How Rattan Can Be Transformed From an Old Furniture Material to a Modern Minimalist One

You’re most likely to find Rattan as a primary material in woven baskets, or scattered across a Pottery Barn catalogue. The material’s been used for centuries, owing to its flexible yet durable nature, and its ability to resist water damage, unlike other wood. Rattan comes from a cluster of palm species often found in Asia, Australia, and Africa, and it’s lauded for its durability, flexibility, and sustainability. Rattan is known to add warmth, texture, and character to any space, whether you want to create a cozy, rustic, or bohemian vibe… and as a result, it isn’t a likely material for modern furniture or decor. Modern design relies on modern materials, manufacturing techniques, and a rejection of older styles and visual languages – but something about the Mua Lau feels rather modern, even though it uses a material as old-world as rattan.

Designers: Ching Cheng Chang and Xu Da Zzan

The Mua Lau Lounge Chair has a unique silhouette and visual aesthetic that combines the use of rattan with bent metal piping. Rattan is mostly used as a fabric alternative in furniture, but the Mua Lau uses rattan almost as a replacement for foam and cotton. The Mua Lau’s rattan ‘bolsters’ present a certain comfortable springiness, given how they’re constructed. 12 bamboo strips are woven into tight cylinders that have a fair amount of compressive strength and bend when you sit on them or lean back against them. The lower seat has an inner cylinder too, adding a layer of cushioning and reinforcement that simulates the effect of double-layer springs.

The Mua Lau chair gets its name from a beloved Taiwanese treat that boasts a crispy exterior and a soft, chewy interior. This chair is crafted to offer a similarly multi-layered sitting experience, with a crisp outer shell and a plush, comfortable interior. It’s like sinking your teeth into a delicious Mua Lau snack, but for your body instead of your taste buds.

This clever approach hits two birds with one metaphorical stone. The rattan plays both a visual as well as functional role in the Mua Lau’s design. Its highly open weave is incredibly eye-catching (try to not drop your keys into it!), and it practically invites you to come and sit on it. Once you do, the flexibility of the chair’s design amazes you further, allowing you to feel a dense cushion level of comfort with what’s essentially strips of wood!

The Mua Lau is a Silver Winner of the A’ Design Award for the year 2023.