Posted by: PatrickJL | January 30, 2013

Replica Designer Furniture – Unconscionable or Affordable Alternative?

Photo Dec 03, 9 56 15 PM

[Here am I giving the camera my best model look sitting on a gorgeous Eames Le Chaise]

I thought the modern movement of the 50’s and 60’s was to make great design affordable.  Fast forward fifty years, a lowly architectural intern (me) would like to furnish his home with the aforementioned great design.  The copyrights for these designs are typically held by either Herman Miller or Knoll.  Alas, because I am not a hedge fund manager, there is a good chance I will never be able to drop $3,000-$5,000 on a single chair let alone multiple pieces of furniture.  I mean, seriously, how much does it cost to manufacture an Eames shell chair?  I understand there is a mark up beyond that but c’mon!

Now, I am aware of the heavily inflated prices of these beautiful pieces of art – let’s face it, that’s what they are but the real shock came from my wife (not in the design field).  She knows one of my favorite chairs (I have so many) is the Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe.  Back in September 2012, two months before my birthday, we were in Chicago for a weekend trip when we walked by a fancy lobby stocked with Barcelona chairs.  After she dragged me away, she thought that one of those chairs would be a great birthday present for me…that is until she found out that they start at $5,000!

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.  A while back, I stumbled upon a link of several replica chairs sold online at none other than Kmart.  The chairs are manufactured by a company named Baxton Studio.  Baxton Studio (a division of Wholesale Interiors) sells replica designer furniture by the likes of Eames, Le Corbusier, Eero Saarinen, Marcel Breuer, Bertoia, etc.  I’m not sure how they are able to get around selling these replicas unless the designs are changed ever so slightly that they are not “copies” although they look pretty accurate to me.,0.5,0,0

[Eames DSR Eiffel Side Chair – $155],0.5,0,0

[Le Corbusier LC2 – $485],0.5,0,0

[Le Corbusier LC4 Chaise Lounge – $566],0.5,0,0

[Marcel Breuer Wassily Chair – $283],0.5,0,0,0.5,0,0

[Eero Saarinen Side Table – $218  and Tulip Chair – $168]


It’s clear that at these prices the quality of craftsmanship and the materials are far lower than their pricey counterparts and I understand the importance of staying true to the design by sticking with the real McCoy, but the above options seem tempting.  I can also appreciate the amount of time that went into designing the originals and the hard work and effort into designing them is why they’ve stood the test of time, hence the mark up in price.  As a designer, I would be angry to find someone ripping off my designs and profiting from them.  However, how much do you markup the price before your product becomes out of reach to the general population – the people that some of the products were originally designed for?  Don’t get me started on the irony of naming a store Design Within Reach and then selling a chair for $5,000.

Oh well, I supposed I’ll keep searching on Craigslist and scouring antique stores to hope to one day get mine.


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