How best to use baskets for home decor and storage
Over the years, I have written about some arguably pretty minor topics — white paint, yard boulders and computer disposal among them. Somehow, while dwelling on all sorts of fascinating-no-point-is-too-small minutiae, I have neglected to write about a common domestic workhorse, an item most of us use. Every. Single. Day.
So today, as we approach the season of gratefulness, I am giving long-overdue homage to the humble, honorable basket.
An art form that began in antiquity, baskets have transcended every age, culture and civilization. Weavers have used whatever was plentiful and free – grasses, reeds, palm branches, seagrass — to fashion into everything from bowls and bins to birdcages. They’ve woven containers tight enough to hold water and loose enough to catch fish. Like the wheel, baskets are hard to improve upon. They just work.
“Although baskets date back to ancient times, we still use them in the same ways to gather, transport and store,” said Robyn Bailey, owner of Mainly Baskets, a 40-year-old Georgia-based company with an all-female-run factory in the Philippines. In the factory, women hand weave mainly baskets (but also furniture) out of sustainable natural materials harvested in Southeast Asia, including rattan, water hyacinth and seagrass.
It’s not an easy business. Longaberger, a well-known basket company that started in Ohio in 1973, and grew to a $1 billion company with 8,000 employees, went out of business last year. Longaberger baskets tend to be picnic size or smaller, while Mainly Baskets tend toward larger, more substantial baskets. Naturally, I had questions.
Q: Why should baskets be part of every home?
A: Besides being beautiful and useful, baskets work with every décor style, whether rustic, country, traditional, ethnic or modern. They are multi-purpose, so can easily go from room to room, and are one of the easiest ways to give a room interest and dimension.
Q: Baskets come at many price levels. How can you tell a well-made basket from a cheap one?
A: Not every basket needs to last for decades. Some just need to deliver a batch of muffins. But if you want one that will last, give it the squeeze-and-twist test. It shouldn’t smush. Pick the basket up. It should have some heft. Most of mine you can sit on.
Q: Beyond the obvious uses – holding fruit, bread, toys, magazines and Easter eggs – how else can decorators incorporate baskets at home?
A: Use a basket for any items you need to corral, and anywhere you don’t want your uglies to show. They can hold firewood, toiletries, remote controls, plants, toilet paper, mail, towels, laundry, shoes, socks and umbrellas. I put a big basket at the end of my sectional for throw blankets.
Q: What’s the difference between rattan and wicker?
A: Rattan is a vine that grows on trees. It’s harvested, so you don’t chop down the tree; thus, it’s renewable and sustainable. Because it is solid, rattan is stronger and lasts longer than bamboo, which is hollow. Wicker is not a material, but a weaving technique that uses rattan, as well as reed, willow or bamboo, to make wicker furniture and baskets.
Q: What do you wish more home decorators knew about baskets?
A: That large baskets can be statement pieces. Adding a beautifully proportioned, handsome basket to a room is like getting a piece of furniture.
By MARNI JAMESON