Copy Cats 🐈

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Greetings, furniture people. Today I come bearing designer furniture – although only a few of the pieces today are real designer furniture.

The design industry (from furniture to technology) is ripe with replicas. Why is this and why does it matter? I recently read this very interesting essay from designer Matt Ström, and I think you may find it interesting.

Here’s an interesting tidbit about the Eames LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) found in Matt’s essay:

There’s an LCW from 1946 in MOMA’s collection. It’s one of the very first ever made. Most people would call it the original LCW.

Charles and Ray Eames sold the manufacturing rights for their furniture to Herman Miller in 1947. Collectors call the LCWs made in the ’40s and ’50s “originals.” But in some sense, these — and the more recently manufactured Herman Miller versions — are copies of that LCW in the MOMA collection.

And then there’s the Modway Fathom. It’s clearly a copy, an unlicensed one at that. But at $145 (the equivalent of $12.78 in 1947) it’s more affordable than the LCW was when it was first manufactured and sold. In spirit, it’s more of an original than any LCW: the best, for the most, for the least.

Of course, the comparison in quality is quite significant. Modway has done its best to copy the exact dimensions, curves, and materials used – but it doesn't stack up 1 to 1. Although, for the purpose of making a room look nice, it does a great job. We have an Eames LCW replica in our home, and I think it adds a lovely, organic presence to the room. Interesting how a lookalike can accomplish the same primary objective as an original.

Eames Patchwork Lounge Chair - $800

Oh my gosh. I’ve looked at a lot of furniture and I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m seriously so stoked about this set. The origins of this set are completely unknown. New, this chair + ottoman combo retails for $5,000+, however, the chair and ottoman here show many, many differences from the original. The owner says the wood shells may be originals. The bases are totally different and have both been swapped out. Interestingly, the authentic ottoman base does not swivel, but this one has been swapped out for a swiveling version. Also – minor change – the set has been completely reupholstered in a patchwork fabric style. I think this is absolutely rad and love the mismatched fabrics, random buttons, and fat stitches. This set is good for a lifetime and is a one-of-a-kind find.

Eames Replica Molded Plywood Coffee Table - $75

34" diameter x 16" tall. This table is a really beautiful and unique piece. I believe it’s a Modway replica (the same brand that produced the Modway Fathom chair at the beginning of this newsletter).

Saarinen Executive Chairs - $250+

Not replicas. They want $1,000 for the 6 red chairs (they’re willing to break up the set), but the blue chair is the one that caught my eye. For $250, a beautiful, bold, blue Saarinen Executive armchair can be had. These are actually very comfortable and lovely to look at.

Nelson Style Black Slat Bench - $350

This replica is a bit clunky (not as sleek as an authentic one) but would be very welcome in a living room or a larger entry hallway. It’s been on Craigslist for like 20 days, so you should definitely try to talk them down. If you really want to get under their skin, you can point out all of the discrepancies between this bench and the real thing. Although they may not go lower on the price if you do that – your call.

Muuto Fiber Chair Set - $150

This attractive pair is offered at a price well below retail. Perfect for those looking for a nice sitting space.

To copy or not to copy

Whether you believe that it’s worthwhile or worthless to copy, whether you think that copies are a valuable part of the design community or a scourge, you are using software, hardware, websites and apps that all owe their existence to copying.

As long as there is design, there will be copying.

- Matt Ström

“As long as there is design, there will be copying” is quite an interesting take. I think through copying and repetition comes really amazing design. Here’s a quote from Andrew Allen’s most recent article Honor the Material highlighting the attention to detail found in many of Eames's designs.

Designers Charles and Ray Eames were masters with materials. More than any other mid-century furniture designers, they knew the strengths of their materials. In 1950, they designed a molded plastic armchair that showcases this. It consists of a fibreglass-reinforced plastic seat that is both easily-molded and flexes for comfort, a metal base truss structure for carrying weight and offering rigidity while staying light, and hardwood rockers for a solid yet forgiving material that won't damage your floors. Three different materials, each playing to its own strength, and yet all brought together beautifully in form and purpose.

👋 Until next time!