Enjoy Spring Like Wicker Furniture Year Round

Recycling is not new. Back in the mid-17th century, Europeans were crafting outdoor furniture from tree trimmings.

We call it wicker. And the comforting creak of a wicker rocker on a warm, breezy evening was once as much a part of America’s summertime as baseball and lemonade.

Actually, wicker furniture dates back so far that no one quite knows who invented it. Portuguese merchants first brought wicker from the Far East in the 16th century. By the 17th century it was all the rage, and the first American colonists imported it. But it wasn’t actually made in America until the mid-19th century when huge clipper ships began bringing back rattan from China. Soon after, massive factories were churning out wicker furniture.

The term wicker has come to include some grasses, willow and even twisted craft paper, but the real McCoy is actually reed cut from the core of the rattan vine. It grows to great lengths in tropical climates, making possible a long weave without the weakening effect of too many joints.

When wicker first became popular for furniture in the 1800s, it was left in its natural state. But before long it began to be painted and now that’s the standard finish.

Hunter green is the popular color this year, said Debra Weisberg, design spokeswoman for HomeGoods, with headquarters in Milford. And it’s not only popular with wicker furniture but with the whole home design scheme, she said.

The patio has become an important part of home decor both for entertaining and everyday living space that allows a casual and relaxed atmosphere, said Weisberg. And, she added, wicker sets, priced for about $199 at HomeGoods, are affordable.

“Wicker looks terrific year-round indoors and outdoors,” she said. And although it’s durable, she said, it shouldn’t be left oufdoors in severe weather.

The wicker in stock at Rotmans in Worcester is for interior use because the fabric is not appropriate for outside use, said Joseph Quintal, department manager of living and dining rooms.

He said shades of natural wicker are popular as well as white and an oyster white. Prices start at about $499 for a sofa and groups of pieces range from $899 to $1700. “You’ll want to sit on pieces and test them for sturdiness,” he said.

In the past, wicker was strictly for outdoor use or to furnish a summer home. “Now it’s accepted in the home on a year-round basis. The trend is toward casual, easy-going lifestyles,” Quintal said. New Englanders, especially, like the spring-like atmosphere wicker gives. Northerners, he said, are able to extend the seasons by furnishing sun rooms with wicker. “They can look out on nature from a heated domicile,” he said.

Caring for wicker is simple. However, it should be shielded from too much direct sunlight as well as soaking rain. To clean it, Weisberg’s advice is to simply wipe it off with a damp cloth. This method not only cleans, but also moistens and tightens fibers. Don’t ever hose off wicker furniture. You can vacuum it with a soft brush attachment to remove dust. Some people also protect the wicker with liquid furniture wax.