Cane furniture – popular for its durability and lightness – first appeared in Europe around the 1660s.
The practise of rattan and wicker weaving has been around even longer, originating with baskets and moving then into furniture.
When India and parts of Asia became colonies of Great Britain and Holland in the 19th century, cane furniture became a defining feature of colonial homes.
The many virtues of cane furniture are still relevant today, and the look is now enjoying a renaissance in the world of easy, breezy coastal interiors.
Vivian Panagos, founder of interior styling blog Ish and Chi, says nostalgia has brought cane back into the spotlight, but its versatility as a material has kept it there.
Cane not only says classic-colonial but can also be a nice fit for more contemporary, coastal spaces.
“The coastal look works so well with our way of living – relaxed, casual and creating a blur between indoor and outdoor living spaces,” Panagos says.
“Cane works well with contemporary furniture. One of my favourite looks is combining my classic Thonet cane No.811 Hoffmann dining chairs with a contemporary dining table,” she says.
Interior stylist Simone Haag says the renewed interest in cane comes back to the broader focus on natural materials.
“The idea of natural materials is number one. Where possible, I always strive to specify natural materials – at the heart of that is those textures like woven paper cord,” Haag says.
Her recently renovated Phillip Island beach home, affectionately named ‘Anglers Shack’, references natural weaves and cane throughout.
From the rattan bassinet in her one-year-old daughter’s room, to the Carl Hansen vintage dining room chairs with paper cord seats, the material pops up again and again, alternately referencing elements of the natural and nautical.
A French, 50s-style bamboo mirror found on Etsy was where the cane obsession all started.
“Once I found that mirror, it really set a direction for my beach house,” she says.
“There’s the element of Palm Springs, a favourite destination of mine, that’s really inspired the style of this home.”
Haag’s rope, swing-back outdoor chair by Ligne Roset takes the idea of the cane weave and translates it in contemporary form.
“While I like rope or weave in the vintage context or in a found item, it also translates beautifully in contemporary pieces that have real design strength.”
Get the look
Its rich historical roots and various stages of retro revival have meant keeping cane looking fresh can be a challenge.
Panagos suggests updating cane pieces with bright, tropical upholstery, pairing with on-trend velvet fabrics or painting the cane to bring it back to life.
She says to look for tropical prints and seaside shades of blue, green and terracotta, which look great paired with cane.
“I think playing up the coastal look works best – add tall potted palms or ferns to the space. Or up the glamour factor and pair cane armchairs with a velvet sofa and marble coffee table for an eclectic look. The best thing about cane is that you don’t need to over think it. Rather simply work it into your existing interiors.”
Haag says cane works best with tan leathers, cream linens and terrazzo.
“In terms of adding colour, I’m on the side of the conservative. I like it in its natural state.”
If you can’t commit to switching up your armchairs, lounge suite or dining chairs, look to smaller, monumental pieces to test out the look.
A bamboo mirror or verandah swing chair will conjure up retro vibes in a chic contemporary setting without over powering.
“A cane hanging chair outdoors is becoming almost synonymous with Australian outdoor living. If you have the ceiling height it can look amazing in the corner of a bedroom or living space, too,” Panagos adds.