Bamboo furniture has undergone a revolution in recent years and has come to be seen as a fashionable and environmentally sound alternative to many other traditional materials. Having long been associated with a kind of 70s rustic chic, bamboo is now used by modern and avant garde designers all around the world to create striking, comfortable furniture, both for indoor and outdoor use.
Bamboo is now used to make a variety of furniture, from chairs and table to cabinets, dressers and sofas. It can even be made into rugs and bedding. Traditional, tropical designs are still available, especially in regard to outdoor furnishings, but more and more designers are experimenting with this hardy material and coming up with styles which are gracing the most elegant of homes.
Bamboos long life makes it a Chinese symbol of longevity, while in India it is a symbol of friendship. Several Asian cultures actually believe that humanity originated from a bamboo stem. And although bamboo can be found on every continent in the world, Asian designers are at the forefront of the bamboo boom.
This is partly because it has so many advantages. It has a fine grain and is available in a variety of stains and finishes which makes it ideal for pernickety interior designers. It is also an incredibly strong material as it is one of the only trees which grow completely straight, so even though it has knuckles and knots, no weaknesses usually exist in the wood as a whole. When laminated the strength is enhanced even further. It is very durable as it can withstand daily use and is far more resistant to damage than hardwoods. It is also resistant to swelling or shrinking due to climate change, which is particularly useful in tropical countries.
However, perhaps the most important advantage is the fact that it is now one of the most environmentally friendly building materials on the market. It grows faster and can be harvested sooner than trees and doesnt need to be replanted after each harvest as it will just send up new shoots. Bamboo forests also create more oxygen than hardwood forests of the same size and one bamboo cluster can produce twenty poles in the five years that it takes the average tree to reach maturity.
Bamboo is used in the same ways as other furniture materials. Strips are cut from the round, bamboo stalk and then milled square on four sides and dried in a kiln to 8-10% moisture content. After this it is sanded smooth for laminating, edge-glued and laminated to make plywood. Bamboo poles can also be used like wicker and bolted or tied together for extra strength. It can even be woven for an interesting and variegated effect.
If you have bamboo furniture then it is important to look after it. You need to dust it regularly and wash it with a water and light detergent solution every few months. You also need to wash it with an anti-mildew additive every six weeks or so. Outdoor bamboo furniture is prone to infestation by wood-boring insects so needs to be treated regularly with wood preservatives. But as long as you look after your bamboo it will last a very long time, and stay in excellent condition.
All the modern furniture and design stores now stock bamboo furniture so have a look when you are next out shopping. But beware as some furniture is made to look like bamboo so you need to check that not only is sustainable bamboo used in the construction but choose furniture with water-based veneers and non-toxic glues. Then sit back and let your friends compliment you on your fashionably green choices.