancient Egypt, when artisans wove baskets and furniture from rushes and reeds. Soldiers of the Persian Achaemenid Empire (550 BC) carried hide-covered wicker shields into battle.
The Romans adopted wicker-weaving techniques for baskets and furnishings of their own, and as their empire expanded, wicker spread around the world. By the 17th century, wicker furniture could be found in homes all across Europe.
In the mid-1800s, Cyrus Wakefield – a Massachusetts entrepreneur who established himself by selling bales of rattan that had been used as ship ballast – began using the material to make baskets, skirt hoops and, eventually, furniture. Americans loved wicker’s beauty and durability, and innovations in manufacturing made it affordable, too. By the turn of the century, wicker was here to stay.
Wicker Evolves for All-Weather Applications
Wicker’s enduring popularity stems from the fact that it’s strong, resilient and long-lasting without being heavy. And because the weaving technique can be used with many materials to create a wide range of silhouettes and styles, wicker furniture has continually adapted to suit the taste of the times.
Over the years, automation made new types of wicker possible, including a variety crafted of paper twisted tightly over steel wire. But until recently, all wicker shared the same problem – because it was made from plant fibers, traditional wicker furniture did not hold up well to outdoor use. Moisture, sunlight, extreme temperatures and other factors broke down the natural materials over time and caused protective finishes like paint and varnish to fade, peel and chip.
Enter All-Weather Wicker
What is All-Weather Wicker? Crafted from HDPE (high-density polyethylene), Terra Outdoor’s all-weather wicker stands up to the elements year-round without fading warping, cracking or peeling.
Organic texture and subtle shading give it the warmth and beauty of natural rattan, with greater strength and durability yet none of the maintenance. Supported by strong, lightweight aluminum frames and topped with fast-drying Sunbrella® cushions, our all-weather wicker outdoor furniture is rust-proof and resistant to mold and mildew. It’s everything you love about wicker with none of the drawbacks.
- Our Carmel Collection has a classic feel with sloped arms and T-shaped seat cushions
- Sausalito’s track arms and boxy silhouettes strike a modern note.
- The Del Rey and Moraga dining chairs pair beautifully with tables of teak, aluminum or concrete, complementing their smooth surfaces and crisp lines with compelling textures and curves.