Genuine or Synthetic?
Rattan is closely related to the palm tree and usually grows in South East Asia. As it's considered to be one of the world's strongest and most workable woods, it's ideal for making wicker furniture; wicker being the ancient weaving technique, not the material itself.
Although genuine rattan is often favored aesthetically, it's susceptible to mold and simply doesn't last as long as synthetic rattan when exposed to the elements. For this reason, it's better suited to indoor use only, meaning it can be a bit of a one trick pony. Synthetic rattan, on the other hand, has a greater deal of durability and weather-resistance, meaning it's equally suited to both indoor and outdoor use. If you have the space to bring your furniture inside when the weather is at its worst then this may not be something you need to consider. However, if you'd prefer your furniture to be left outdoors all year round, synthetic rattan may be the better option for you.
You'll need to consider the quality of the materials and construction if you require truly hardwearing, solid furniture that will last you for decades to come. Raucord rattan is weatherproof, UV and temperature resistant, colourfast and scratch-free, meaning it's the superior choice when considering synthetic rattan, although all synthetics should offer a good level of weather-resistance. UV protection is the key feature to look out for or your furniture will become brittle, crack, and / or fade after exposure to the sun.
You should also ensure that your rattan furniture is built over a sturdy, corrosion-free aluminum frame instead or a steel one which will rust if left outdoors.
You'll also need to consider the weave. Loose weave wicker will likely unravel and look unsightly, so choose a tighter weave and ensure there are no protruding fibers or rough edges.
Both natural and synthetic rattan furniture require very little care other than a spot of cleaning every so often. However, as natural rattan offers less weather-resistance, synthetic rattan is much easier to maintain overall. To clean, you can use warm, soapy water or simply hose your furniture down.
You should also look for high-quality cushions that can be left outside for most of the year, even in rainfall. However, to keep them clean and lasting longer, cushions should be stored during inclement weather conditions and throughout the winter.
Consider the style of your garden and any pre-existing furniture you may have. You'll want your furniture to be in keeping with the overall look and feel of your space. You can find rattan furniture that's traditional or contemporary in style so it can easily be incorporated into your space. Consider the function of your furniture – are you looking for a rattan dining set for fine al fresco dining, or a luxury lounger to soak up the sun's rays? And, though this may seem obvious, be sure to measure your space to ensure your furniture will fit properly as you want to avoid overcrowding.