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Since its early days as an airy, tropically-inspired alternative to heavier woods, cane has earned its keep as one of design’s most versatile materials. An integral element of furniture designed by mega makers like Michael Thonet and Edward Wormley, cane can speak to a variety of aesthetics and styles. These days, cane is feeling fresh once again, as designers scoop it up to add a touch of time-worn eclecticism to contemporary spaces. Wondering if cane is what your room is craving? Read on to see how cane’s image has shifted through the years, plus three completely different ways to style it!

Photo by Tom Ferguson / Design by Arque 

The Muse: Thonet Cane Chairs

If you associate cane chairs with quaint bistros tucked into cobbled Parisian alleyways, thank Michael Thonet. The godfather of cane, Thonet created the no. 14 chair, comprised of a curvy bentwood frame and a cane seat, in 1859. As the company progressed, Thonet continued to integrate cane into his chairs in new ways, until happening upon the ultimate kitchen-changing design in 1928: the Cesca Chair. Created by pairing up a cane seat and back with a shapely, s-curve chrome frame, the Cesca chair feels both storied yet modern. We’ll take six!

cane chair

Spotted: Pierre Jeanneret Cane Chairs

Pierre Jeanneret’s Easy Chair isn’t a recent creation, but you’d be hard-pressed to know that scrolling through your Insta feed as of late. The ultimate comeback kid, the Easy Chair (since docked to just the “Jeanneret Chair”), was originally designed in the 1950s for use in the master-planned city of Chandigarh, India. Featuring a sturdy teak frame, inverted V-shape legs, and a square cane back and seat, the chair was ordered by the thousands to adorn Chandigarh’s public buildings. At once Scandinavian and Mid-Century Modern-feeling, the chair is now making cameos everywhere. From Athena Calderone’s Brooklyn townhouse, to top interior designers’ Neal Beckstedt’s and Rose Tarlow’s recent projects, the Jeanneret is proving to be the little cane chair that could.

Photo by Lesley Unruh

3 Ways to Put Cane in the Game

As proven by the wild aesthetic differences between Thonet and Jeanneret’s chairs, cane doesn’t play favorites. Here’s three more styles that pair beautifully with a bit of cane.

Tropical-Inspired

Smitten with the West Palm look? Cabana daydreams always side well with bit of cane, be it a cane barrel chair or cane basket housing a potted orchid. In addition to being a natural complement to bamboo, cane’s lightweight properties make it feel perfectly island-ready. When it comes to larger pieces to adorn a tropical space, look for tighter weaves of cane. These can mimic the look of rattan or wicker.  

French Traditional

There’s something about cane that just feels quintessentially French. Maybe it’s the way cane feels elevated yet casual, or the fact that Marie Antoinette’s vanity stool at Le Trinanon was reportedly made of it, but cane feels right on the money for pairing with fleur-de-lis and cabriole legs. Among the most memorable French icons to ever undergo a cane moment is the bergère. Bergères featuring cane backs or sides are ideal for imbuing a sense of rustic beauty into any room. Look for examples of white or gray washed cane to kick up the romance quota even more.

Mid-Century Modern

Harvey Probber, Edward Wormley, and John Stuart were all among Mid-Century stalwarts that used cane in their modernist designs. Not just for chairs, either. Designs by Probber and friends include cane door credenzas, coffee tables, mirrors, and more. Since Mid-Century designs can sometimes feel a bit heavy, cane can help to visually lighten them. Use cane chairs around a dark walnut Mid-Century dining table or a tanker of a Mid-Century coffee table to give a room visual buoyancy.

Lead photo by Sarah Natsumi Moore.

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July 3, 2019

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