Baskets are in and look better than ever before. Let’s all happily wave away those varnished, orange-coloured baskets from the 70s, 80s, and 90s that would splinter after a few uses, and welcome in the new, softer, more eco-friendly baskets of the 21st century. Baskets today are versatile and oh-so-stylish, they can be used all over the house for dozens of uses, and won’t break the bank.
If you’re thinking about bringing baskets into your home, you’re in the right place. We love baskets and we’ll guide you through all the different materials, uses, a little bit of history, and of course, the best baskets to use as planters and the best plants to use, too!
What different materials are used for baskets? Which is best?
The most popular modern baskets are made from sustainable, natural materials, so don’t settle for something synthetic – you simply don’t need to and you’ll fail to capture the natural look you’re after. Here are some of the most popular basket materials:
- Jute – Jute is made from the plants Crochorus olitonius and Corchorus capsularis which are native to India. The plant became popular for use for products not just due to the light colouring, but also because the plant grows all year-round and is relatively eco-friendly, requiring little in the way of pesticides, and only takes 120 days to mature.
- Seagrass – Seagrass is an extremely unique plant because it can grow, thrive, and even pollinate while completely submerged by seawater. Seagrass is essential to the environment because it is responsible for absorbing around 15% of the ocean’s carbon, so it’s important to care for it. Farming may ensure seagrass is protected the way it needs to be, but there is currently little information available on whether it is being sustainably harvested. It makes beautiful baskets, but be aware that it does sag and can collapse, which is great if you want to put it away when you’re not using it, but not so great for planters.
- Cotton – Cotton has long been a staple in the textile industry – we’ve been farming cotton for thousands of years, at least as early as the 5th century BCE. The cotton itself grows after the flower dies and looks like balls of cotton wool stuck to a flower stem. It’s then spun into thread which can be used for everything from fabric to rope – as in the case of cotton rope belly baskets and other cotton baskets.
- Hyacinth – Hyacinth baskets come from the water hyacinth plant, a beautiful large floating plant that grows like wildfire and is, unfortunately, invasive in many waterways around the world. The leaves of the plant are cut and dried which can then be used for wove products.
- Bamboo – Bamboo is becoming well known as a sustainable material because it grows so quickly and is so versatile. The bamboo can be cut into different width strips that are then woven to create patterns. While bamboo does make beautiful baskets, it breaks relatively easily and can splinter, so isn’t ideal for households with children or pets, or in high-traffic areas.
- Rattan – Rattan is made from the stems of a rattan palm, which grows in Southeast Asia and areas of Africa. Like bamboo, these baskets, while beautiful, are strong and inflexible, so can splinter and break.
So, which is best? It depends on the look you’re going for and your household. None of these basket materials are inherently bad choices, but you may find that one doesn’t work for your home. For example, if you’ve got two children under three, or a dog that likes to chew on sticks from time to time, it’s likely best to avoid bamboo and rattan for any basket that is going to sit on the floor. Jute is extremely durable and won’t break, but has a rougher texture, so if you’re looking for something your kids can move around or won’t get scratched if they bump up against it, opt for cotton baskets.
What can you use baskets for in the home?
You’ve likely got a few ideas for how you want to use baskets in your home, but we want to emphasise just how versatile baskets are! Here are some of the most popular uses:
- Laundry & Towels
- Toilet Rolls
- Blankets, cushions and throws
- Magazines and handheld entertainment
- Toys (pets or kids – make sure you opt for something like a cotton rope belly basket so no one gets hurt)
- As planters for houseplants
A large basket, like a cotton rope belly basket, is also perfect for those whip-around clean-ups you need to do before you have people over or chill out for the night. You can simply carry the basket around, pick up anything that needs putting away, and leave it neatly in the basket to be put away when you have a little more time.
What kind of décor do fabric baskets suit?
You can find a basket to suit any décor, but the light-toned soft baskets that are all over home renovation shows, Instagram, Pinterest, and in the pages of magazines shine in minimalist, boho, and contemporary spaces. They generally have a soft, soothing colour palette that complements neutral-toned homes. However, your home doesn’t meet that criteria, don’t let that discourage you – find a basket to suit your space and give it a try.
A Brief History of Woven Fabric Baskets
Weaving was one of the earliest skills modern humans learned to do and was used to create everything from roofs for shelters to basic baskets at least 27,000 years ago, though likely even longer.
However, it wasn’t until the Neolithic period (9000-4000 BCE) that humans started to learn how to spin fibres into thread. This discovery was huge for our ancestors, helping them create cloth and sophisticated items of clothing, rope, and other items that greatly improved their quality of life.
