While the appeal of wooden and metal furniture still endures, both natural rattan and synthetic, polyethylene (PE) rattan are flexible, lightweight alternatives, and look equally at home in traditional or contemporary settings. Natural rattan generally comes with a higher price tag, and is better-suited to conservatories as it fades in direct sunlight or rots if exposed to prolonged periods of wet weather. However, synthetic rattan, also known as PE rattan, offers the same fashionable look, but can be left outdoors whatever the weather. Another advantage of PE-rattan garden furniture is that it requires almost no maintenance, whereas wood needs to be treated each year to protect the finish, and furniture with any steel components, such as a frame, should be stored inside over the winter to prevent rust.
If you're looking to build your rattan furniture, our tests of the best electric screwdrivers and best hammers could be useful. For more outdoor living ideas, you may like our round-ups of the best garden furniture, deck chairs, egg chairs, and hammocks for summer, while our selection of the best parasols could come in handy, too. And, if you’re planning a get-together with friends and family, check out our tests of the best gas BBQs, the best charcoal BBQs, and the best pizza ovens, in collaboration with BBC Good Food, as well as our curated guide to barbecue accessories.
- What is rattan?
- What to consider when choosing rattan garden furniture
- Can you leave rattan garden furniture outside?
- How to clean rattan garden furniture
- Where to buy rattan garden furniture online
- 10 of the best rattan garden furniture sets
Rattan is a natural material that comes from a tropical vine and is not to be confused with wicker, which is the technique used to weave materials like rattan, or bamboo and willow, rather than a material itself. Two different types of rattan are used with a wicker weave :
- Natural rattan: With a texture similar to bamboo, this versatile material looks gorgeous, but is expensive and because it’s not weather-resistant is best suited to a conservatory rather than outside, where it’ll be exposed to the elements.
- Synthetic or PE rattan: A popular, man-made alternative made from engineered resin and manufactured to look like the real thing. It’s a cheaper, lightweight, low-maintenance and hard-wearing option.
Rattan is a natural material and is not to be confused with wicker, which is the technique used to weave materials like rattan, or bamboo and willow, rather than a material itself
- Will it fit? The size of your garden, patio or balcony will help determine the style and type of the garden furniture you choose. As a rule, if you’re buying a table and chair set, there needs to be about a metre of space around the table for the chairs, otherwise people will struggle to get in and out. Try to get the biggest set that the space and your budget allows, so there’s plenty of room for family and friends to sit in comfort. However, if you have a small garden, patio or balcony, it might be more sensible to go for a cleverly designed, space-saving option, like a bistro set that can be folded away.
- Revelling or relaxing? It’s also useful to think about how you use your garden. If you’re entertaining, a dining table and chairs means you’ll be able to eat al fresco in style and comfort. However, if your outside space is a calm sanctuary, somewhere to relax and unwind after a busy day at work, then a lounger, squashy armchair or sofa will be on the top of your list. Get-togethers with friends may be more fun with bar-style tables and stools, while evening gatherings will last longer into the night when snuggled around tables with integral fire pits.
- Style: Whether you go for traditional or contemporary designs is really a question of taste and the type of design that appeals to you and works with your home and garden. There’s so much choice on the market, you’ll be able to take your pick of classic bistro sets to go in a quiet corner of a traditional-looking garden, or a sleek, modular sofa to provide a focal point for an urban space. The choice is yours.
- Construction: A solid, sturdy frame is essential to ensure rattan furniture lasts. Steel frames are cheaper than aluminium, but they are prone to rust within a couple of years, so more often than not these pieces come with a one-year warranty. It’s worth considering the dimensions of the framework, as the wider the arms, back and legs, the more sturdy and comfortable the furniture is likely to be. There are practical advantages, too, as wider arms, for example, provide a handy spot to place a book or a drink while you’re relaxing. Rattan garden furniture is available either flat-pack or pre-assembled. While making it yourself will cut down the costs, weigh up whether factory-made furniture might be a better option and prevent issues with exposed rusting bolts and screws further down the line, which will work loose and make the piece wobbly.
