Cane Furniture May Have Ancient Roots, but It's Back in a Big Way
It's no wonder this style has been popular for centuries.
With its gorgeous natural texture and airy, lightweight feel, cane furniture is one of the freshest decor trends for 2020. We've been ogling this open-weave rattan treatment in our Instagram feeds for a while, and now some of our favorite retailers (like Target, Anthropologie, and World Market) have embraced it with collections of chairs, headboards, storage pieces, and other accents featuring caned details. The woven pattern lends a casual, collected-over-time look to furniture styles, including boho, traditional, mid-century modern, and even contemporary. But this trendy furniture treatment is anything but new.
Caning is an ancient technique that involves weaving thin rattan strips in a multi-directional pattern. "Although it's impossible to pinpoint the exact place and time of its origin, we know that the caning technique dates back to ancient China where it was utilized for basket making," says interior designer Nina Grauer. "Caned chairs have even been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to more than 1000 B.C."
Fast-forward a few centuries and caned furniture resurfaced in Europe to widespread popularity. "In the 19th century, caned furniture became associated mainly with Dutch and English colonial furniture," says Erica Wingo, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Baker Interiors Group. She notes that caning became the go-to seat material for cafe chairs in the mid-1800s after the introduction of Michael Thonet's No. 14 chair, which revolutionized the furniture industry with its inexpensive yet elegant design. The iconic design features a curved beechwood frame and a round caned seat. You might have spotted modern-day versions of this silhouette at Crate and Barrel and Target.
Weighing much less than solid wood or upholstered pieces, cane furniture was easy to transport, and its popularity soon spread internationally. "It was especially welcomed in more humid climates where woods would warp and crack because cane would 'move' with the weather," says interior designer Cathy Maready. Cane furniture's peak popularity in the U.S. is relatively recent, however. It experienced a huge resurgence in the mid-century era when it was used in iconic pieces like Marcel Breuer's Cesca side chair, says interior design Michelle Lisac. The chair's innovative, cantilevered design pairs a natural cane seat and back with a tubular steel base. Similar woven details continued to embellish furniture designs throughout the 1970s.
When paired with luxe materials and curvy shapes, this graphic weave takes on a modern feel, but its roots in the past remain evident. "Caned furniture oozes a history and prestige of leisure that is hard to ignore," Grauer says. "The weave immediately takes you to a different place, somewhere tropical and exclusive." For your own slice of paradise, incorporate this timeless trend into your home with some of our favorite cane furniture pieces.
Transform your bedroom into a tropical oasis with this statement headboard. Caned detailing across the front gives the piece stunning texture and a boho feel. The wood frame features a warm, natural finish that blends easily with almost any bedroom color scheme.
Caning's airy pattern is especially striking when contrasted with rich velvet in saturated colors. This adjustable-height pendant light combines these two textural materials in a simple, geometric design. Navy blue fabric gives the 12x16-inch fixture a luxe look.
Style your dining room like a French cafe with seating inspired by European bistro chairs. This dining chair features sleek, curved arms and a cane back for a casual yet elegant look. Made of solid beech wood, this chair is sold individually and arrives fully assembled.
Room dividers are another centuries-old accent that continue to be popular. This tri-fold screen features caned panels and a light wood frame. Use it to section off a multi-use space or add privacy to a shared room. The screen is 5 feet across (when laid flat) and nearly 6 feet tall.
Organize your entryway or living room with this decorative caned chest. Two cabinet doors and an open shelf below offer a variety of storage options, and at just 15 inches deep, the furniture piece fits well where space is limited. Cane details accent the doors, sides, and bottom shelf, while the hardwood frame's warm finish rounds out the natural look.