How to Bring Rattan into Your Spaces in an Elevated Way

Interior designers Celerie Kemble and Angie Hranowsky dish out their advice on artfully bringing rattan furniture into the home.
The lobby and reception area of the Dominican Republic’s Playa Grande Beach Club, designed by Celerie Kemble of Kemble Interiors

The lobby and reception area of the Dominican Republic’s Playa Grande Beach Club, designed by Celerie Kemble of Kemble Interiors, is an impeccable homage to a bygone era with modern-day touches. Photo by Patrick Cline

Rattan and wicker furniture tend to get a bit of a bad rap, often associated with kitschy 1980s decor or denigrated as something found in the home of a dowdy great aunt. But the long-lasting natural medium, made popular in Great Britain and the United States during the Victorian era, is a master of disguise, able to mingle with a wide range of styles — when done the right way.

An elegant patio in a Palm Beach residence by Celerie Kemble has comfortable rattan seating.

An elegant patio in a Palm Beach residence by Kemble has comfortable rattan seating. Photo courtesy of Kemble Interiors

Enter interior designers Celerie Kemble and Angie Hranowsky, who are devotees of the timeless material. Here, they shatter preconceived notions about rattan and share tips on how to effortlessly weave it into your home.

“If anyone says rattan isn’t the most beautiful, versatile thing in the world of furniture, screw ’em,” Kemble says when referencing her love of the material, which gets regular starring roles in homes the Palm Beach– and New York–based interior designer dreams up for clients. “Rattan and wicker is the equivalent to going to visit someone, and when they open the door, they’re barefoot. You suddenly feel like, ‘Oh, phew,’ because they’re welcoming you into their home to hang out rather than socialize. It’s softening and disarming.”


Start Small

In the South Carolina home of a color-loving family, Angie Hranowsky added a touch of natural texture, with a Franco Albini rattan ottoman.

In the South Carolina home of a color-loving family, Angie Hranowsky added a touch of natural texture, with a Franco Albini rattan ottoman. Photo by Julia Lynn

If you believe rattan is an outdoor-specific material, Hranowsky encourages you to think again. “I use it in just about every room,” she says. “I like to mix it into more formal living and dining rooms to add a relaxed vibe to those spaces. Try mixing vintage and antique rattan with modern and antique furniture to give your interiors a more interesting, collected look.” The designer also suggests easing into the aesthetic by pairing unobtrusive pieces — like a small rattan drinks table or magazine holder — with existing furniture, like a traditional armchair.


Opt for Pairs

In the entry hall of this Long Island, New York, home, Kemble introduced two rattan pieces — a chair and a basket — to provide visual balance for the unexpected material in an otherwise preppy room.

In the entry hall of this Long Island, New York, home, Kemble introduced two rattan pieces — a chair and a basket — to provide visual balance for the unexpected material in an otherwise preppy room. Photo by Ball & Albanese

Say you have a vintage rattan piece, how do you make it play nice with your existing decor? Kemble advises bringing in the material in pairs. “I would tell people to get two of anything, so that it has a cross reference in a room,” she says. “If they wanted to get, say, chairs, they should get a set. That or bring in something else in the room like a rattan box or planter or mirror. It’s all in the balance.”


Make It Modern

A freshly hued ikat textile brightens up a set of rattan armchairs in this Charleston, South Carolina, living room by Hranowsky. Photo by Julia Lynn

Hranowsky knows how to take rattan and wicker furniture from frumpy to fabulous. “If you’re working with a chair or a sofa, for instance, simply adding a seat cushion or pillows, or going all in with a new upholstery job in a current fabric, can go a long way toward making the piece feel more modern,” says the Charleston, South Carolina, interior designer. “If a piece is old or just not in great condition, you can also paint it to give it a whole new life.”

At the Playa Grande Beach Club, Kemble looked no further than her beloved rattan to outfit the rooms. Here, several styles of rattan furniture were used effortlessly to create a welcoming, character-filled indoor-outdoor room.

At the Playa Grande Beach Club, Kemble looked no further than her beloved rattan to outfit the rooms. Here, several styles of rattan furniture were used effortlessly to create a welcoming, character-filled indoor-outdoor room. Photo by Patrick Cline

“People often say they’re afraid of using rattan because they imagine it a certain way,” adds Kemble. “It doesn’t have to look like jungle furniture. There’s a whole spectrum of designs.”

She is quick to reference some of her own favorites: “There’s French Riviera style that’s a little more country house, refined. Then there’s Scandinavian mid-century mod. You can go 1930s Paul Frankl Deco or more Manhattan ’70s Billy Baldwin. A vast vocabulary exists around this material, and if you do your research you’ll see that in the hands of all these decades and furniture styles, there’s a lot out there. If someone says they don’t like rattan, I can always pull up a style they didn’t think of that would change their minds.”


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