January 2019

Made from the thin jointed stem of palms, rattan has been used for hundreds of years for creating durable furniture.

Often associated with exoticism, rattan became especially popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the rise of trade with Asia started to see rattan be imported to the west. Having been used as the material of choice in the east (due to its durability in humid and hot climates), rattan quickly became popular by westerners keen to show off their fashionable style, inspired by the far away world of the east. Today, rattan is just as popular as it first was and MBDS visited the workshop of one of the country’s best known manufacturer of rattan furniture, objects and lighting: Soane Britain. 

Located in Leicester – a far cry away from the east - the workshop is used by three generations of the same family, all of whom share a passion for working with rattan by hand to create unique and enduring pieces. Our designers were given an insight into the production process, watching Soane’s infamous Venus Chair come to life. Using a process that involves steam bending thick pieces of rattan or cane to create the initial framework, the skeleton is pinned together before weaving or upholstering the finish. This whole process, from start to finish, takes approximately 25 hours. Whilst every piece of furniture Soane designs is created using a handmade mould, the end result is a piece which is completely unique due to the distinctive nature of each section of rattan and cane.

In a world where attitudes towards skilled craftsmanship are changing, the likes of Soane Britain are as popular as ever and visiting their factory provided an invaluable and fascinating insight into a highly skilled and committed job. 

Photography by MBDS