Wicker. The very word conjures images of sculptural woven sofas and lacy high-backed chairs stationed along a wide porch. “Wicker has very romantic connotations, it’s incredibly relaxed,” says Lulu Lytle, an owner of the London-based company Soane, which is known for not only for its array of fabrics and wallpapers, but also its bespoke furnishings. “Wicker works in every environment. You can have it in the grandest drawing room or on a verandah.”
People have an actual emotional response to the material, for wicker is an art, a craft, and an artisanal skill. To sit in a piece of wicker furniture is to remember its effect and texture, something that Lytle and her partner, Christopher Hodsoll, understand. Distinct skills are called for in the making of traditional rattan furniture—from the fashioning of the frame to the weaving to the finishing process, and it takes years for a craftsman to become a master. Yet, the ability to craft bespoke pieces—many with enchanting intonations of the Edwardian era when the furniture became popular in England—is essential to Soane’s approach to design. So for Lytle, preserving the craft was essential.
Lytle and Hodsoll saved a venerable, century-old, family-owned British rattan furniture maker from the brink of dissolution and rebuilt the workshop into a thriving new endeavor. She knew it was one of the last rattan furniture-making companies in Britain and she made the commitment to ensure that the art wouldn’t die.
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WRITTEN BY JEAN NAYAR
This story appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of MILIEU.