Cotton rope is believed to date back to at least 3000 BCE in Pakistan and Egypt, where cotton grew easily, and so cotton rope baskets likely originated around that time. Cotton grew in popularity and by the 18th century, it was being farmed extensively wherever the climate allowed, and transported and traded all over the world.
Which baskets are best to use as planters?
Best for Outdoor Use: Wicker
If you want to embrace the basket look outside, make sure you opt for wicker. All quality baskets are organic and will eventually break down, but wicker will withstand the elements for many years. If you use them with live plants, they won’t last quite as long and you’ll need to make sure you line the basket well if you plan to fill it with compost. The best option is to use artificial plants, which will look just as good but be a lot less trouble! Try an artificial bay tree or artificial topiary for a modern, stylish look that works just as well outside a country cottage as it does a house in London.
Best for Boho & Minimalist: Cotton
If you’re looking for that boho or minimalist look, opt for woven cotton rope baskets. These are soft, light in colour, and are often dyed to offer a pure-white look, as well as added tassels and fringes.
Best for Coastal: Cotton or Seagrass
Seagrass is a natural choice for coastal-look homes since it literally comes from the beaches! It has a reedy texture that fits in well with coastal décor and is often the colour of a sandy beach. Cotton rope baskets are another natural choice and emphasise that going-to-the-beach feel.
Best Plants to Use with Basket Planters
We always recommend you use artificial plants with basket planters, largely because it’s so easy, but it also reduces the likelihood that you’ll get your basket or carpet wet and potentially deal with mold and mildew. If you don’t often move the plant you may not even realise that mold is collecting at the base of the planter or on your carpet underneath, and it can worsen respiratory issues, such as asthma, and if bad enough, may lead to respiratory issues in the future. It sounds dramatic, but it’s definitely something you need to keep in mind when mixing natural fabrics with water! Here are some of our preferred plants:
Artificial Snake Plant
Artificial snake plants work beautifully with woven baskets, but to really get the most from their bright green and yellow colouring, opt for a lighter colour basket, ideally with a slightly wider stance to contrast the shape of the plant, if you have space in your desired location. A white-taupe cotton rope belly basket or a seagrass basket works best. Jute can work, but it’s often a little too dark to get the most from the colouring of the plant.
Artificial Rubber Plant
Rubber plants come in a range of colours, from dark and moody to the classic light-green, yellow and pink-hued rubber plant. Regardless, all work well with basket planters, so you’re free to choose whichever style you prefer. A cotton rope belly basket or a large basket with a wide-open top works extremely well and emphasises the height of the plant. Since you’re using artificial plants, a great way to make a statement is to use three rubber plants in one basket – it adds volume that live rubber plants lack.
Artificial Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
The fiddle leaf fig tree is an extremely popular style of houseplant and best styles with light-coloured baskets. A cotton rope belly basket will prevent the fiddle leaf fig tree from looking too skinny, but you can also use a tall, thin basket with a larger texture for added height.
Artificial Palm Plant
Palm plants work beautifully in any space with almost any plant, so if you’re looking for a plant to pair with a large planter to fill an empty corner, this is a great choice! The mid-green shade of palm plants makes it a versatile choice for any type of basket, but if you want that big statement look, opt for a belly basket or a basket with plenty of volume. If you want to choose something other than the traditional golden colour, opt for a tribal or geometric pattern or a basket in black or blue
Artificial Yucca Plant
Yucca plants look a little like palm plants, but have firmer, spiker leaves and often a subtler, almost pastel colour. Artificial yucca plants look great paired with geometric and tribal patterns or all-white baskets.
Artificial Monstera (AKA Swiss Cheese Plant)
This is another popular choice of plant with dark green, large leaves with holes or gaps in the leaves. Since the plant is generally dark, pair it with a lighter coloured basket planter or one that uses contrasting colours, such as black and caramel or black and white. A belly basket planter is a great choice if you want to opt for a large monstera.
Orchids are tall, willowy plants with voluminous, colourful flowers. Orchids went out of fashion for a while, but are fast making a comeback as a space-effective alternative to all the foliage of the plants we’ve talked about so far. If you’re working with limited space or thinking of using a smaller basket on a side table or plant stand, this is a great choice. Try using the basket to complement or contrast with the dark green of the leaves and coloured petals, depending on the effect you want to create. White petals with a white basket looks beautiful, but so does pairing pastel-pink petals with a dark basket, so experiment and find a combination you love.
Baskets are stylish, have a cozy-yet-minimalist feel, and are a great way to bring warmth and texture to your home, especially when paired with plants or to use to hold throws and blankets. The great thing about baskets is that they’re cost-effective and can easily be repurposed, especially if you’re using artificial plants. What was once your child’s toy basket can become a planter in a few years. If you want to repurpose a corner with a basket planter and artificial plant, simply store the plant and use the basket to house your new dog’s toys, the choices are endless.