If there is one thing that stands out in the Parisian landscape, aside from the zinc roofs and Haussmannian facades, it is the woven patterned chairs that decorate the sidewalks around iron stand bistro tables. If you possess an inquiring mind, you might wonder how this style of chair became ubiquitous, and does the style have a name? In fact the history goes back to WWII, and the name comes from one of the two primary materials: Rattan.
Rattan is a tropical wood that makes up the frame, while the woven fibers are called Rilsan, which is a product of castor oil, a vegetable oil used for many things from plastics to perfumes. This weaving technique was used as a defensive barrier against submarines during the Second World War, proving it up to the task of busy bistro traffic! While these chairs came into high demand because of their durability, they remain in high demand also for their aesthetic symbolism.
You’ll notice that while some cafés are furnished with classic, subtle patterns in maroon and black, others have updated the classic with flashy colors, or bold geometric patterns. All of this is possible through the versatility of the Rilsan, which is died while in its liquid state, meaning it can take on any color and it will never fade. Thanks to the unabating demand of new bistros and cafés, the industry has been modernized aesthetically. Production methods remain unchanged, handcrafted, with the same primary materials
These chairs can be found in establishments and even homes around the world now, but can be very hard to find. Dream of having this touch of Paris in your own home or garden?
If you’re in the US you can find them here, at TK Collections.
You can learn a lot about the materials and the process on the website of one of Paris’ primary producers, Drucker.