- Cushions: Check that you’re happy with the material used to fill the cushions, as well as the fabric cover. Foam wrapped in a special layer of fibre offers the most support and weather resistance, but it’s more expensive, whereas fibre-only cushions run the risk of getting soggy and ultimately rotting. They don’t look – or feel – as sumptuous either. Ideally the fabric cushion cover will be weather (rain and UV) resistant, and made from acrylic and Olefin fabrics, but these fabrics can hike up the price. Polyester is widely used, and depending on quality, offers good weather resistance at a more reasonable cost.
- Budget: Style, size and whether it’s natural or PE rattan affect prices, as well as the brand label, so it’s a good idea to work out how much you’d like to spend and use the online price filter to focus your search.
Unless it has a steel frame that would rust, PE rattan can be left outside whatever the weather, although you may prefer to buy a waterproof cover to prevent leaves and other garden debris collecting in the corners. If so, make sure you measure the furniture carefully, so you can be sure the cover is the right fit. Storage is more of an issue if you’re choosing natural rattan. While it’s better suited to conservatories, if you do have it outside over the summer, it’s important to bring it indoors when the weather turns.
Both natural and PE rattan are easy to clean. Brush off dried mud and dirt with a stiff brush, and use warm soapy water.
- John Lewis – A mix of contemporary and classic designs
- Garden Trading – Classic furniture to suit traditional and modern gardens
- Robert Dyas – A traditional-style garden furniture collection, featuring sofa and dining sets, armchairs and bistro sets
- Wayfair – A huge selection of garden furniture including sofas, daybeds, dining sets, tables and loungers
- Made – Designer pieces, including modern garden sofas, chairs, tables, loungers, balcony sets and dining sets
- RattanTree – Specialising in PE-rattan furniture sets
Browse our selection of rattan sofas, tables, chairs and bistro sets:
GoodHome Hamilton Steeple Grey Rattan Effect Eight-Seater Garden Furniture Set
An elegant corner-style sofa with two benches and a square, adjustable table that can be fixed either at coffee-table or dining-table height. Featuring wicker-effect PE rattan over an aluminium frame and water- and stain-repellent cushions, it also comes with a five-year warranty.
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Six-Seater Garden Furniture Set
This versatile modular sofa set allows you to use the individual elements in a number of ways. The thick, sponge cushions come with machine-washable covers, and the set includes a glass-top coffee table. It needs assembly, but they’ve included an instructional video on their website.
Orseno Dining Set
Smart and stylish, this PE-rattan set is made up of three curved benches, which are designed to fit around a circular glass-top table that comes complete with a lazy Susan.
Dakota Fields Outdoor Garden Daybed with Cushions, 158cm wide
The ultimate in garden luxury, this PE-rattan daybed seats up to four people, comes with a canopy, four polyester cushions and an integrated, glass-topped coffee table, which can be stored under the unit.
Monaco Six-Seater Rattan Effect Dining Set
These traditional-style dining chairs are lightweight, thanks to their aluminium frames. The glass-top table features a parasol hole, and it comes with a one-year warranty. It’s worth noting it requires assembly.
Buy Monaco Six-Seater Rattan Effect Dining Set from Robert Dyas
Corsica Four-Seater Garden Table and Chairs Lounging Set, Cream
A retro-style, PE-rattan set which will make an eye-catching feature in gardens and patios, thanks to its curved lines. In addition to a two-seater sofa, it comes with two armchairs, cushions and an oval glass-top table.
Orlando Two-Seater Vase Set
If you’re looking for something a bit different, this pair of contemporary-style tub chairs and curved, glass-topped table are just the thing. Ingeniously, the chairs and table stack on top of one another for convenient storage, and it also comes with a free cover.
Walderton Corner Sofa Set
A twist on the usual, as the PE rattan used with this sofa varies in thickness, which makes a feature of the weave. It also has wood-effect legs made from aluminum, so they’ll last longer. The cushions are showerproof, and it comes with a matching coffee table.
Buy Walderton Corner Sofa Set from Garden Trading
Monaco Five-Piece Bistro Set
A neat glass-top table and chair set, with matching footstools that can be stowed away under the chairs for compact storage.
Tavira Four-Seater Sofa Set with Coffee Table
This set comprises a two-seater sofa, two chairs and glass-topped coffee table. Water-resistant cushions are included, which are made using a silk floss filling to help keep them cool in summer. The manufacturers advise using a cover to extend their lifespan.
Buy Tavira Four-Seater Sofa Set with Coffee Table from Vonhaus
This product guide was last updated in June 2022. We apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.