Material Research: Rattan

Rattan is a naturally renewable palm that grows in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia, and is used for furniture, handicrafts, and building material among others. Rattan continues to be an invaluable part of rural people’s livelihoods in South and Southeast Asia.

Rattan products

Because it is light, durable and relatively flexible, rattan is used for a range of purposes:

  • Food: The inner core as well as the shoot of some of the rattan species is edible.
  • Furniture: Furniture is the main end product of rattan.
  • Shelter: Rattan is an approved material for house building in rural areas.
  • Handicraft: Basket,mat, rope, net. Provides the main income of the rattan industry.

The skin of rattan strands is peeled off and used for weaving, while the “core” of the rattan can be used for various purposes in furniture making (wicker).


History Of Rattan In Furniture Design

Rattan vines can grow as long as 500 ft and 1-2 inches in diameter. When rattan is harvested, it is cut into 13-foot lengths and the dry sheathing is removed. Its stems are dried in the sun and then stored for seasoning. Then, these long rattan poles are straightened, graded by diameter and quality. The quality is judged by its inter-nodes – the fewer inter-nodes, the better.

The age of colonization introduced the West to rattan furniture. Wicker, a process of weaving rattan, gained popularity in the Victorian Era. Rattan was seen as the symbol of tropical island living. People recreated the idyllic lifestyle in grand houses and saloons using exotic rattan furniture. 


To this date, nothing evokes relaxed living the way rattan furniture does. Rattan furniture designs are produced in astounding variety. Artists and designers continue to experiment with this humble material.

Solihiya Rattan And Its Modern Reinterpretation

One particular rattan weaving method proliferates in recent Southeast Asian history. Known as solihiya in the Philippines, it gained popularity during the 19th century Spanish colonial era. Solihiya is essentially thin strands of rattan woven into sunburst patterns. When used as the backrest and seat of chairs and lounges, it lets air through, providing comfortable rest in the tropical heat. Which I think it will be suitable for us who live in Singapore, it will be good if the furniture can help reducing heat when we are sitting on the furniture.

Filipino designer Ito Kish took this inspiration into his line of furniture and created the Basilisa collection.


The Basilisa Collection showcases the solihiya, an intricate weave that is both functional and decorative. Functional because it strengthens and supports the object on which it is used; decorative because of the beauty inherent in the weave itself, and the exquisite play of light and shadow it produces.


Adding to the impact of the pieces is that different solihiya weave patterns were used, all culled from different parts of the Philippine archipelago. This adds a subtle layer to the play of light, the chiaroscuro, that sets Basilisa apart, and which naturally gave birth to the lamps ranging from fun to elegant that form an important part of the collection.


Benefits of sustainable rattan

  • Helps to protect forests from degradation
  • By providing a source of income to rural people, it allows them to become stewards and guards of their forests and biodiversity
  • Provides habitat for endangered and threatened species
  • Ensures a long-term supply of a useful material

Sustainable rattan isn’t just about making sure there is a long term supply of this material into the future. It is also a way to safeguard the ecosystem processes, species and human livelihoods that are tightly interlinked with the existence of this plant. This is why it is necessary to progress towards more sustainable production and processing practices.

Here Are some Rattan furniture that I found online, to see what kind of shapes can rattan be form.

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Due to the flexibility of the material,rattan allows for it to be woven and shaped around frames of varying shapes and sizes. It creates a very strong weave that does not easily tear or unravel, especially when properly treated and coated. I realized that rattan has a lot of benefits that I can take in consideration for my kids furniture. One of the benefits is that rattan is lightweight and therefore easy to handle, unlike wood, the lightweight pieces do not topple heavily on children.Rattan is durable and waterproof, When properly coated with a protective finish, rattan furniture should last for years without visible damage to the weave or to its metal frame. Rattan is economical and cost effective as well. It is much cheaper than wood and lasts almost just as long.

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