When we think about antique chairs, wicker as a material does not automatically spring to mind. We think of it more in line with modern conservatory or garden furniture which can be picked up at your local garden centre rather than something you would choose to buy at auction.
Cane and wicker as a domestic material had its origins in basket weaving which has been in use since Roman times. It first became popular as a material for furniture in the reign of Charles II where cane from rattan palms was being imported to Britain from the Malay Peninsula via the East India Company. Its widespread use to produce lightweight, flexible and durable furniture was initially frowned upon by traditional furniture makers, but eventually became accepted as standard material when it was given the stamp of approval by Thomas Sheraton.
Wicker furniture design evolved and became particularly elaborate in the Victorian era and its use broadened out to many parts of the house rather than just remaining in the conservatory and garden. Designs during this period incorporated scrollwork, fans, palms, feathers and many other styles that matched in with the sumptuousness of Victorian décor. Designs became simpler by the turn of the 20th century although remained popular with Edwardians who reverted back to the plainer more basic basket weaving techniques. Wicker furniture also began to be made in sets at this time and good examples of matching sets of antique wicker furniture can be bought at auction for very reasonable prices.
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