Anyone with a love of old movies, I suppose, has seen rattan furniture in films depicting tropical colonial life in the last century. Growing up in Asia, I saw rattan everywhere. It is a part of every day life in this part of the world. Rattan furniture, rattan baskets, rattan window shades, rattan fans, and even rattan balls for children to play with are found in every Thai home. So, it was only natural that we would include rattan in the furnishing of our home in Thailand. One day last week, we went shopping along a street in Chiangmai that is noted for its rattan shops. They are easy to find, since the items that are for sale spill out onto the sidewalk. There were five or six rattan shops all in a row along this street, but it only took an examination of three of them for us to find a veritable treasure trove of rattan.
My 90-year-old mother is living with me here in Thailand and, because stairs are becoming difficult for her to climb, we searched for a one-story home similar to the one we left behind in Texas. Unfortunately, land is so expensive here in Chiangmai that one-story homes are hard to find. In the end, we settled for a two-story home that had an extra room downstairs that could be used as an office or a bedroom. Right now, that room is an office, but we wanted to find a rattan couch we could put in the office so that Mom could rest downstairs on those days when she did not have the energy to climb the stairs to her bedroom.
It turns out there is a huge selection. For example, this solid teak chair has a beautifully woven cane seat and back that is curved to fit snugly. I was amazed at how comfortable it was to sit in. The teak is strong and durable, while the rattan seat and back will grow more comfortable as they conform to the person sitting in the chair. The seat and back can be replaced if they deteriorate over time, but they will last for years. Nestled with this chair on the display floor was a couch and coffee table (with a glass top to protect the cane) to match the chair.
On the other hand, if truly outrageous decadence was the objective, it was also possible to purchase this lushly comfortable chair, with its teak frame and three kinds of rattan woven into an intricate pattern, topped with two kinds of cushions – firmer for the seat and plushy soft for the back. It was also possible to purchase a matching sofa or loveseat and a glass-topped coffee table – all the better in order to view the intricate rattan pattern. This entire set (two chairs, a six-foot sofa, and a coffee table) could be purchased for what one might expect to pay for one La-z-boy recliner in the USA. I also learned that for a little bit more, I could have two matching cushioned-topped ottomans made to make the chairs even more outrageously comfortable. But that purchase will have to wait for another day when there is a little more money in the bank.
So, we got our couch for the office and, while we were there, we also picked up a woven rattan wastepaper basket, two small side tables, and a wonderful hand fan that outclasses anything that can be folded up and put in a purse. I continue to be amazed at the ingenuity of the Thai in the ways in which they can use this plant that grows so easily in the tropics. I have included a few more photos here of more items made from rattan.