Most people have heard of or know of cane furniture.
But, what exactly is cane furniture, where does it come from, what is its history and what is is like today?
Find out the answer to all of these questions and then decide if cane furniture is right for you!
What is Cane and Where Does it Come From?
What may be obvious is that one of the base materials for cane furniture is cane.
Cane comes from the rattan plant, which grows most commonly in warmer climates such as Asian and African countries.
When the skin of the rattan vine is peeled off, it produces what we know as cane.
Once woven together in a pattern, the finished product – cane – is wrapped or installed with a frame of wood, steel, or aluminum frame to create a piece of furniture.
Cane, when woven as wicker, clearly shows off the natural and organic colors and patterns of the skin of the rattan vine.
Now that we know what cane is, let’s continue with a brief history of cane furniture.
History of Cane Furniture
The history of cane furniture is a long and interesting one.
Most of the original pieces found which were made of woven cane were utility bowls and baskets. This use of cane later turned to more elaborate decor pieces like furniture.
A woven cane bed was found in the tomb of none other than the infamous Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun. That was in and around 1300’s BC.
A woven rattan cane coffin designed for a Moche Princess was discovered in Peru and dates back to around 750 AD.
Because rattan was very prolific in Asian and Africa, many cultures adopted the use of rattan cane for making everything including baskets and even shields – as for the Tibetans – and more complicated pieces of furniture such as chairs and sofas.
Partly due to the increased trade with Asia, the Europeans soon after adopted use of cane furniture.
There were other very practical reasons for the increased use of cane furniture in Europe.
Historical Reasons for Adopting and Using Cane Furniture
- Cane furniture was much lighter than the typical upholstered or wood furniture.
- Cane furniture was very durable, and non-porous, making it easy to wipe clean.
- Cane furniture was very clean. As compared to stuffed upholstered furniture which was susceptible to moths, and holding dirt and dust, cane furniture was easy to clean and would not hold any stains, dirt or dust. And this at a time when furniture was not easily replaced and therefore, dirt could easily become ‘germy’ – something more important than today with the state of medical interventions available at the time.
Due to its popularity, after the trade with Asia in the 1600’s, cane furniture began being manufactured in Europe, and continued into the 18th century.
Later in the 19th century, cane furniture was popular in European colonies where the rattan was readily available and the techniques of making cane furniture were well established. The rattan cane furniture was also well suited to these more humid climates due to its natural properties of not warping or cracking in wetter weather.
Based on the locations of much of this furniture, cane furniture soon became known as the Colonial furniture style.
Cane Furniture Durability
The durability of cane furniture cannot be overstated. Even though cane furniture is very lightweight and therefore, may appear to be less durable, it is in fact, extremely durable.
All you have to do is look at some of the older or antique pieces which are for sale on antique marketplaces. Some have some damage to the cane portions but many are still very much intact – amazing for some pieces which are half a century old.
This will be especially true for furniture pieces which are not chairs or used for the seated portion of a chair. For instance, a cane bed with headboard and footboard in cane will last a very long time as there is no pressure or direct contact with the cane itself.
Modern Cane Furniture
As shown, cane furniture has a long and rich history.
Because of the benefits of the furniture – widely available rattan materials, lightweight, and easy to keep clean, cane furniture became popular in the past.
All of those properties of cane furniture are still relevant today.
One of the missing properties or features of cane furniture which may have been overlooked in history are its aesthetics and simple beauty. It is also extremely pliable making it more comfortable when used as a seat or seat back as compared to a hard wood or metal.
For me, I love the airy and light feel of cane furniture. With the spaces between the woven cane, there is light allowed through which makes any piece of furniture feel like it takes less space than it actually does.
As an example, a large Colonial styled cane chair with a rounded wooden frame may be quite large but will appear smaller than it is or appear to take up less space in a room or patio. This allows you to have larger – and perhaps more comfortable – pieces in a room without it feeling cramped or too full.
The easiest way to understand this would be to compare a similarly styled chair with a rattan cane woven back and sides versus a tube chair with full upholstery.
While one might think that caning is caning, it can be different. The materials may be the same but the design and the way in which it is woven can be different.
Here are a few examples of the most prevalent caning designs in furniture.
Traditional Caning Design
The first one is the one I typically think of when I think of caned furniture. It is woven but in a very intricate pattern making almost a circle in the middle surrounded by squares.
Modern Caning Designs
In contrast or just simply different, you can see the simple woven caned design of these cabinet door fronts. Because this take on caning design is more squared off and is a simple pattern (less ornate), it gives a more modern look while still giving an organic natural feel.
Cane Furniture Styles
Most cane furniture will have a similar structure. The design may be very different but, generally, it will be a wooden frame with insets, sides, backs and seats done in the woven cane.
The wood acts as a frame for the lighter weight, and not fully solid woven cane. Pieces today include the original chairs – both for dining and living rooms, sofas, cabinets, occasional tables, nightstands, chests, dressers, media consoles and TV stands, sideboards, storage shelves and more.
Cane can even be used as a modern material for lighting. Yes, this is not officially furniture but, it still gives you the chance to introduce some airy cane into your home décor.
