Questions We All Ask Ourselves: What’s the Difference Between Cane, Wicker, and Rattan?

published Sep 9, 2019
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From the looks of my Pinterest mood board, it’s very clear: I’m low-key obsessed with woven furniture and accessories. There’s something about this old-school material reimagined in a fresh, modern silhouette that makes any room feel like it’s summer year-round. And I’m almost positive I’m not alone who is smitten with this trend.

But have you ever stopped and wondered if the trend in question is considered cane, wicker, or rattan? It’s okay: As someone who writes about home decor a lot, I will totally own the fact that I’m also confused.

Make no mistake, cane, wicker, and rattan are different; however, the three phrases are more similar than you’d think.

“Cane and rattan are materials that are both derived from the rattan palm, a natural vine that is native to Southeast Asia,” explains Jordan England, co-founder and CEO of Industry West, which sells its fair share of woven wares.

When rattan palm is processed, it is usually split into two parts: The core reed and a thin interior, which is usually referred to as the cane.

“The cane material is traditionally woven into a variety of webbed patterns and used in many furniture applications,” England adds. “The rattan reed material is used to weave wicker furniture and basketry.”

As a general rule of thumb, pieces that feature thin, woven accents—such as the back of a chair or a dresser’s cabinet door—are frequently considered cane. Items with larger, reed-like features are usually wicker or rattan.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean all wicker should be considered rattan. Truth is, wicker furniture and accessories can be made from a range of materials like reed, bamboo, willow, and more. That’s exactly why wicker is often thought of as a weaving process, not a material. So before you start telling anyone about your new rattan chair, read the fine print to see if the item in question actually is rattan.

But just because cane, wicker, and rattan all have their subtle differences doesn’t mean you have to choose one style and stick to it. In fact, all three can happily cohabit a space when paired with softer fabrics like velvet or linen. (And, of course, plenty of plants.)

After all, when you look at your very own woven-clad Pinterest board, there’s a good chance you love all three styles.