Here’s the Secret to Keeping All That Cane Furniture from Breaking

published Oct 19, 2019
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In the best circumstances, our homes would always be picture-perfect. The sofa would be pristine, the coffee table would be clear, and the floors would be free of scratches. But that’s not always realistic. Instead, we usually figure out how to pretend our way to perfection. A blanket covers a stained sofa, books mask water marks, and rugs hide any scuffs. Usually, these quick fixes can readily conceal indiscretions—but things are a little different when you’re working with cane furniture.

“Because cane is a plant fiber, it can dry out, crack, and become brittle if not properly cared for,” says Anna Brockway, the co-founder and president of Chairish, which sells both new and vintage furniture. 

Derived from the outer skin of a rattan stalk that’s native to Asia and Africa, cane has a naturally glossy exterior that’s non-porous, and therefore, fairly easy to maintain. (It should be: It’s been used for furniture since the Egyptian times.) Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be ignored. In order to keep your new or vintage cane furniture from breaking, Brockway has three easy rules to follow.

Keep your furniture away from the sun, but in a warm space. 

Although cane furniture has the look of a sunny day, it actually does better in the shade. “Sunlight can cause discoloration and accelerate drying, which leads to cracking,” Brockway says. “It’s best to keep pieces out of direct sunlight.” That said, cane furniture does best in rooms that are warm and a little humid, which helps keep it from getting too parched. If that doesn’t exactly describe your locale, then now might be the time to invest in a humidifier.

You can also arrange your cane furniture in a design that plays off its need for darker corners. A cane side chair can sit in the shade with a reading light, or a dresser can stand under a mirror that can bounce light around the room. Mildew forms when cane furniture is exposed to water for too long, so if you use your cane furniture outside, position pieces in a covered, dry area or bring them indoors when not in use.

Maintain a moisturizing schedule.

Just like you’ve gotten in the habit of moisturizing your skin, you should also do the same for your cane furniture—it sounds silly, but it’s true. “The key to battling the dry-out? Moisturizing!” Brockway says. “Use a high-oil content furniture polish, like lemon oil or orange oil, to keep the exterior looking great.” You should schedule a moisturizing session about once a month.

For best results, dilute the polish in water and then spray the back and undersides of your furniture. Keep one side bare to help the material breathe. After, wipe the solution dry with a rag. If you’re moisturizing seating, be especially careful not to spray the front, because it’ll likely leave a grease mark in the curve of the chair. Let the furniture dry completely before use. 

Add cushions when necessary. 

And lastly, don’t let seated furniture go without plenty of cushions. They protect surfaces by distributing weight more evenly, making it less likely for a pressure point to crack. Plus, says Brockway: “It’s as a way to add a touch of time-worn eclecticism to contemporary spaces.”