Making Today’s Cane Furniture Designs More Than Nostalgic — Our Founder Jessica Shares the Thoughts Behind Designing Cane Furniture for Our Contemporary Homes


Cane furniture has a very special, nostalgic place in a lot of our hearts, including mine, a familiar type that we might ourselves have grown up with, or seen in the homes of our grandparents.

My grandparents, Ah Kong and Mama, seated together on a rattan chair in their youth.

We could sing endless praises of cane furniture and why it should always have a place in our homes, but in this article I’ll share design insights into how we’ve given a contemporary spin and a SCENE SHANG touch to cane furniture, to pay homage to our very own culture and history, while also being fitting for our homes of today.

1. Understanding the Material - Meant to Be Bent

Our cane furniture designs feature the inherent bendable nature of the material and showcases organic bends in THE LITTLE ONE Cane Chair & THE LADY Cane Chair.

Before even beginning with the design, we start by looking at the raw cane material, also known as rattan. Have you ever been in a tropical forest? If you’d looked up, chances are you might have seen climbing vines, and they might likely be rattan. Rattan grows in a vine-like manner, climbing up and across trees, and this inherent nature is something that gives the material its strength and bendable character. It is natural then, that the finished designs will showcase the bending qualities and strength of the rattan.

The rattan core is heated briefly then skilfully bent to shape.

2. Understanding the Makers - Observing How They Move with the Material

The frame of THE LITTLE ONE Cane Chair is made of a perfect circle bent by hand.

Working with rattan to craft furniture is not new, and as a designer, observing experienced craftsmen, who come from a heritage of working with the material, is also one of the important aspects that help shape our designs. At our partner factory in Indonesia, we observed an elegance in the way the craftsmen shaped each bend - be it large, wide, small or close, and worked that into our designs.


A craftsman skilfully bends rattan into the shape of a lounge chair. The way he moves together with the rattan material makes us think of a taichi master.

3. Uncover Inspiring Stories & Weaving These Stories Into Furniture Designs

THE GENTLEMAN Cane Chair - inspired by traditional Chinese furniture and designed using rattan.

Sometimes these stories come from the makers themselves. In developing the designs for the cane armchairs, we designed THE GENTLEMAN Cane Chair, inspired by our maker in Indonesia. Born in Singapore, he moved to Indonesia and has lived there for more than twenty years since. Having assimilated into the local culture, he retains a love for traditional Chinese furniture. THE GENTLEMAN Cane Chair, inspired by traditional Chinese furniture which is usually done in hardwood, is a homage to our maker’s story and named after him.

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4. Looking At Today’s Trends - Making Designs That Are Complementary

Contemporary, light matte finishes on our Cane Collection designs including the TENG Stools.

We believe that designs inspired by heritage and history are able to complement today’s trends. For example, aesthetically, we see a trend in preferring to choose light coloured furniture, especially to fit into a Japanese, Scandinavian or Japandi styled home, and our Cane Collection pieces are finished in a light, matte finish that is similar to an oak colour to complement these popular styles.
Another trend is that our homes getting smaller - our cane sofa designs are compact in size and yet does not compromise on comfort.

THE MAVERICK Cane Sofa is compact and takes up a smaller footprint while still being comfortable.

5. Inventing New Ways - Creating New Forms & Designs

The armrest of THE MAVERICK Cane Chair looks like a plank of wood but is actually made from joining two pieces of rattan together and shaping the pieces to form a larger piece.

As designers, we also challenge ourselves to find new ways to showcase the beauty of the materials. In designing THE MAVERICK Cane Chair, we invented a new way of utilizing the rattan material to create a different form. At first glance, people assume that the armrests are made of wood. On closer inspection, feel under the armrest and you will notice that the armrest is actually made of two pieces of rattan, with the top surface sanded and shaped down to look like a seamless single piece. This creates comfort for use as an armrest, and also gives a new form and aesthetic to the way rattan is normally used.

THE MAVERICK Cane Chair features a simplified art deco inspired form and showcases a contemporary expression of the cane material.

Cane Collection
DUKE Collection

Here's hoping you enjoyed the design insights I've shared, feel free to follow our instagram account @sceneshang to get more design insights, or visit our showroom and we'll gladly take you through the stories behind each of our designs. 


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