Editor’s Miscellany: Raising Cane

June 21, 2012

By Kyle Hoepner

One of my earliest home-design memories is a set of tall, caned chairs in my grandmother’s Louisiana dining room. As a small boy I found fascinating the slight creaky noises they made when I sat on them, not to mention the wonderful patterns that would be left imprinted on bare legs after a few seated minutes. The chairs exhaled an aroma of old-fashioned propriety–almost courtliness–compared with the more robust contemporary furniture we lived with at home. So it has been with a distinct feeling of nostalgia that I have noted what seems to be a modest resurgence in the popularity of caning in interiors.

Caning often calls to mind languid afternoons in the tropics. Although that was very much not the look my grandmother cultivated, I still imagine she might have taken to some of the gentle reinterpretations of this classic style now available, such as the Raj Chair from Quintus.

Photo courtesy of Quintus

Or Barclay Butera‘s riff on a Jamaican plantation chair.

Photo courtesy of Barclay Butera Lifestyle

For my own part, I might be more inclined toward these curvy Cuban seats, called butacas, from Ernest Hemingway’s house. (The photo comes from Hermes Mallea’s 2011 book, Great Houses of Havana.)

Photo courtesy of The Monacelli Press

Or perhaps a few of the caned teak armchairs designed by Pierre Jeanneret for the Indian city of Chandigarh.

Photo from chandigarh-design.com

My grandmother might also have been beguiled by this rather sexy set of caned armchairs by Jean-Michel Frank, on sale through R.T. Facts in Kent, Conn.

Photo from vandm.com

However, my range of likes extends in general both earlier and later than would have made her comfortable. For example, I would be perfectly content to spend time around Amy Howard‘s Baltimore Bench–very antique-y and formal indeed with such prim verticals to its Japanned frame.

Photo courtesy of Amy Howard

I can also imagine living with this hand-carved Regency-style bergère by Theodore Alexander.

Photo courtesy of Theodore Alexander

Then there was the midcentury vogue for caning, which–in addition, admittedly, to some real horrors–produced very pleasant pieces like this high cabinet by Hans J. Wegner for Ry Møbler. (I particularly love the tiny detail of the rosewood caps on the feet.)

Photo from 1stdibs.com

And this wonderful bed, also by Wegner, created for Getama.

Photo from 1stdibs.com

Try to put those in my grandmother’s house, though, and she would absolutely have raised Cain.