While the original cane furniture will have a Colonial style, some other furniture styles which incorporate cane material are Modern, Traditional, Asian and French.
Here are some beautiful examples:
Living Room Cane Chairs
For most living rooms, the addition of a few armchairs is a nice added touch. Adding some cane armchairs can provide you with that extra seating without adding bulk to the room.
Because of the open weave caning, cane chairs do not feel as heavy as a large upholstered chair. Hence, they are especially appropriate for those who want the room to feel more airy and spacious.
Another wonderful thing about these Aiden cane chairs is that there is a vast selection of cushion upholstery choices – making the chair customized to your liking and your decor. It is amazing just how different these chairs can look with a simple change of upholstered cushions.
The custom upholstered cushions are also available in various types of materials including genuine leather for a more masculine look to indoor / outdoor performance fabrics for potential use outdoors.
Dining Cane Chairs
Add a hint of casual elegance with some dining chairs with a cane back. The dining chairs featured here come with an upholstered seat as opposed to a cane seat for superior comfort during those long dinner parties.
Matteo Cane Chairs – A classically styled dining chair with a caned back is the Matteo Cane Dining Chair. Also available in bar and counter stool heights, you can style both your formal dining and casual eating areas with this caned chair style.
Georgia Cane Chairs – Whether you need some new dining chairs or bar stools for your kitchen, you can get them in a cane style. These very French country styled dining chairs and stools come with a cane back and upholstered seat.
For those of you who love the flexibility of certain pieces of furniture, this Cora cane chair might be that one. Due to its design, it can be utilized in both your dining room as an end chair, and in your living room as an accent chair with ease.
Cane Beds and Bedroom Furniture
Beauvier Cane Bed – One of my new favorite pieces of cane furniture is the Beauvier French Cane Bed. With the French styling paired with the exquisite caning, this bed instantly adds a casual, yet very elegant French Country style to any bedroom.
It mixes the soft femininity with classic stylings of the ornate turned sculpted legs and headboard.
If you choose the darker charcoal color, it will add the Zin to your Zang by adding a darker more masculine feel to the more feminine style. For couples who are don’t always agree on just how feminine or masculine your furniture should be, this is a solid compromising option.
Marion Cane Bed – Another more masculine cane bed is the Marion Cane Bed. With its more angular square design, it exudes a more masculine feel – even though the caning provides a lightness and softness symbolizing femininity.
Shop this Sanibel bedding here!
Cane Bedroom Furniture – While this bedroom is not shown with the matching cane furniture pieces, they are indeed available. So, whether you want to match your bed to your bedroom furniture or you just want to add a piece of cane furniture to your bedroom, you can with this Marion line.
For a soft end to your bed, add this World’s Away cane bench with upholstered cushion. It even has a storage shelf under the seat so it is not only pretty, it is very practical.
Cane Media and Storage Furniture
Four Hands Cane Cabinet – A different style of caning has been used on this handsome and modern cabinet by Four Hands. The caning is less intricate and more strictly woven but still provides a similar feel and all of the wonderful properties of rattan cane – including the natural organic colorings of the rattan vine skin, aka cane.
Corrie Cabinet – This Asian styled storage cabinet / console cabinet is framed in solid wood with caned insets – the perfect way to add some interest to a lonely hallway or empty space.
Home Office Cane Furniture
Just when you thought that office furniture could not be made with caning, think again. This full desk system with cane fronts even comes with an incorporated filing cabinet.
Clarita Desk System with Filing Cabinet – This desk system is large enough for just about any type of home office work. With convenient drawers, shelves and filing system along with a great look, it has it all.
Shop more Cane Office Furniture here!
Outdoor Cane Furniture
Some cane furniture can be used both indoors and outdoors. While the cane is usually weather proof, depending on the framing material, it may be for indoor use only. Please verify that your frame is also weather resistant before placing any cane piece outdoors.
Cane can also be found on smaller furniture pieces such as this bench done in solid wood with wicker cane seat and back – a great accent piece for an outdoor seating area or seats for a front porch or backyard garden veranda. Makes for a cozy outdoor reading nook.
If you are still interested in adding some cane furniture but, your budget does not allow it just yet, you can add some of these ceramic stools with an open weave cane look design on the side.
Cane Furniture – The Many Benefits
Cane furniture has been around for centuries – and with good reason.
The original uses for cane began in non-furniture pieces such as storage baskets and even shields. Soon after, cane began to be used for furniture.
Historically, cane furniture was adopted for the following properties:
- It was lightweight and easy to move around.
- Cane furniture was easy to clean.
- It did not hold onto germs and mites which other furniture of the time tended to do.
One thing that may not have been fully considered at the time was it natural beauty. Today, the beauty of cane furniture is one of its most desired features. We can accept all of the other benefits as a bonuses.
Cane furniture today has also been translated into various design styles, different woven designs, and almost all types of furniture pieces – including armchairs, dining chairs, sofas, benches, chests, nightstands and even beds.
Pick your piece, pick your style and then pick your preferred cane design. Whichever piece of cane furniture you decide to add to your home decor, you are sure to enjoy it for many years to come.
Shop more Cane Furniture here!