A pair of hands putting together a piece of furniture made from rattan.

Using traditional muddy water technique to make the IKEA TVARÖ more weather resistant

With inspiration from traditional Indonesian handicraft, IKEA has worked to find a way to protect rattan outdoor furniture against humidity and temperature changes. We met with Linn Grahl to know more about her curiosity and how water and over 100 tests throughout three years were the way forward for TVARÖ. 

Growing up in the small town of Karlstad in Sweden, Linn Grahl, Product Design Engineer at IKEA, was always curious about the world beyond her hometown. This sense of adventure has taken her on a journey to several countries, including Italy, Great Britain, and Vietnam.


"I've always possessed a strong sense of curiosity. The idea of staying in one place never appealed to me. My innate curiosity has taken me on numerous adventures, allowing me to embrace the unknown and discover new opportunities", Linn says.


She started her journey at IKEA as an intern in 2009, working with packaging. Fresh from university, she had only planned to work at IKEA for a year or two before continuing her studies. However, as she explored the different opportunities within IKEA, she realised there were so many doors to open and so much to learn.

A portrait of a woman with blond hair and a white shirt.
Linn Grahl, Product Design Engineer at IKEA.

The mud creates a protective layer that makes the rattan weather-resistant.

Over the years, Linn used her curiosity and has taken the opportunity to work within different departments and areas at IKEA, gaining valuable experience and knowledge while pushing the boundaries of design and creativity. One of the recent challenges she applied her experience and imagination to solve from her current location in Vietnam was making rattan furniture more weather-resistant so it could be left outside for longer.

Bundles of rattan lying on the ground.

Rattan furniture has long been used in many homes, providing a touch of natural beauty and comfort. However, when it comes to outdoor use, the traditional rattan material has faced challenges, including mould, stains, cracks, and weathering.


"I believe this project perfectly illustrates why I'm passionate about my work and enjoy it every day. Being new to outdoor furniture, I encountered scepticism about rattan's suitability for outdoor use. Such challenges inspire me, as I'm determined to do everything I can to prove whether people's doubts are justified or not", says Linn.

A hand holding three long pieces of rattan.
A pair of hands putting together a piece of furniture made from rattan.

"You simply put the rattan used to bind the furniture into a pool with muddy river water. Then you add leaves to the water, weigh everything down with rocks, and let it sit there for six weeks. The mud creates a protective layer that makes the rattan weather-resistant", explains Linn.

A piece of furniture made from rattan is being put down in a container with a white liquid.
A piece of furniture made from rattan is being put down in a container with a white liquid.
However, more than the mud dipping technique was needed to get the degree of quality required by IKEA. Linn and the team tried additional methods to make the furniture more durable. Conventional rattan handicrafts are based on removing the skin and sanding it down to a beautiful smooth surface, which is polished to have a shiny lacquer. However, she found that by keeping the outer layer on the thicker rattan poles, the rattan gained additional protection by retaining the outer layer and its natural colour. 
As a last step, a layer of water-based lacquer is applied, which, combined with the mud dipping and the outer layer keeping, contribute to the TVARÖ outdoor furniture being more weather resistant and lasting longer. To keep IKEA environmental commitments, the lacquer is waterbased.

To test the quality of the rattan material, the IKEA team conducted over 100 tests throughout three years, including climate chamber tests, rain tests, and real-world tests in different regions worldwide.


"We've been working on developing test methods for different weather conditions worldwide and learning from partners and other suppliers with experience with outdoor furniture", Linn explains. "In addition to the chamber tests and other lab tests, we've tested our products in real environments such as Sweden, Indonesia, and France to see how the material and product perform".


This journey resulted in a product that improved the quality and added a new expression to natural fibre.

A group of outdoor furniture with white pillows standing on a patio.
"I wanted to move away from the traditional rattan form, which typically features curves and intricate detailing. Our goal was to create a modern, Scandinavian-inspired design that would expand the range. The chair we designed has straight lines and a simplistic style, with minimal binding details to maintain its structure, and we've managed to maintain the Scandinavian essence in our design", Linn remarks. 
TVARÖ is part of a larger project at IKEA to use natural fibres in furniture production in several countries, including Vietnam and Indonesia.