The 411 on Wicker

Wicker, one of the first natural fibers used in making furniture, is a light, flexible yet sturdy, material made of natural reed or plant branches. The fibers are woven to create baskets and indoor/outdoor furniture. In the 1930s, furniture designer, Marshal B. Lloyd, invented a technology that produced wicker made from plastic fibers.[1]

The origin of wicker, which in its early day was made of “reed and swamp grasses”, goes back to ancient Egypt (3150 BC). From their archaeological digs, modern day archaeologists discovered that ancient, middle-class, Egyptian families afforded small collections of wicker furniture but that the rulers of ancient Egypt had a vast variety of larger pieces in their abodes. Not only was wicker used in making baskets and furniture way back then, it was also used in battle shields during the First Persian Empire.[2] Needless to say, the wicker shields were probably not the best protection in times of battle.

Wicker’s popularity eventually passed to ancient Rome and then spread throughout Europe with the expansion of the Roman Empire. The use of wicker was especially favored in European countries like England, Spain and Portugal in the 1500s and 1600s.[3] In the early 1500s, during the Age of Exploration, returning international sea traders from southeast Asia brought back a palm called rattan. It was discovered that rattan was stronger than previously used European wicker materials. The use of wicker was hugely popular, due in part because of its light, flexible yet sturdy and inexpensive qualities, in Europe and North America in the 1800s. Wicker’s popularity has been a constant with the exception of the Dark Ages when all furniture design declined. The first wicker items to the United States came with travelers on the Mayflower.[1]

In the United States, indoor wicker furniture was hugely popular during the Victorian era. The 1960s and 1970s brought popularity to outdoor wicker furniture which popularity remains constant to today.[1] In my opinion, wicker, whether indoor or outdoor, is making another big popularity comeback.

Old Vanity & Bench
Credit: suzyqinorlando

How to Pimp that Old Wicker

I recently came into a set of white wicker furniture consisting of six, drab pieces. At first, I was determined to get rid of the pieces by selling them at our recent garage sale. The items looked, and were, out of the 1970s and far out dated for my taste. Then I started seeing advertisements for wicker furniture depicting similar items that had a great modern look. After some thought, it came to me to paint the wicker furniture. Wicker can be painted with a brush, a paint sprayer or with pre-packaged can of spray paint. I chose the spray paint and the following tips are gathered from my one-on-one with the chosen. Although it is relatively an easy project, it is a bit tedious in time and paint consumption due to the attention needed to the nooks, crannies and crevices of the weave.

Rustoleum CanCredit: suzyqinorlando

Supplies you will need.

  • Wicker Piece
  • Stiff Nylon Brush
  • Paint Brush
  • Paint Tape
  • Rustoleum Painter’s Touch 2X (Paint & Primer) Spray Paint* - in color of your choice

Cost: The cost to update wicker furniture depends on whether you happen to have a wicker piece, brushes and tape laying around or if you need to purchase these items. Lucky as I am, I happened to have these items on hand. Of course, I did not have the paint laying around. *The paint itself is relatively cheap: $3.87 per can where I live. For the pictured vanity table and stool, 5 1/2 cans of Gloss Kona Brown paint were used at a cost of about $23.00 not including my time and effort (I couldn’t charge myself – that would be downright silly) to create the updated look. Try to have enough cans on hand because nothing is worse than running out of paint in the middle of the project.

5 Tips to Pimp it Up

Tip 1: (a) Find a well-ventilated area, with no wind, and use a large drop cloth to protect the floor from spray paint residue. I was lucky enough to have an area where it wasn’t too much of a concern to protect the floor. However, I did protect the floor and the surrounding area around the protection has now deepened in color, oops; (b) For best drying time, make sure it is not too hot (50° to 90°) and the humidity is low (less than 65%) in the area where you will be painting; and most importantly, (c) Make sure the area is well lit. You will have to be able to see what you cannot see (this is a bit of an oxymoron), at different angles, in the wicker to ensure good paint coverage and reduce wasting your paint supply. This sub-step was a major faux pas on my part. Had I had better lighting, I am almost positive that I would have used less paint.

Tip 2: Clean the piece with the nylon brush removing as much dirt, loose paint and dust as possible. Trim any loose or excessively long pieces of wicker. In the alternative, for loose or broken pieces of wicker, use crazy glue to secure the wicker to the piece. There is no need to remove the old paint on the piece as the new paint does a great job not only for full coverage but also for covering up any blemishes on the wicker.  Wipe down all surfaces with a damp cloth, do not drench. Let the piece dry completely if it has accumulated any moisture from the damp cloth, then use a clean paint brush to remove any excess dust.

Stiff Nylon BrushCredit: suzyqinorlando

Tip 3: Using paint tape, tape areas that you will not want painted i.e. drawer tracks, screws on knobs, mirrors, etc. Paint on the drawer tracks or screws will prohibit their functionality when the project is complete.

Taping drawer slidesCredit: suzyqinorlando

Tip 4: Turn your piece upside down. Shake the can of paint well, about one minute, and begin spray painting the underside of the piece, Hold the can about 12 inches from surface and begin spraying. If you are covering a solid area, spray in a steady, back and forth (parallel), horizontal motion, making sure that each row painted thoroughly connects with the previous row. If you are spraying the woven surface, first spray in a steady, back and forth (parallel), horizontal motion and then a steady, up and down (parallel), vertical motion, making sure that each row painted thoroughly connects with the previous row. These two steps on the woven surface are needed to cover the horizontal and vertical wicker used to make the woven design. You will need to look at the woven pattern at different angles to make sure of complete coverage with the new paint. This is the tedious part. Let the underside dry to touch, about 30 minutes, before reapplying paint, if necessary, or turning the piece right side up.

Tip 5: Turn the piece right side up and continue painting the outer side of the piece using the same technique as in Step 3 above. At this point, you can touch up any areas on the underside that may need additional paint. Let the outer side dry to touch, about 30 minutes, before reapplying paint, if necessary. Before handling or moving the newly painted wicker piece to its final destination, let the paint cure for at least 24 – 48 hours.


Pimped and new attitude got!

New Vanity & BenchCredit: suzyqinorlando

For an easy inaugural project

Lambs & Ivy Basket, White
Amazon Price: $20.36 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 27, 2016)

To help with your detailed cleaning needs

Steelex D2480 Nylon Brush Set, 12-Piece
Amazon Price: $6.30 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 27, 2016)

Try this color for some sass