5 Things to Consider When Buying Replica Furniture

3 replica wishbone chairs against an orange background

Repli­ca furniture—furniture that imi­tates high-end design­er pieces or oth­er rare items—is hav­ing a moment. Whether it’s Tolix Chairs or the Noguchi Table, there’s some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing about find­ing buy­ing repli­ca fur­ni­ture at a much low­er price point than its muse­um-qual­i­ty cousin.

How­ev­er, buy­ing repli­ca fur­ni­ture can be tricky. Repli­ca fur­ni­ture has been crit­i­cized for rip­ping off the orig­i­nal design­er, and some repli­cas are bet­ter than oth­ers. How do you know whether you should blow your bud­get on the real deal, or if a fur­ni­ture repli­ca is the way to go? We have some tips to help you fig­ure out what repli­cas are worth it or whether you should make a seri­ous investment.

1. Consider the quality

In some cas­es, the high price tag also comes with a qual­i­ty assur­ance guar­an­tee. The Egg Chair, for exam­ple, might be worth the splurge. “Dan­ish fur­ni­ture comes with a lifes­pan of 150–200 years, and can be restored over its lifes­pan,” says Dan­ish mid-cen­tu­ry fur­ni­ture expert Jytte Laulund. “With repli­cas, the stan­dards are lowered—they use tim­ber before it’s mature and poor qual­i­ty leather with tox­ic dyes.”

Some repli­ca fur­ni­ture can be con­sid­ered state­ment pieces, so if you’re only look­ing to enjoy that repli­ca Egg Chair for a few years, there’s no harm in get­ting a less­er qual­i­ty replica.

2. Keep the designer in mind

Some might say that it’s not eth­i­cal to buy a repli­ca, because a repli­ca is a rip-off a designer’s orig­i­nal work. An orig­i­nal is like art. For a design­er to pro­duce one piece that will sell, he has to make a hun­dred of them. When you buy a repli­ca, the design­er doesn’t see any prof­it from that pur­chase. Some design­ers hate this, because fur­ni­ture in par­tic­u­lar takes so long to construct.

Oth­er design­ers don’t mind if their vision is mass-pro­duced. Matt Blatt own­er, Adam Drexler, says his com­pa­ny is meet­ing a need in the mar­ket, and mak­ing great design acces­si­ble to every­one. “Access to style should not be restrict­ed by income brack­et,” Drexler says.

tulip chair
Fur­ni­ture retail­er, Matt Blatt, sells their own replicas—like this Tulip Table—and believes style shouldn’t be lim­it­ed by income.

3. Consider your aesthetic

One rea­son why peo­ple love dec­o­rat­ing with repli­cas? They often come with a par­tic­u­lar aes­thet­ic that’s rare. You can scour vin­tage stores and Ebay, or you can get a replica.

To get the mid-cen­tu­ry look at an afford­able price, Andrei Mein­t­jes of retro and vin­tage fur­ni­ture store Col­lec­ti­ka sug­gests brows­ing Etsy, eBay, auc­tions, estate clear­ances and garage sales to unearth orig­i­nal pieces. “From an aes­thet­ic point of view, repli­cas work for styl­ists and dec­o­ra­tors as they give the look imme­di­ate­ly,” Mein­t­jes says.

Real­is­ti­cal­ly, how often do you come across an orig­i­nal Le Cor­busier or Eames lounge chair at an estate sale? These pieces are hard to find, so if you know a repli­ca is going to fit your aes­thet­ic, go for it. If you can find a repli­ca sec­ond­hand that has that vin­tage pati­na going on, even better!

Le Corbusier Chaise Lounge
An orig­i­nal Le Cor­busier Chaise Lounge is prob­a­bly not some­thing you’re going to find on the mar­ket every day.

4. Don’t forget about the furniture’s lifetime value

As long as you take care of your fur­ni­ture, an orig­i­nal piece is going to gain val­ue over time. We not­ed ear­li­er that orig­i­nal designs are gen­er­al­ly bet­ter qual­i­ty, and because they’re made by the artist, their brand will con­tin­ue to add val­ue. It’s a unique piece that will always have a niche (high-pay­ing) mar­ket, should you ever want to sell your fur­ni­ture. Many designs tend to stand the test of time; they go with a vari­ety of styles and aes­thet­ics. Repli­ca pieces prob­a­bly won’t give you the same return on invest­ment. That said, if you’re some­one who moves fre­quent­ly, has pets or kids, or envi­sions only keep­ing a piece for a few years, then per­haps a repli­ca is the way to go.

Arco Floor Lamp
The orig­i­nal ver­sions of this Arco Mod­ern Lamp are going to gain val­ue over time

5. It all comes down to your budget

Ethics and aes­thet­ics aside, buy­ing repli­ca fur­ni­ture is much cheap­er than buy­ing the real thing. If qual­i­ty isn’t an issue for you, then repli­cas are going to make your design dreams much more afford­able. In some cas­es, repli­cas still don’t come cheap. Con­sid­er a Feath­er­ston armchair—a real one will cost you $15,000. Com­par­a­tive­ly, there are repli­cas that are a steal at $1,100; but that’s still quite a lot, and how will it affect the rest of your budget?

In oth­er cas­es, there are repli­cas that fall much clos­er to their orig­i­nal pieces in terms of price. The catch here is that you trade in qual­i­ty by sav­ing mon­ey on the orig­i­nal, and at the end of the day, that’s not a great deal.

Featherston Armchair
How much would you spend on this orig­i­nal Feath­er­ston armchair?

Pho­tos via Inspi­ra­tion FeedKnollSwiv­el UKFlosShapiro

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