Over time, wicker has been used to describe a broad range of patio chairs and tables. The name is applied to pieces that a visibly large weave of fibers and rich earth brown colors. Those that are white have usually been painted or bleached.
Although many pieces used for entertaining outside of the house are referred to as outdoor wicker furniture, there are some subtle differences that make different types of weaved furniture distinct.
Since wicker has come to be a description for the process of weaving outdoor furniture, some manufacturers have started making furniture from plastic. This is an environmentally friendly approach, but it departs from the tradition of plaiting or weaving willow twigs to make chairs. The dimensions of the twigs are typically .07 to .2 inches.
In terms of weight, wicker is light, though the final products it is used to make are quite sturdy. This makes it an adaptable material for furniture that is going to be moved around frequently, and might need to withstand changing temperatures and body weights. Natural wicker is commonly woven onto a plant-based frame, and resin wicker is placed on aluminum or some other metal frame.
Whether used in an upscale or low-scale setting, bare wicker for seating does not seem to appeal to the widest interests. Some people do not like the scratchy texture against their skin. A few pillows added for cushion have always been a good remedy for this small discomfort.
From a distance, it is not always easy to tell that seating is rattan. Made from palm tree fibers, rattan looks very similar to wicker. A closer look, however, reveals the differences.
Rattan weave strips are usually wider, about .2 to .39 inches. Up close, rattan strips have joints that look like the human skeletal system. This distinction also makes them look like bamboo, which is much harder as a material than rattan. Because of rattan’s intriguing textures, some furniture designers combine the inner core of rattan with wicker to make furniture. In some areas of the world, rattan has also been used to make small homes.
Seagrass is a greenish or grayish color and commonly woven onto frames made of wicker. Seagrass grows near freshwater and is dried and twisted before it is ready to be used to make furniture. In other eras, seagrass was used to fill mattresses for sleeping or to make bandages for wounds.
Banana leaf furniture may be the most vulnerable of all the materials used to make outdoor furniture. Direct sunlight on raw banana leaf strips tends to make them dry and brittle. The fibers split or become so fragile that furniture is no longer functional. Moisture creates mold and mildews. The most durable way to use bamboo is to give it a protective coating, which may detract from its natural appearance.
The use of wicker furniture can give a leisurely space many options. The type of material used can determine the placement of furniture on an outdoor patio. It is good to choose something beautiful and lasting, but it also is wise to understand the limitations of the materials that make up the furniture.