Wicker is a woven 'fabric' of varying fiber dating back at least to ancient Egypt. Except for size of the materials used, it is identical to the methods used to make baskets and mats going back to the Stone Age. The most common use for wicker today is furniture.
Woven wood and reed furniture was found in Pompeii, depicted on Egyptian murals, used by roman emperors to create their own royal style of furniture. Wicker came across the sea on the Mayflower.
Outdoor wicker chairs can be made of rattan (a type of palm); bamboo or other cane; willow switches; some varieties of reed; or now, even plastic resin. They are comfortable, homey and lightweight. They can be spray painted, but most prefer the natural color of the materials used. Well-made wicker furniture is low maintenance and long lasting.
Outdoor wicker chairs have changed over the generations. Currently, they have a clean, contemporary, utilitarian look. Curves are small, and the framework is often stackable. The Victorian era was more extravagant in terms of wicker furniture and gave us the flamboyant fan backed 'throne' made famous by the Addams Family. This era also gave us the heavy, thick, extremely curved, 'overstuffed chair' look that caused wicker to suffer a massive decrease in popularity.
The mid-1800's is considered the start of American wicker furniture and is generally credited to Cyrus Wakefield. He began by using discarded rattan that had been used to secure cargo aboard transoceanic voyages. He found great amounts of it on the docks, and once that was used up, began importing it by the ship load.
The next great wave in wicker was automation. Machines that did the weaving were faster and reduced the cost for both the manufacturer and the customer. As mentioned earlier, plastic resins can now imitate most natural fibers and are often less expensive and just as strong. Then in the early 1900's came the Lloyd Loom Process which used paper wrapped high tensile wire to imitate the natural fibers. They can also be used in a finer weave to make a more comfortable seating for outdoor wicker chairs.
The south had their own take on wicker, using local canes to form the seats and backs of chairs that were not only strong and comfortable, but had the added benefit of airflow in those sultry climates. Nearly all families, richest to poorest had their own 'cane-back' chairs gracing porches and non-formal dining areas.
Whether you prefer natural or man made fibers, outdoor wicker chairs are a good investment for long-lasting comfort and style. Look for strong, tight weave; if looking at natural fibers, make sure there are not a lot of split or broken fibers. Styles of wicker chairs include upright, Adirondack, deep seating, rockers, even chaise lounges. For additional comfort and longevity, many people use waterproof cushions and decorative covers for their wicker furniture.
Wicker chairs and sets can be used indoors as well to give an exotic, tropical look to your decor.
One of the great things about Adirondack Chairs is you can do so much with them. Whether you use them indoors to create a beachside retreat or outdoors for entertaining, they are one of the most versatile and flexible forms of seating invented.
Painted Adirondack Chairs are particularly popular these days. And given the artistic nature of the artists who paint them, one can understand why.
Available in a rainbow of colors, painted Adirondack Chairs allow you to show your sense of style, your sense of humor or your passion for your favorite pastime. The artisans who paint these chairs cover nearly every subject imaginable, from the scenic to the whimsical.
For example, if you have a passion for fishing, you can order painted Adirondack Chairs featuring a big mouth bass or big game sailfish jumping out of the water. Love to dive? There are painted Adirondack Chairs filled with clownfish and seahorses. You'll even find sea life "swimming" on the arm rests.
If you're a budding beach bum, there are plenty of painted Adirondack Chairs with beach scenes or flip flops climbing up the chair's back.
Of course, that's just the beginning. Artists have rendered just about every subject imaginable on painted Adirondack Chairs, including ladybugs, butterflies, parrots, hunting scenes, big game and for those Independence Day celebrations, an American flag, complete with regal eagle emblazoned on it.
If you live beachside or near any artist communities, you're likely to come across some local folk art in the guise of painted Adirondack chairs. Many local artists use these wood chairs as a canvas, creating their own visual wonders on the backs, seats, sides and arms. These are extremely prized possessions and you'll want to make sure that these chairs are protected from the elements. After all, you wouldn't leave a Picasso out in a raging storm.
Speaking of painted Adirondack Chairs, if you're artistic you can do the same thing as the local folk artists do. Simply buy a basic chair and paint it yourself. If you can use the paint on wood, you can certainly use it to make your own painted Adirondack Chairs. They not only make a great addition to your home, but prized gifts to others. And an unpainted chair costs far less than one painted by another artist.
Just be sure you prime the wood first. If you're used to painting on wood as a medium, then you already know this. And you'll want to make sure you add a layer of lacquer over the paint to add durability. Nothing's worse than spending hours toiling over your work of art than to have someone sit down in your chair and rub some of your design off.
As you can see, painted Adirondack Chairs can add a lot of character to your home. They can reflect your own unique personality, interests or viewpoints in amazing ways. They are one of the few works of art that you can settle into and enjoy, not only as the work of art that it is, but as a pretty comfortable piece of furniture too.
Just like your indoor furniture, outdoor patio furniture needs a little tender loving care now and then to keep it clean and comfortable year round. There's been some mystery surrounding the cleaning of cushions. While there's lots of information about keeping the wood or steel surfaces of patio furniture clean, cleaning cushions hasn't gotten as much press. The good news is that it's not that hard to keep your cushions in top form. There are plenty of great cleaners out on the market that are made especially for outdoor furniture and familiar household cleaning solutions will do the trick, too. The first order of business is to get all the stains out of the cushions. Usually, stains can be removed with a mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda to a half gallon of hot water. Using a brush with fairly stiff bristles, work the solution into the stain. Let it set for a while, the wash it thoroughly. Keep repeating this process until the stain is removed. If there are really tough stains you can try lemon juice and vinegar. Add about a half cup of each to a cup of hot water and rub it into the stain with a brush. This works well when there is a buildup of mold or mildew or other tough stains. Once all the stains are removed you can either use a commercial cleaner or the baking soda mixture mentioned above to thoroughly clean the entire cloth cushion. If that doesn't do the trick, you can use commercial cleaners. Before you do check the manufacturer's tag first to see their recommendations. Some cleaning agents can weaken the fabric or cause the color to wash out or become spotty. When the entire cushion looks clean, wash it once more to remove all the cleaning solution. Hang the cushions up and let them dry completely in the sun. For tough mold and mildew, you can also use a chorine bleach solution.
Mix a quarter cup of chlorine bleach with a gallon of water. Dab the solution onto the stain or use a spray bottle to apply it. Saturate the entire area well, then let it sit for 60 seconds. Rinse the cloth patio furniture with clean water. Once the surface is dry, add a light coat or two of spray-on fabric sealant made specifically for outdoor furnishings. Cloth cushions aren't made to weather the elements. While the sealant will add a certain measure of water resistance to the cushions, continual exposure to sun and rain can cause the fabric to fade and break down over time. Another enemy of cloth cushions is suntan lotion and oil. If you have friends or family who want to get in a little sun time, make sure they place a towel on the cushion first to soak up any extra oil or lotions. These can cause stains that can be difficult if not impossible to remove from the cushions, even with commercial cleansers and a lot of time and effort. At the end of each season, it's a good idea to completely clean your cloth cushions from top to bottom. Make sure they are stain free first, then give the entire cushion a full cleaning. Let it dry, add a weather resistant coating, then allow to dry again. Once your cushions are completely dried, store them in a corner of your garage or storage shed that won't get damp during inclement weather. Never put your cloth cushions in a plastic container or bag. This will almost guarantee that they will be mildewed and moldy when you go to look for them at the first sign of a warm, sunny day.