thrifting / tips

What to do with Vintage Furniture – Rattan, Wicker & Bamboo


what to do with vintage furniture

To paint or not to paint is a heated question when it comes to vintage furniture.  Most people side with one or the other and don’t find themselves switching sides.  If you don’t have an opinion or have never given any thought about what to do with a piece of vintage furniture, specifically rattan, wicker & bamboo, I’m sharing a few things to consider that will hopefully make you feel less overwhelmed next time you’re in the market for a piece of vintage furniture.

To paint or not to paint:

This determines the furniture’s fate.  Non-painted furniture will give a totally different vibe than painted furniture.  Before considering anything else, ask yourself this – “What do I want the room (the piece will live in) to feel like?”

If you want the room to FEEL vintage, do not paint the piece.  Painting vintage furniture almost always takes away the vintage feel.  If rattan, wicker or bamboo are painted, it’s often done in a punchy  way.

what to do with vintage furniture

via Society Social

Think fun, bold and bright.  You wouldn’t have to paint the piece in a color as bright as turquoise, but I think rattan, wicker and bamboo will always be poppy when painted.  I would always go with a high gloss paint (lacquer if possible).

what to do with vintage furniture

via Charming in Charlotte

My friend, Mallory from Charming in Charlotte, painted a bamboo dresser in a gorgeous hot pink for her guest room.  You can see the rest of the room in the link above, but it very much compliments the fun, hot pink piece.  Every time I look at this piece my eyes actually get stuck because it’s so mesmerizing.

what to do with vintage furniture

via Jana Bek

Jana Bek houses a gorgeous white bar cart and it adds the perfect punch to her bar area.  White is not usually thought of as punchy, but it does the job here.

Here is an example of a painted piece that I don’t really agree with.  Of course, I have no idea what condition the chair was in before it got a paint job.  If it was in bad shape, the paint probably saved it.

what to do with vintage furniture 2


If the chair were left in its natural wood state, it would add some needed warmth to the space.  There are already several pieces that are the same teal color, and a change in finish would be nice.  Very fun beach-themed space nonetheless.

I acquired a pair of rattan chairs a while back and had no plans of spraying them.  I personally prefer natural wood because it’s such a large part of my style and aesthetic.

what to do with vintage furniture

Unfortunately, the move got the best of them.  They were left outside and got pretty beat up.  I probably could have saved them by sanding them down and restaining, but it didn’t happen.  I sprayed them in a high gloss blue and then with an outdoor protectant spray.  Lesson learned.

what to do with vintage furniture

If I’m being honest, I don’t love them now, and it kind of makes me sad to compare the two photos above, but since they live outside, they don’t throw anything off.  Besides, if you want to have a poppy moment, outside is the best place to experiment.

My bar cart on the other hand, would NEVER be painted.  The mixed tones are especially warm, which I love.

what to do with vintage furniture - rattan

Here are some spaces that I love with natural wood finishes.

what to do with vintage furniture

via Lay Baby Lay

what to do with vintage furniture 4

via Style at Home

I love that the chairs were left in their natural state, but if the cabinet were also left natural, it would have been too matchy-matchy.  I love the contrast the white painted cabinet adds.

Bottom line:

It comes down to the space the vintage piece will live in.  If the space reflects a poppy vibe, go for it.  If not, leave the piece natural.  As long as your space compliments the piece, you can’t go wrong.

What to expect to pay:

Reasonable prices are subjective for everyone, but my I think anywhere from $50 – $150 per piece is reasonable for rattan, wicker and bamboo considering how popular they are right now.  Anything under $50 is a steal.  It really depends on where you are buying.  My bar cart is from a local vintage shop, and I paid $100.  I thought that price was good for this store, which is mostly high end vintage.  I would have negotiated that price on Craigslist although I wouldn’t have thought it was outrageous.  A “reasonable” price to me is not a steal – it’s just what I would expect to pay from the stores I frequent.  Prices do vary from city to city.

For trendy items like rattan, wicker and bamboo, you can usually take 25% of the prices listed on Chairish items and expect to pay somewhere around that when you are searching on Craigslist or thrift shops.  Ex: There are a couple of bar carts similar to mine on Chairsh listed for around $350.  (I would never pay this.)  25% of this is $88 which is reasonable to me.


what to do with vintage furniture




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22 comments on “What to do with Vintage Furniture – Rattan, Wicker & Bamboo”

  1. all of these inspiration pics are dreamy! i am hoping to find a bamboo bar cart for my bedroom to use as a plant stand. and i am sad about your chairs for you, but i am glad you were still able to save them and they are maybe not what you had in mind but still fun and beautiful!

      1. Hello Claire, I recently inherited my parents rattan furniture. Mom painted it years ago and it’s awful. I do however like the cushions. I plan on putting it on my porch. The porch has slate floor, 3 long walls of screen and one wall of white brick. Long cypress table in center of the room with 10 painted black chairs. The cushions are in earthy tones ivory background with shades of green and brown large magnolia like flowers. I don’t want to strip the paint! I’m kinda of stuck on choosing between black or green paint!. Also I have a large sisal rug in the space. ❤Debbie

      2. Hi Claire. I realise this is an old post so may not get a reply but I have some old 80s cane/rattan chairs that have the real yellowy colour/stain on them. What is the best way to get rid of that yellowy stain? I’d like to get them back to a natural cane/rattan colour and put a clear gloss on them. Is it just good old sand paper and hard work? Many thanks.

  2. I got a great vintage rattan sofa and chairs a few years ago that I painted glossy black. I love them, though they’re living in the attic right now since we redecorated the screened porch. But I really want to find another home for them, I love them!

  3. I am totally on the same page! I painted some old rarttan chairs a bright green for my porch back in 2009. Even since, I have been keeping what I can in it’s natural state. The warm tones really liven up a space. My favorite find to-date is a rattan wingback chair:

    XO, Amanda

  4. I really enjoyed this post! I have been looking on Craigslist for wicker bar carts for my massive decanter collection in our new house. I’ve somehow crept into the “20 decanters and counting” territory, so your post was definitely on time! I also love the introduction of a brightly-colored piece in any room. Thanks for the great advice!

  5. I need some advice!!! I have some furniture that is given to me by family and I believe it is bamboo. It is not a natural wood color and I do not think it to be a pretty color at all. I’m not sure how to paint it without it appearing too poppy like you described. I am getting married and I’d like to use this as our bedroom suite. I’m leaning more towards subtle colors (deep grey, brown, or cream) and I enjoy the vintage look. I suppose this type furniture would not do so well distressed?
    I would love to hear your advice and also to send you pictures of the furniture if possible! Feel free to email me!!

  6. I just found the exact same bar cart you own on CG for $35 and I couldn’t be any happier I found your post!! I’m straight up giggling with excitement over here! EEEEK! Love your design taste!

  7. I have several large pieces of rattan (wall unit, dining set, and hutch). They were all originally painted a glossy off-white. Over the years they have yellowed. Because of the size of the pieces and their placement, there is no way I can spray paint them. I’d like to re-paint them an off-white to freshen them up (it works well with the rest of my home), but I’m not sure what I have to do to prep them or what type of brush to use. Any advice? Thanks!

  8. We inherited a 3pc Rattan sectional couch, & a chair with ottoman. They were transported to Texas from Asia in 1960’s. What do we do since we need to down size our home and won’t have room? Any suggestions on finding someone to help. The upholstery is sumbrella in green and white wide strip.

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