Nolan Cane-Back Slipper Chair from Martha Stewart Furniture is upholstered in off-white.
Even if it’s vinyl, wicker whispers softly of summer
By Joan Brunskill
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK — It’s the season for moving summer furniture out onto porches or deeper into balmy backyards. It’s furniture we may already enjoy year-round inside, and it’s often wicker — or do we mean rattan, or bamboo?
Or how about, well, vinyl?
When manufacturers say “wicker,” they’re referring to every woven furniture product, said Georgel Miloje, of the marketing department at Designer Wicker & Rattan, a furniture manufacturer based in Orangeburg, S.C. Rattan is one of the materials most used for natural wickerwork.
However, demand for outdoor furniture made with synthetic materials is on the increase and manufacturers are keeping pace. Miloje said his company sees surging growth in the demand for synthetic wickerwork, which people like because it’s weather-resistant.
“Five years ago, 10 percent of our sales were synthetic furniture, now it’s about 40 percent,” Miloje said in a phone interview. “We’re making more synthetic because there’s a demand for it. It’s the hot product now, because people are concentrating more on their outdoor rooms.”
The Mandalay chair is indoor wicker, hand-woven from rattan, from Designer Wicker & Rattan by Tribor.
Wicker furniture made with several kinds of woven synthetics is available in chain stores such as Restoration Hardware and The Home Depot.
Mitchell Ross, owner of Connecticut-based Patio.com, said his company is now selling about 60 percent synthetic wicker and 40 percent real wicker.
Four years ago, he said, they were selling about 90 percent real wicker and only 10 percent synthetic.
“The synthetics, vinyl or whatever, now look very much more like real wicker,” he said, commenting on the product’s improvement. “We recommend some kind of synthetic for outside, to put by the pool, for example, but there are natural wickers that can be used in somewhat covered places outdoors.”
A Restoration Hardware store in Manhattan stocks both natural rattan and manmade wicker and it’s hard to tell which is which without reading labels.
Both are hand-woven with an airy look, come in natural-look finishes, and are sold with fitted upholstery cushions; the resilient manmade pieces woven on aluminum frames also come in dark-brown “espresso.” The sturdy natural rattan collection, which includes beds, is built on mahogany frames.
Sales manager Jason Goldberg said that customers who want to keep a consistent design look at their beach homes are buying both kinds: natural rattan for indoor use and manmade wicker for outdoors.
How to care for wicker
First, stop your natural wicker from drying out, warned Randy Keeling, who runs a business called A Cane Wood & Wicker Fixer, out of Tigard, Ore. “One of the better things is just to take a mister and spray it, unless you live where there’s a lot of moisture,” he said in a phone interview. Of course, if it’s varnished or painted, spraying won’t make any difference, he added.
To clean your wickerwork, especially at the beginning of the season, again, use plain water. “Just take the furniture out, turn it upside down and turn the hose on it.” Or use an air hose to blow the dust off.
What to avoid: “The mess you’ll make if you try to use wax or oil on it. You’ll never get it all off, out of the weaving, and it will get on your clothes.”
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