Bring texture, warmth, playfulness, and the outdoors in with these seven ways to decorate your home with rattan.
Enter: rattan. Yes, rattan is a trend, but it is a trend with staying power. Rattan falls into the macro trend of biophilic design, and decor that connects interior spaces to the natural world rarely goes out of style. Plus, rattan is lightweight, durable, sustainably produced, bio-degradable, and more affordable than other types of furniture, so it is a material that we can really get behind for the home.
Where did rattan come from?
Let’s start off with what rattan is exactly. Rattan is a type of naturally-renewable palm, which is most commonly found in the tropical jungles of Southeast Asia. Rattan is known for its hardy nature; it grows fast and tall and is a strong type of wood, in spite of being incredibly lightweight.
Rattan became popularized for furniture and household items in 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, it was touted for its ability to withstand hot climates and resistance to pests. In the 19th century, rattan flourished in the British Empire, and by the 20th century, rattan furniture began to show up in the United States as a result of inter-continental trade and travel.
More recently, rattan was trendy in the 1970s and 2019, and today, the versatile material is having a major moment once again.
1. Take the season into account
The look and tone of rattan—which ranges from beige to yellow to golden-brown—lends itself naturally to warm weather and beachy interior design. That said, you can pretty easily style rattan for any season, to mesh with a certain design style, or to create a desired ambience. For example, putting plaid cushions and a wool throw on a rattan chair will immediately take the piece from beachy to rustic.
If you live in a colder climate, you can pretty easily go the rustic route using patterns like plaid, Ikat, buffalo check, and patchwork, and materials like wool, stone, brick, and other unprocessed forms of wood. You can also pair rattan alongside Scandinavian design. Think a rattan chair paired with a sheepskin throw, linen textiles, glass, and plenty of muted neutrals and pale woods, such as ash and beech.
TIP Like wood, rattan stands up well to stains and paints. If you’re finding it tough to merge the golden look of rattan with your personal design style, a fresh coat of brush paint, spray paint, or stain can give your rattan a custom and contemporary—albeit non-traditional—look.
2. Use it in small-ish doses
In interior design, rattan shines best as a statement piece—not just because it is indeed a trend that probably will cycle out of popularity at some point, but because too much rattan can make your space look dated.
To get rattan right, make sure to mix in plenty of contrasting aesthetics. A good rule of thumb is a 90/10 proportion; 10 percent rattan, alongside 90 percent other materials, patterns, colors, and even houseplants. Using just a little bit of rattan in your space will have a subtly uplifting effect, without overwhelming the room.
If you have to pick just one or two rattan pieces, go with rattan dining chairs, bar stools, or a single statement chair. If you’re working with a larger room or an indoor-outdoor room and feel like the space can afford a little bit more rattan, rattan baskets or rattan pendant light fixtures are a great way to add rattan in a subtle way.
3. Pair it with other biophilic elements
Because rattan has such a natural, neutral colorway, it pairs beautifully with greenery, botanicals, nature-inspired prints and patterns, and other natural textures and textiles, such as linen, jute, and wool. These sorts of biophilic elements can be used to compliment rattan and tie it into the rest of the room.
Rattan also looks best when doused in sunlight. So, when you’re laying out your rooms and deciding where to incorporate a rattan furniture piece, you can feel free to be heavy-handed with rattan in spaces that get plenty of natural light and/or indoor-outdoor spaces.
4. Use rattan to in outdoor and indoor-outdoor spaces
Rattan is really well-suited to outdoor spaces. (Think patio furniture.) As such, it’s also really well-suited to indoor-outdoor spaces, which are especially trendy right now. Just as you would when styling rattan inside of your home, make sure to mix in plenty of opposing textures, such as stone, iron, cement, and wood when using rattan in an outdoor space.
If you are using rattan in an outdoor format, there are a few things you should keep in mind. In general, rattan is best used in warm and dry places. If your rattan is exposed to water—even a little bit of water while cleaning up a spill, for instance—dry it out in the sun or with a hair dryer on low heat. This will prevent warping. You should also be cautious of exposing rattan to direct sunlight. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause the fibers to become brittle and weak.
5. Lend playfulness to a formal room
If you’re looking for a non-traditional, unexpected way to incorporate rattan in your home, look no further than formal spaces, such as the dining room or home office, which are areas that tend to be a little lower in visual energy compared to the rest of the home.
Although you would necessarily think of rattan for a formal dining room, it can work. For instance, you can pair sculptural rattan dining chairs (which are more comfortable than you average dining chairs, on top of being vibrant and beautiful), alongside an angular dining table in a darker wood. You could also go with a sleeker material for your dining room, such as glass or marble, if you’re a fan of juxtaposition.
In a home office, rattan can be used in an accenting way to bring some warmth and texture to the room. Think rattan storage baskets, a rattan lighting fixture, or even a rattan garbage bin.
6. Use cane or wicker, which are derivatives of rattan
If you like the color and texture of rattan furniture, you might also like cane furniture. Cane is produced from the outer shell of the rattan stock. The cane material is then woven into a variety of patterns and is used to create furniture. Cane furniture is eco-friendly, lightweight, and easy to clean.
Wicker can also be woven from rattan. If you like the woven look of wicker, consider using it in your outdoor space or indoor-outdoor space. Keep in mind that wicker tends to make a big statement, so if you’re going to use it in your home, use it as a one-off decorative accent—such as a wicker basket to store throws and remotes—or as a singular statement piece. One large wicker piece is more than enough for an interior space.
7. Consider tried-and-true color and material combinations
Because rattan is relatively neutral in appearance, there are countless color combinations that will look striking and natural alongside rattan. If you’re not sure where to start, you can draw inspiration from these five tried-and-tried color and material combinations.
- Costal. Colors: white, oatmeal, and light blue. Materials: linen, cotton, bleached wood, white-washed shiplap, and white-washed brick.
- Nautical-ish. Colors: blue monochrome and white. Materials: velvet and gold metallics.
- Glamorous. Colors: charcoal, muted gray, and gold. Materials: glass, crystal, and gold metallics.
- Bohemian. Colors: white, peach, pink, and mustard. Materials: mid-tone wood, ceramics, and macramé.
- Masculine. Colors: white, black, and neutrals. Materials: dark wood, exposed brick, iron, and leather.
Earthy. Colors: Ochre, beige, and brown. Materials: warm wood, dark wood, and gold metallics.