Rattan Can Do the Trick : * Furniture made from any of 150 species of climbing palms is much stronger than wicker.

Rattan is gaining popularity, not just for a vacation house or a lanai but as an integral part of the general home furnish ings. It is often used with traditional, contemporary or even antique decors.

Rattan suitable for furniture comes from any of 150 species of climbing palms found chiefly in Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and the Philippines.

Sources almost always sell wicker as well, and for good reason. Most wicker is rattan, only much, much thinner.

There's a lot of inexpensive wicker in the marketplace, and it's quite charming. Cost Plus and Pier One imports have an excellent inventory of it at reasonable prices. Wicker can be a good buy, especially if the piece is not going to be getting a lot of hard wear.

But let one 250-pounder sink into a wicker love seat and that may be the end of it.

Rattan is much stronger than wicker and, of course, pricier. Good rattan, well-designed and put together with precision and craftsmanship, can run very high.

When I visited the Rattan Distribution Warehouse in Sun Valley, I found some of the handsomest rattan pieces I've seen, outside of John and Elinor McGuire pieces, which can run a small fortune. (A simple chair is $945.)

The warehouse specializes in rattan, not wicker. Owner Lee Miller's inventory is manufactured in the Philippines on the island of Cebu and shipped unassembled to the Sun Valley warehouse, where it is put together, finished and upholstered.

This, of course, saves big bucks on shipping costs, and also allows the customer to select the finish and fabric.

An industrial quality lacquer on the product can be ordered in 11 shades: light oak, fruitwood, oak, natural, chestnut, mahogany, black walnut, whitewash, pink whitewash, desert sand and almond.

Miller's inventory includes furnishings for the living room, den or game room--no bedroom pieces.

A beautifully designed four-shelf etagere was $250. I have seen similar quality pieces at $350 and more.

Handsome bar stools ran $85 to $129.

Haystack-styled end tables were on clearance, going for $50. I have since seen this same table at another rattan furniture store "reduced" to $160 from $200. A matching dining table pedestal with glass was $250.

The day I visited, Miller was offering a special on a love seat and coffee table for $499. This includes upholstering of the love seat. As to the fabric, you can choose from his selection or bring your own. "Ours or yours," Miller said. "The price is the same."

Miller creates a number of the designs in his showroom, then sends the sketches to the factory in the Philippines. He works with many decorators, who visit this warehouse regularly.

Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life. Questions about shopping may be sent to her, in care of Valley Life, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Letters will not be answered individually, but topics of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Geri Cook can be heard from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KIEV 870-AM.

WHERE TO SHOP

Location: Rattan Distribution Warehouse, 8010 Wheatland Ave., Unit I, Sun Valley.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Cards: None.

Call: (818) 504-0119.

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