Cane settee (1900)
Cane settee (1900)

The use of rattan cane in furniture originated in India. It was brought to England in the middle of the 17th century by the East India Company. The demand for the new material was greatly boosted when the Great Fire of London (in 1666) destroyed an enormous amount of wooden furniture.

Rattan is a vine which produces long, whippy wooden stems. The outer bark, which id covered with barbs, is removed. The hard, shiny inner bark is shaved off and interwoven to make attractive, fine mesh panels that are set into furniture.

Cane increased in popularity in the 18th century. Sheraton advised its use anywhere that lightness, elasticity and durability were required.

In the 19th century, its use was expanded to include such applications as bed ends and cribs. When Thonet introduced new techniques of making bentwood furniture he often used cane backs and seats on a bentwood frame.

Bergere chairs (armchairs with a low curved back and a low seat) originated in Louis XV France in the 18th century. The original French chairs were richly upholstered but when the fashion spread to England, the chairs were often caned. Bergere chairs remained fashionable into the 1940s.

Antique cane furniture available now
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