Antique Caned Chairs: A Comeback Story

 
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What do King Tutankhamen, Marie Antoinette and Florence Knoll have in common? A love for caned furniture, of course! But you don’t have to be royalty or a design icon to appreciate the delicate yet durable artistry of caned furniture. Airy, durable and versatile, we love caned furniture as a lighter alternative to its upholstered counterparts. Due to its enduring popularity, caned chairs are plentiful today. But many of us shy away from these pieces, particularly if the caning is damaged: it can seem difficult to understand the complex and varied caning processes, as well as finding an expert to turn to for help. But rest assured that caning and cane repair is alive and well at Revitaliste.

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We were recently approached by Skin Interior Design to revitalize a set of exquisite antique caned chairs for their gorgeous Pacific Heights project (more on this soon!). The Louis-style hand caned chairs, purchased by their client while living in Paris, were a great complement to the classic interior architecture of the dining room but the caning was in very rough shape. We re-caned each chair and stained the new cane to perfectly blend with the patina of the chairs. 

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The Origin of Cane:

So what exactly is cane? Many people mistakenly clump caning, wicker and rattan into a single category. Wicker is actually a process; it refers to woven furniture made from a variety of materials (e.g. cane, seagrass, etc)  Cane is a product of the rattan plant, a vine-like relative to the palm tree found primarily in tropical areas throughout Southeast Asia. The exterior of the rattan plant - essentially its bark - is removed and processed into thin strips. These malleable but strong strips are intricately woven to create caned furniture. The stalk of the rattan plant is used to construct rattan furniture. 

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Hand Caning vs. Machine Caning:

The primary types of caning are hand-caning and machine-caning (also called sheet or pressed caning). While the end result of both types are beautiful, the work involved to restore each type is quite different. Hand-caning, most common in antiques and higher-end furniture, is an expert, labor-intense process, and is therefore more expensive to repair than machine caning. That said, the price is well-worth the quality of the product: a machine-caned piece will last about ten years, while a hand-caned one can last twenty to forty years.

As both hand and machine caning is difficult to spot repair (e.g. patching holes), it is most common to fully replace the backs and seats of the chairs that have holes. New cane can be stained to match the finish of any chair.

 Hand caning (left) vs. sheet caning (right)

Hand caning (left) vs. sheet caning (right)

How to tell the type of caning on your chair:

Hand caning is distinguished by its small holes, while sheet caning has a router groove around the perimeter. A machine caned chair cannot be converted into a hand caned chair. A hand caned chair can technically be converted into a machine caned chair (often done for cost savings on repairs), however the original craftsmanship can be compromised.

Have a beautiful caned chair that you want to bring back to life? With Revitaliste’s one-stop service you can transform your furniture into one-of-a-kind treasures or simply give beloved pieces a quick refresh.

 Before and after revitalization!

Before and after revitalization!

To make revitalization a breeze for you, we manage the entire process—from pick-up to delivery and every step in between. Our network of skilled artisans are the best in their trades, so quality is 100% guaranteed. We welcome you to get in touch for an estimate!