Style and Design: Items and Icons bamboo

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Oh, the new bamboo, the new bamboo. These strong, supple hollow "culms", exotic cousins of the grasses, are in daily use in Asia for utensils, baskets, musical instruments, furniture, even scaffolding. And now, at last, here in Britain, bamboo is coming in from the conservatory to grace our homes.

Forget the floral-cushioned, creaky bamboo seats of the Seventies; Nineties designer bamboo furniture is elegant, sculptural, light, bright and beautiful. Bamboo-handled cutlery graces the table at the smartest dinner parties; Sloanes slip their copies of Tatler and Country Life into bamboo magazine racks. You can drink out of it, play it, sit on it, sleep on it... What more could you ask from one plant?

There are more than 200 species of bamboo, some of which will shoot up to 120ft, with a diameter of 10in. The most vigorous specimens can put on 16in in 24 hours, 100ft-plus in just three months, making this one of the world's most prolific renewable resources (although the stems should not be cut for three years, until they have turned woody). Bamboo shades range from shiny black, through yellow-orange to the familiar straw colour.

Now, bet you didn't know that Thomas Edison used bamboo for the filament in the first light bulb in 1872. Or that Gucci is using it for a handle in a handbag. A handbag?

Brown vinyl bag with cane handle, pounds 280, Gucci, 15 Old Bond Street, London W1 (0171-499 1081). Fork, spoon and rice paddle pounds 1.20 each from David Mellor, 4 Sloane Square, London SW1 (0171-231 3939). Jug (above right), pounds 18, from Jacqueline Edge, 1 Courtnell Street, London W2 (0171-229 1172). Magazine rack (below) by Emily Readett-Bayley, pounds 35. Stockists, 0171-231 3939

Bamboo deckchair pounds 29.95, from Jacqueline Edge, as above. Chinese flutes (Ti Dze): fat flute, pounds 65; long, slim flute, pounds 15; yellow tassel, pounds 30. All from Ray Man, 29 Monmouth Street, London WC2 (0171-240 1776).