Why No Southern Sunroom or Porch is Complete Without Wicker

The easygoing furniture is tailor-made for summertime R & R.

This Seaside, Florida, sleeping porch is the ultimate coastal hangout. It’s screened and curtained for comfort and features both hanging daybeds and a pair of wicker chairs with plush cushions. The hanging beds are outfitted with a thick cushion the size
Photo: Jonny Valiant

Rocking chairs may get all the attention as the quintessential vehicle for front porch relaxation, but that's only because "wicker furniture" doesn't sound as good in a country song. Like haint blue ceilings and good conversation, well-loved wicker is a given on any Southern porch. Here's everything you need to know about the summertime staple, plus why you won't find a Southern sunroom or porch without it.

What is Wicker?

Wicker isn't actually a material, like rattan or straw. Rather, the term refers to a style and method of weaving. Wicker furniture can be made from rattan, along with a host of other variety of natural grasses and plants, as well as from synthetic materials like resin. And while we're suckers for the natural wicker weaves handed down to us from our mamas, we also appreciate the sturdier nature of synthetic resin wicker (also called all-weather wicker) that's designed to withstand sunlight, rain, and humidity. It's generally less expensive than the natural stuff, too.

The History of Wicker

First documented in Ancient Egypt, wicker is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, weaving method in the world. The first piece of wicker furniture to land in the United States was a baby cradle brought over on the Mayflower in 1620. During the late 19th century, American furniture manufacturer Heywood Brothers & Company (which would later become Heywood-Wakefield) developed machinery that could replicate the weaving technique, therefore making it more accessible to the masses.

Why We Love Wicker Furniture

Given the popularity of wicker furniture in the 1960s and '70s, it's likely that many of us either grew up in homes or visited family members' houses where the woven pieces were part of the house's landscape. It's familiar and comforting and just a splash nostalgic.

In a sunroom, breezy wicker brings the barefoot-casual atmosphere of the outdoors in; on a porch, comfortable wicker perches extend the cozy, welcoming mood of the indoors out. In other words, the easygoing furniture is just one more way for Southerners to practice our signature brand of warm hospitality. Quicker than you can say "take a seat," wicker furniture invites guests to settle in and stay a while. Just don't be surprised when your visitors feel so comfortable that they end up staying well past dark.

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