RATTAN...From a Historical Perspective & Today.
The First Modular Furniture?
are many misconceptions when it comes to Rattan or what
I refer to as 30's and 40's Tropical Deco for its streamline
design and tropical flavor. Primarily found in warm
climates such as Florida and California, rattan has
found a exclusive clientele because of its casual elegance.
In fact you can find vintage rattan in the homes of
high profile celebrities such as Bruce Willis and Demi
Moore to Madonna.
many people see Rattan and bamboo in the same light.
In reality the difference is great, while Rattan is
solid, Bamboo is hollow. A better description is as
Several hundred species of rattan flourish in India,
Southeast Asia, China and Indonesia; all have long fibrous
stalks covered with tough bark. Technically a palm,
rattan grows more like a vine; its leaves have long,
barbed tips that allow it to cling to other trees, reaching
heights of 500 to 600 feet, though only 1 1/2 inches
in diameter. The process rattan, the bark is removed
and cut into long, thin strips for cane seats and chair
backs; the pithy interior is then cut into reed for
the entire"pole" is used to make furniture
- it looks like bamboo but is much stronger. Rattan
is strong enough to be its own frame and can be fastened
as securely as wood; when steamed it will bend into
a variety of shapes without cracking.
member of the grass family bamboo grows occasionally
to a height of 100 feet. Like rattan, bamboo has a tough
outer coat that can be stripped off to make cane. It
also resembles rattan in that its stalks are used in
furniture construction, sometimes as framing for wickerwork.
But because bamboo is hollow, it isn't as strong as
rattan (which is solid); also the joints of the bamboo
stalk are susceptible to moisture and should be sealed.
speaks a language all its own. It is as strong as steel
when braced, but when heated with steam becomes as pliable
as a garden hose. Designing in rattan is unlike designing
in any other medium, as the structural features always
remain in evidence.
Bongo Rattan creates historically accurate modern interpretations
of 30's and 40's rattan and is still unexpectedly but
decidedly one of comfort, stability and style. The sturdy
widespread , strong gracefully curved arms and ladder
back support on the chairs bespeak masterful construction
a matter of record, I find rattan one of the most interesting
collectibles because much confusion and little accurate
documentation exists due to the fact that it is rarely
labled. Therefore it is difficult to determine specific
manufacturers or designers. For example Paul Frankl
one of Americas foremost modernist was probably the
first major designer to utilize rattan in such distinctive
applications and modern design. Because of Frankl's
design influence the most desirable rattan is referred
to as Frankl rattan, square pretzel or godfather rattan
for its appearance in the Godfather movie. In reality,
little Frankl rattan is undefiable and therefore nearly
impossible to accurately identify.
finest rattan I have discovered was created by Baughman
in the 30's and 40's and incorporated 8 and 9 band arm
chairs and included items not seen anywhere else such
as console planters, executive desks, file cabinets,
lawyers bookcases, etc. Having historically accurate
catalogs along with my own personal collection of what
I am most proud of and may be considered one of the
largest collections of rattan in the world has allowed
me to re-issue accurate designs of items that are virtually
impossible to find today. Fundamentally, their is nothing
inherantly different between rattan today versus rattan
70 years ago, and I sincerely believe that our finishing
techniques will allow for a more polished look without
the headaches of re-finishing rattan in disrepair. Other
companies that we have taken a page from include Tropitan,
Empire and Ritts.
book, "Space For Living" exhibits several
items of rattan including a square pretzel sofa. Because
this design was incorporated by other rattan manufacturers
it is often referred to as his design. Frankl incorporated
a nine band arm with a five band stack base that is
extremely rare. He also takes credit for the square
pretzel design with the cross bracing which became popular
in the era. Several variations tend to show up at auction
or in the marketplace, these are generally the desireable
six band armchair or sofa with eight to ten band stack
base. Usually a ten band base would indicate 30's, nine
band 40's and eight band 50's.
to the thirties rattan had been used primarily for outdoor
and garden furniture only. The reason for this is that
most of it has been poorly designed, roughly made and
covered in materials unsuited for indoor use. For a
modern home of the thirties and forties there is a definite
place for furniture of this type if designed and executed
to perfection. In this furniture the rattan is selected
for their quality. They are heavier than those seen
prior to 1930. They are nearly as flawless as steel
tubing, but unlike steel their wax-finished surface
is pleasing to the touch and their bamboo like color
agreeable to the eye. The design of rattan is entirely
developed out of the nature of the material, typical
of the material that lends itself to bending without
rattan, is works with all types of decor and to me demonstrates
a casula elegance unrivaled by anything before or since.
With the introduction of Coco Bongo Rattan items rarely
before seen are now accessible and custom designs may
also be produced.
interesting tidbit...As a matter of record Gilbert Rohde
is often credited as creating the first modular furniture
for Herman Miller which could serve to accommodate small
spaces, for apartments and could be utilitarian in that
the furniture could be used as both living room and
dining pieces. Sectional sofas that could be put together
or wrapped around the corner or separated by a common
corner table, many variations give a variety of options
by creating various options as well. Therefore due to
its timeframe it is likely that sectional rattan came
before Rohde's designs for Herman Miller and is therefore
potentially the first modular furniture.
was not unusual during the period that rattan was seen
in the dining room or intermixed with upholstered furniture.
Today people often see the furniture as that for a sun
room but during the 30's and 40's a sun room was considered
any room with windows that allowed the sun to come through.
Today you have the option to intermix with your modern
designs or do an entire room setting in a multitude
wide variation of furniture items were produced in the
1930's and 40's and today through Moderneage...Coco
Bongo Rattan has re-issued such staples as a variety
of seating alternatives from Frankl style 6 and 9 band
arms to curved sofas, Spiral arms and Fan arm sets (seen
in the Golden Girls TV show) in addition a multitude
of coffee tables, screens, desks, beds, dining tables
and chairs, sideboards, servers,bookcases, nightstands,
dressers. and wall shelves are available as well as
custom pieces and commissions such as pool tables and
kitchen cabinets etc. The possibilities are virtually
is a virtue that applies to decorating as well as everything
else in life. It is often not so important what we do,
but that we are consistent in doing it. Coco Bongo Rattan
is nearly indestructible and intermixes well in any
contemporary, deco, moderne or eclectic interior.
your requests to learn more about Tropical Rattan and
how we may serve your needs.