As spring turns to summer, many of us are thinking about upgrading our outdoor area in anticipation of long days and nights in the garden. And so, the mind wanders to rattan and wicker furniture. Interiors expert Abigail Ahern believes them to be evergreen. "They roll around as a trend every summer, but I personally love it all year round. It's perfect wherever you want to add a bit of laid-back, casual cool to a space. Plus anything wicker or woven instantly adds tons of texture, which is one of the most important, and overlooked, parts of the decorating puzzle."
The origin of woven furniture has been traced back to ancient Egyptian crafts, through Persia and the Roman Empire, before becoming popular in Victorian times, where it was considered more sanitary than upholstered furniture.
"In the great exploring era of the Victorian times, wicker furniture was all the rage as a reference to warmer climes, exotic far-flung locations and a more relaxed vibe," explains Abigail. "For Victorians, rattan was positively racy."
Fast-forward to today and the garden favourite is a little less racy, and a lot more practical. Abigail recommends combining it with leafy greens. "I love mixing rattan furniture with an abundance of greenery, tropical stems and fern plants. It's all about summoning up that lush hothouse or orangerie atmosphere. But I have to say they're not the comfiest for lounging, so slinging a cosy throw or sheepskin over it is a modern and comfy update."
With no extreme sunshine to bleach it, woven furniture is perfectly suited to our climate. Abigail insists they're low maintenance. "I'm happy to keep my woven furniture pieces outside all year round - I even have a new wicker lamp in my garden now. If they get a bit grubby, it's easy enough to wipe clean. However, if you're worried about it being exposed to the elements, you can always sling a cover over it."
Woven furniture doesn't need to stay outside either. What Abigail Ahern does particularly well is to create a tropical feel inside by mixing it with plants.
"My big tip would be not to feel constrained to using woven furniture just outdoors or in a conservatory setting. They can make wonderful off-kilter dining chairs, hallway benches, or even a cosy nook in the bedroom."
Most importantly, "As with all decorating, the fewer 'rules' you worry about, the cooler your space will be."
Amanda Kavanagh is editor of Image Interiors & Living magazine