Do you love the look but not the price tag for Bauhaus and Mid-Century furniture classics from the likes of Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Eileen Gray, Harry Bertoia, Eames or Breuer?
In a nutshell, the classic designs of early and mid-century furniture are held by a small group of international businesses who purchased the rights to reproduce from the original designers estate. Some were purchased many years ago, for what today we would consider nominal sums. These businesses manufacture and sell 'licensed reproductions'. For the past decade or so, a market for unlicensed reproductions has grown, based on popular demand.
The argument for and against such unlicensed reproductions has heated up correspondingly, with those against the market, arguing that they are of shoddy quality ('cheap knockoffs' being a phrase that has been used widely in the press),whilst those in favour argue that many of these items of furniture were originally conceived to be utilitarian items, affordable and accessible to the masses and that they should remain affordable today, to be enjoyed aesthetically by many rather than left to only an exclusive and wealthy elite to enjoy.
Asia, being the production room of the world, now produces much of the worlds furniture and over the past decade a select number of manufacturers have evolved, focusing on high quality. These companies often manufacture for high street, boutique and department store retailers across Europe and North America, and have learnt what the standards need to be to retain business and orders from the West.
There are two distinct markets. There are also the factories that will churn out using cheaper materials and a cheaper finish to fulfil the requirements of retailers who sell at the lower price bracket, however, if you are after a good quality piece of furniture, here's our quick guide on making the process as easy as possible:
- Deal with a reputable company who you can discuss your requirements properly with, who are dealing directly with their manufacturer and who are not simply buying off a general importer.
- There are a number of different levels of finish that manufacturers offer and your retailer should be able to liaise to ensure that your item is tailor-made to match your budget. For example, aniline and top layer leather hides will be more expensive than semi-aniline or corrected leather and waxy vintage leathers can be a little more again.
- Be prepared to pay a reasonable sum for a proper reproduction. You do pay for what you get in terms of materials and workmanship, whether it is a new sofa or a reproduction piece and the import costs will also be factored in by the retailer.
- Metals used should be of certain grade and in keeping with the original design in terms of finish and joints.
- Fire safety labels should be attached where applicable, as per international fire safety regulations.
- Be prepared to allow 8 to 10 weeks for manufacture and delivery, as your item will take approximately a month to manufacture and a month of travel to reach you. There can also be small adjustments in dates due to transport delays or weather, but as a rule, two months should be the approximate lead time.
- If ordering bespoke or special order request, a deposit may be requested prior to production with the balance payable just prior to delivery. Also, note that some retailers will not accept returns on bespoke orders.
- Get your measurements 100% right and confirm colours via swatches and samples prior to finalising an order request.
- Furniture items are all different dimensions and weights so be prepared to factor in a delivery cost from the retailer to your home, as larger items will require suitable freight services.
To save a lot of grief and stress, the first point is probably the most important. Deal with a retailer who communicates and who you can work and communicate with.
If you need any further advice, please don't hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we are more than happy to answer any questions you may have, no matter how small.