by Dr. Lori Verderame
Wicker furniture is furniture made using an age-old method, largely based on basket weaving techniques. Wicker can be made from cane, durable rattan, raffia, and other natural fibers. Like basket weaving, the strips or reed are woven using strips that have been soaked wet in order to ease the weaving process. The woven pieces are attached to a wooden support structure.
Some woven reed furniture was found among the tombs of the ancient Egyptians including King Tut’s tomb, circa 1341-1323 BC.
Wicker furniture became associated with good health and well being, probably for the abundance of plant materials in its construction. This may be the reason why wicker furniture was the choice for baby cribs, outdoor and patio furniture, nursing chairs, and wheel chairs in the late 19th Century.
In tropical locales, wicker held up well, even outdoors. In England, Europe, and America, wicker became popular during the last half of the 19th Century and early years of the 20th Century. Wicker is still fashionable on the market today, particularly vintage and antique wicker.
The American wicker market was known for the pieces it produced which reflected the interest in Victorian and Arts & Crafts designs. By the 1920s, synthetic wicker was invented. Heywood Wakefield, a well known furniture manufacturer, designed many lines using wicker. Refinishing antiques and furniture, particularly wicker which has a long life typically, is always something to consider before deciding to discard a piece of furniture. Wicker can withstand rain and wind well, making it a popular selection for outdoor furniture.
Caned seats on pieces of Thonet furniture or fully upholstered Eastlake style furniture were popular in the same late 19th Century time period as wicker but differed significantly when it came to overall design traits.
What to Look For
Wicker furniture has been used at seaside resorts and mansions of the wealthy and elite for centuries. Collectors look for original pieces or complete sets in good condition. Traditional pieces like settees, rocking chairs, and occasional tables are the most sought after pieces on the market along with unique designs using wicker. Late 19th Century examples range in value from the $250 to the $1000 for a single wicker piece with attractive designs in good condition. Full sets of wicker furniture easily commands upwards of $5000-$10,000 depending on various factors.
Get an online appraisal of your wicker from Dr. Lori.