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What Is Wicker? The word "wicker" originates from the Old English "viker" meaning willow and Scandinavian "vika" meaning the 'bend'. Our modern word 'wicker' refers to the process of weaving the thin branches of reed, willow, grasses and peeled rattan vines into a pattern and around a frame which, because of its strength, is normally rattan. Rattan in its natural form belongs to the Palm Tree family and begins its life by growing straight upwards but then bends back to the ground and meanders its way through the rain forest like a vine. It is then cut into 12 - 18ft lengths for drying before being exported to countries like the USA. It is considered to be one of the strongest woods available. Straight rattan is usually steamed which allows it to be bent into any desired shape and once it has dried will remain like that forever.

During the discovery, by archaeologists, of the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaohs, dozens of baskets, chests, chairs etc all made from the reeds that grew freely along the banks of the River Nile were found and all of them in very good condition. Many had been there since 3000BC, a testimony to the strength and durability of the materials. All these items eventually found their way to Rome and the Romans began using the same materials to make their own style of furniture, then travelers carried the idea to other parts of Europe. The furniture was light and easy to transport and was first brought to Britain by Roman soldiers.

It was via the Mayflower that wicker arrived in America although it didn't catch on until the nineteenth century when a man called Cyrus Wakefield saw a huge shipment of rattan on the dockside in Boston, became intrigued with it and having recognized its potential, started an import business, carrying vast quantities of it from Asia. This sturdy material very soon caught on among basket makers and Cyrus Wakefield started a business making his own style of furniture. He is now considered to be the father of American wicker furniture.

If you are thinking of "going green" wicker is definitely the furniture to buy as it is made of all natural fibers. Most of these are fast growing and biodegradable into the bargain. Indeed bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world and when cut does not need to be planted again to produce the next crop. Wicker is therefore one of the most environmentally friendly materials in the world today.

Indoor wicker has changed a thousand fold since the days of Cyrus Wakefield, with different finishes, lovely fat comfy cushions and ornate styles and even tropical flare. Wicker is among the most comfortable, durable and affordable furniture you can buy and will last you for a very long time. However if you do get fed up with it after a time all is not lost, take it outside, clean it well with warm water and a little ammonia, use a toothbrush to get in the nooks and crannies let it dry well and spray paint it, Voila! A whole new look to your room.

Wicker furniture is made from an all natural product which is both biodegradable and environmentally friendly, so it's great for environmentalists, but who else should buy wicker?

Anyone looking for something different, a special look for a room or just an "all natural feel" will enjoy the benefits of wicker furniture. There are so many styles, Victorian, modern, ornate or tropical, something for every ones taste, but the best features of wicker are the durability and the fact that the furniture is light and really easy to move.

A young couple getting a home together for the first time would do well to buy wicker. It tends to be good value for money whether it is new or second hand. In a one bedroom flat you need to think about visitors, but these days wicker isn't limited to sofas and tables, you can buy a wicker trundle Daybed. When opened out it will make a full size bed and you can use it as a sofa in the sitting room. Add a plain cover or even a curtain tucked in nicely and two cushions to tone. It's very smart and your problems solved.

Wicker is also great for anyone with a conservatory or sun-room; for some reason wicker seems to be made for rooms like these. The open design of the furniture helps the air move around and can help keep you cool. If your room is cool, choose bright colored cushions and dark bamboo for a warm and inviting effect.

Couples who are 'growing bolder' and can't take the stairs in their house anymore will benefit from buying wicker. Their children have all flown the coop and they have more rooms than they can cope with, not to mention their beautiful garden that is getting to be a pain. So, time to downsize. What kind of furniture should they have? Wicker is the answer, very affordable, easy to move, comfy to sit in, looks wonderful and a breeze to look after.

When Grandma decides to come and live with the rest of the family a wicker daybed is a great solution giving her best of both worlds, somewhere to sleep and somewhere comfortable to sit, as well as being very stylish. Add a dressing table to match, a corner unit with plenty of room for her ornaments plus a cupboard at the bottom. A rug, one or two lamps and she is both cosy and stylish.

Wicker is just as useful in other rooms. A between bedroom with pale pink or blue walls calls out for a white bed head, matching side tables, two pretty wicker lamps, a dressing table or a chest and a beaded wicker bakers rack for her nick-knacks, or even a desk. Add a furry type rug, just where her feet would be at the side of her bed. What could be prettier?