AT ROUGHLY THE
same time that the cane was disappearing from Australian classrooms, it was making its way into our homes. Which makes perfect sense, as we had a state – Queensland – that was practically covered in the sugar version. Having looked at this swathe of verdancy and answered the vital question – yes, we can eat this, but how do we drink it as a potent spirit? – thoughts surely turned to how else sugar cane’s compatriots – cane, also known as bamboo, wicker and rattan – might be used in our homes. Inspiration came, as it so often does, from the lush verandahs, indoor-outdoor living areas and breezy bedrooms of Asia, where cane was as much of a staple as Australian tourists exclaiming rather too loudly and rhetorically, “This Bintang’s not bad, is it?”
A love of cane that rivalled our country’s burgeoning sugar addiction was soon flourishing. Much like those tourists liked to view themselves, cane was both tough and flexible. It bent with weight, weathered well and lasted longer than Hey Hey It’s Saturday. It was also ideal for constructing that ’70s and ’80s design icon, the peacock chair (which has now been rebranded as ‘boho luxe’).
In its Australian infancy, cane furniture was more of an outdoor thing, verandah-esque if you will. Which made sense, as it rebuffed pretty much everything the climate could throw at it. Given a good lacquer at the point of origin, it maintained both its timber texture and its buttered oatmeal shade. But here’s the curious thing – the tropical ambience it created kind of jarred with traditional Australian decor sensibilities, at least in regard to fabrics. It gradually dawned on a million Bevs, Beryls and Barrys doing up their patios that the Liberty or Sanderson prints, with their evocations of English gardens, didn’t quite gel with their mental moodboards. In place of paisley and petunias, we slowly warmed to bamboo and bird of paradise motifs. Just like other Asian countries.
To get a bit Fifty Shades here, the appeal of the cane also soon found its way into our bedrooms and living areas, with everything from bedheads and dining chairs to sofas getting the treatment, and where it often got a makeover in terms of colour – as long as that colour was whiter than Robert Menzies’ cabinet. Of course,