Rustic Twig & Bent Willow Furniture
Willow and twig furniture is very attractive, and has its place in modern schemes of rustic furnishing. It is comfortable and artistic in appearance, and much of it is durable and inexpensive. It can be used a long time in the natural color and then stained, or enameled. In selecting willow furniture the workmanship should be carefully examined for weak places or poor materials. Willow furniture can be used with or without cushions, and is quite serviceable. Very often for expensive interiors upholstering of elaborate velvets and other textiles is used for willow furniture.
Willow furniture combines with many other kinds and if you get the best quality it lasts for years. Most of us have the habit of taking willow furniture for granted and then when a store salesman points out the special advantages of a certain piece we are surprised that there are so many things we don't know about this material.
Types of Willow
To begin with, the willow for making furniture is grown for the purpose and is not the variety we see in the country, with long fringy branches - the "weeping willow" tree. What is called "basket" willow is grown, in France (a beautiful, clear, white variety), Italy, Sicily, Madeira, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Russia and the United States.
The best willow furniture sold in England is made there, from French willow, by foreign willow weavers. French willow is not only very white, it is freest from knots and insect holes. It is also peeled by hand, which is a great advantage. When willow is peeled by machinery, as in America where labor is very expensive, it may be bought for less, but is brittle and does not wear so well.
American made willow furniture includes the best and the poorest quality. If you examine what you consider buying you will find that the finest furniture is made of slender, supple sprouts with few knots and no insect holes.
Making Bent Willow Furniture
In instructions and plans given by willow specialists for building twig furniture we learn that it takes as many as five years to teach a willow weaver his trade and even then he has as a rule mastered only some one style of weaving, some one design, and cannot vary his work. Willow weaving runs in families with a weaver usually being the son of a weaver.
To bend the willow for weaving in and out, making the patterns, is such a strain on the arms and chest that women generally don't do this work and so far no machine has been invented for the purpose. It takes eight hours to make one or two simple pieces. The best willow furniture is the lightest in weight because the least wood is used in the making of it. Almost no nails are used as the plaiting of the willow holds the wooden braces in the legs and under the seats.
The moment one begins to look into the history of any branch of house furnishing one is tempted to stay too long in the by-ways, but we can not hurry on without mentioning that the ancient Romans made willow baskets, willow bee-hives and willow shields, covered with leather, and that in the middle ages, 5th to 15th centuries, there were Willow Guilds just as there were Silver Guilds and Pewter Guilds, so that willow weaving has the dignity of an art.
When buying your willow furniture remember that it invariably gives to any room an informal appearance. This is true no matter what color is used to stain it. The staining of willow is now done very artistically. You can do it yourself or let the dealer see the cretonne or chintz you intend using for the room and he will match any shade of any color by combining his stains. Two-toned effects are had by putting one color over another as when painting walls. Try a blue with a gray over it, or a pink with a thin coat of violet.
There was a time when willow appeared only as chairs and sofas and tables but to-day we can furnish an entire house with it; bedroom, living room, dining room, hall, porch, all are provided for with attractive and appropriate pieces of furniture. Willow is especially good for rooms used by young people because it does not get scratched nor show dust. For rest rooms anywhere, it is admirable for it has a "give" when one sits in it which is restful and for damp places, as by the sea, it will be found practical owing to its not warping.
Decorating with Willow
Use white or natural willow in rooms done in very light colors but in rooms where other furniture has dark wooden frames stain the willow the same color. If you use natural colored willow on your porches do not spoil the effect you have succeeded in getting by bringing out the dark furniture planned for indoors.
Willow lamps may be used in willow rooms but not elsewhere. You will like your willow room better if you use a willow stand and a silk or cretonne shade in some lovely, gay, cheering color. There is something depressing about a willow lamp shade. If stained a bright color one can imagine it being decorative in a country club, large rest room or summer hotel. For a private home another sort of shade will be more satisfactory.
Nnothing looks cooler and it has the qualities of comfort, beauty and durability. If you tire of the natural color of the willow, stain it any light flower-like color for bedrooms and grays or mahogany for living-rooms. Two colors - one on the other - are now fashionable and one's guide in deciding the colors to combine is the general effect of the cretonnes or chintz or other materials chosen for curtains. Willow furniture and dainty white sash curtains at all the windows make a fascinating effect. The cheapest variety of furniture made of sea-weed can be painted or stained to look very well and your cretonne and muslin of the cheapest kind will give the effect of beauty and cool daintiness.