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Porches Are Popular During Pandemic

Photo by Maureen Zambito Vintage wicker adds a timeless look indoors or out.

There aren’t many good things to be said about social distancing and staying at home due to the pandemic — but I have noticed that more families are socializing on the porch. To me that’s lovely.

I’ve enjoyed porches and spend a lot of time on both my front and back versions. My front porch has a glider, coffee table, plants and wicker chairs and my back porch has a vintage dining table and plant stands so that my family can easily relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Porches are perfect in the spring because they aren’t hot yet and no bugs are out to bother you while eating. Porch swings are another type of traditional outdoor furniture that is favored by families with children.

In the Victorian age, wicker furniture was a status symbol and found mostly in fashionable, upscale homes. I like the timeless look of wicker but mix it with other styles.

Today there are many places online and in stores to purchase both new and vintage or antique examples of outdoor furniture. Or you can visit our local antique and vintage shops to see what can be purchased as they open again.

Prices vary widely but most of the new wicker furniture is pricey and often made with synthetic fibers rather than natural. Common materials used in wicker include rattan, bamboo, synthetic vinyl and even seagrass.

Wicker is amazingly sturdy and withstands the elements so it’s perfect for porches. It also ages well and looks good for many years if it’s maintained.

Wicker’s heyday was from 1865 through the 1930s.

According to an old copy of Antiques Journal magazine, wicker was popular because it was both functional and decorative and it was common to find colorful wicker pieces on lawns, porches in all rooms of the home and even in the office.

You can find examples of antique wicker settees, rockers, bedroom furniture, desks, birdcages, swings, cradles and all kinds of chairs. Many are highly decorative with swirls and scrolls, patterns and fancy legs. Wicker suitcases and trunks were made too.

With many American manufacturers of wicker back then, it is easy to find vintage or antique examples. The antique versions are stronger and usually woven tighter.

Wicker dates all the way back to the Egyptians and is made from natural fiber, soaked or dampened and woven into designs that retain a natural strength. Rattan, rush, reed, cane, raffia and willow are some of the natural fiber used.

A wicker cradle in the Pilgrim Hall Museum is thought to be the oldest wicker artifact in the U.S., having been carried on the Mayflower to America.

A big name of note in the world of wicker is Cyrus Wakefield, who developed an effective process for working with rattan and established a profitable business in Massachusetts. The other name of note is Heywood Brothers and these two firms eventually merged.

Today’s wicker enthusiasts can choose from synthetic wicker, which is all-weather and can be exposed to rain and snow, or stick with the graceful natural look of antique or vintage wicker.

To me vintage wicker furniture just naturally goes with flowers, ferns and the greens of summer and creates a welcoming homey look.

By the way, there are many informative websites and books to assist in restoration if necessary. The work requires time, basic tools and patience to update and fix small issues. Painting old wicker can improve its look, though purists want to keep original colors and finishes.

As we continue our safer-at-home mentality, it’s a comfort to enjoy our porches and each other and learn to relax in the pandemic world.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of the Sunday News-Register.

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