The Story of Rattan
Words by Lulu Lytle
Images by Miguel Flores-Vianna, Guido Taroni & Derry Moore
The story of rattan weaving begins in the tropical regions of South East Asia where the greatest diversity of the spiny, climbing rattan palm grows. When responsibly harvested, where it grows naturally in primary rainforest, rattan is an admirably sustainable material.
Built The story of rattan weaving begins in the tropical regions of South East Asia where the greatest diversity of the spiny, climbing rattan palm grows. When responsibly harvested, where it grows naturally in primary rainforest, rattan is an admirably sustainable material. It is cheaper and much faster growing than timber and is completely biodegradable. It is reliant on the existence of healthy vegetation to flourish which encourages the preservation of forest habitats. At a time when we are scrutinising the origins of materials more than ever, rattan’s ecological credentials are particularly sound.Serenissima.
San Marco encloses the vast eponymous square, enclosed with an arcade, St Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace that overlooks the Grand Canal. The drama of St Mark’s facade and its frescoed walls dominate San Marco; indeed, the cathedral is the spiritual heart of Venice. Caffè Florian, one of the oldest and traditional coffee houses, dating from 1720, is a perfect place to take it all in.
Early rattan artefacts from Asia exist in the form of highly refined serving bowls and storage boxes in China, shields used in martial arts in Korea and exquisitely woven Inro in Japan. In Europe the earliest importers of rattan were the Dutch and the English who established supply outposts across South East Asia catering to a growing European market for spices, silk, cotton, porcelain and printed textiles. At this time there was little understanding of rattan’s design potential, it was simply incorporated in furniture as an incidental detail, in the form of cane seating. It was only in the mid 19th century that rattan furniture gained importance in its own right, initially in America, England and France.
More recently it is probably rattan’s associations with heat, relaxation and languid summer days for which it is best known, making it a favourite furnishing material in some of the most glamorous playgrounds of the last 50 years, whose occupants’ lives were so evocatively captured by the likes of Slim Aarons and Horst P Horst.
For me, no single factor can explain rattan’s enduring appeal. Its unique ability to lighten the atmosphere of the grandest architecture, its textural fluidity, its understated glamour and the loveliness with which it ages, all contribute to the beauty of furnishings made from this wondrous plant.
Cabana Magazine N14
Covers by Clarence House for Fabricut, November 2020.
This issue is the ideal armchair traveller's companion for the modern day. With current restrictions in travel, escape into the world of Cabana from the comfort of your own home and immerse yourself in the extensive portfolios on Venice and Hyderabad. Centuries of styles blend magically in Venice, captured by Antonio Monfreda, and through the lens of Markus Luscombe-Whyte, Hyderabad radiates the charm of a bygone era. Other stories include the Murlo Estate in the Umbrian countryside by Guido Taroni, Villa Imperiale of Pesaro by Ashley Hicks, and one of Tangier’s most beautiful houses captured by Miguel Flores-Vianna, amongst others.
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