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Classic Update: Wicker Furniture

From parlor to patio, wicker is a natural fit  

Written and produced by Kari Costas

Forget romantic notions about wicker. Contrary to popular belief, the first woven furniture didn’t emerge from the dusty tombs of Egypt, but from Northern Europe circa 3000 B.C., long before the days of King Tut. Derived from the Swedish viker, meaning “willow,” the term wicker denotes a specific technique of basketry made from willow rods found in Northern Europe. According to Willeke Wendrich, professor of Egyptian archaeology at UCLA, sturdy willow was better suited to making furniture than the flimsy reeds of the Nile.


 Serena & Lily’s “Peacock Scroll Mirror” nods to the popular curlicued designs of the Victorian era, while a pop of pink adds Palm Beach flair (). 

Wicker arrived in America aboard the Mayflower, but it wasn’t until 1844 that this age-old craft became a bona fide American industry. A young grocer named Cyrus Wakefield stumbled on discarded rattan on the docks in Boston and began experimenting with the flexible fibers. Wakefield soon became the largest manufacturer of rattan products and the leader in the industry, thanks largely to wicker’s ability to mold to changing fashions. “Wicker responded to all the styles of the time—Victorian, Art Nouveau, even Arts and Crafts,” says Richard Saunders, author of five books on the subject. And despite its long history, wicker remains experimental, on-trend—and anything but ancient.

These fun yet classic chairs could find themselves at home in a traditional setting or in a more mod interior. Why not mix these in with lots of white and crisp chintz for an updated Victorian vibe? If you’re willing to have some fun, these chairs could make your summer living room. 
—Louis Navarrete, New York

 

My clients would love this woven Gloster piece. It’s streamlined yet casual, and the all-weather wicker makes it maintenance-free. These would be perfect grouped around an outdoor fireplace. 
Jennifer Mehditash, Larchmont, New York

 

This chair is reminiscent of the wicker furniture from our fisherman’s cottage in Scotland. It is a timeless staple that can be used both indoors and out.
—Kathryn M. Ireland, West Hollywood

 

I love this because of its unique take on a canopy chair. I would reupholster the cushions in “Hulai Batik” from China Seas to offset all the geometric lines, then set the piece in the corner of a lush secret garden. Wicker is a classic; its natural texture is a complement to any outdoor setting.
—Maggie Cruz, Miami

Woven resin has the relaxed feel of wicker furniture, but the benefit of a longer lifespan. We love the clean lines of this slipper chair, and yet the woven resin makes it feel right at home on a Hamptons screen porch or aroundthe pool. Classic meets clean and comfortable.
—Austin Handler, Water Mill, New York

The Suzy Wong sofa feels modern and comfortable with its architectural lines and beautiful wickerwork. I could see this on a Colonial veranda with batik pillows strewn across it. For me, wicker will always be a classic choice—it’s luxurious and comfortable. 
—Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Los Angeles