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Fake or real: Cheat sheet to spotting authentic designer furniture

How do you spot an authentic furniture piece from a fake one? From online marketplaces like Carousell to an array of online stores like Taobao and EZbuy, shopping now goes beyond borders. No longer just places for fashion and small goods, these sites also offer furniture at low-cost, with many of such items being copies of designer furniture.  

Paying attention to furniture descriptions is the first step.

  1. "Genuine" and "original": Such furniture pieces are produced by the design firms or licensed manufacturers.
  2. "Inspired": This informs potential buyers that an item is a modification of an original design.
  3. "Replicas" and "reproductions": Some who are selling copies will tell call their wares by these terms.

The trouble is that sellers may not be truthful, or provide descriptions at all. As a guide, here are traits of some designer furniture icons we have compiled, to help you identify a genuine article before you shell out good money for it.

 

LC4 CHAISE LONGUE BY Cassina

The LC4 chaise longue by Cassina was designed in 1928 by Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand during a period of collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret. The objective was to apply form and function to relaxation. Available at Space Furniture

The authentic LC4 chaise longue has these features:

  • An adjustable polished trivalent chrome plated (CR3) steel frame and black enamel steel base.
  • A headrest in black leather or in the same colour as the mat.
  • Only full grain leather without any visible defects is used. The leather is durable, soft and rich in colour.  
  • Seams of the tubular frame that are very smooth and polished, with no noticeable welding marks.
  • The “Cassina I Maestri” logotype, which includes the signatures of the designers and a production number identical to that on the “Identity Card” given with purchase.
  • Comes with Cassina signature on the metal structure

 

EAMES LOUNGE AND OTTOMAN by Herman Miller

Designed in 1956 by design couple Charles and Ray Eames, this iconic piece made a splash due to the smooth curves of moulded plywood that were never seen before in furniture design. Available at Xtra.

 

The authentic Eames Lounge and Ottoman (seen here) has these features: 

  • Measures 32 inches from floor to the top of the headrest, with the seat's width and length at 32.75 inches each.
  • Have no exposed screws in the three moulded plywood shells.
  • The wood grain on the veneer of each shell matches with the others and runs the same direction because they are cut from a single log.
  • An authentic Eames Lounge chair does not recline. The chair is set at a permanent 15-degree angle.
  • The base should have five legs on the lounge chair , and for the ottoman, and four legs all positioned at a slight angle.

 

EGG CHAIR by Fritz Hansen 

Danish designer Arne Jacobsen’s 1958 design is considered the designer’s signature piece. To this day, it is still being produced by Fritz Hansen. First designed for the Radisson SAS Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark, it is of the most widely copied designs. Available at W. Atelier.

 

The authentic Egg Chair has these features:

  • On the aluminium base is a logo with a unique serial number engraving that corresponds with the number printed on the production label.
  • The original is stitched in a wave pattern. A fabric logo tag is added during the handstitching of the upholstery.
  • There should be no puckering, folds and wrinkles in the seams along the curved edges.
  • If you can pinch any fabric off the chair, it’s not an authentic Egg Chair.
  • The original looks sleek and elegant. The proportions of the copies tend to look bulky and the cushion may seem flat.
  • The aluminium foot goes through a special polishing and grinding to achieve its unique finish.

 

SAARINEN TABLE by Knoll 

Part of the Pedestal collection, this design by the Finnish American architect and designer Eero Saarinen was made in 1957. The collection, which also includes the iconic Tulip chairs, was conceptualised to remove what Saarinen referred to as a “slum of legs”. Available at Proof Living.

 

The authentic Saarinen Table has these features:

  • The classic marble table features 0.75-inch Arabescato marble with a bevelled edge.
  • The marble table top has a transparent polyester coating in either satin or polished finish.
  • The base is heavy moulded cast aluminium, painted in white or black.
  • The base is in one solid piece without any seams.
  • While the tabletop comes in either marble, wood or laminate, the base is never made of any other materials other than cast aluminium.
  • An attached plaque with Saarinen’s signature or Knoll logo is found on the underside of the table. 

 

MODEL A CHAIR by Tolix 

French pioneer of galvanisation Xavier Pauchard’s heavily copied chair is loved for its industrial look. First designed in 1934, the chair arrived at its final design, which made it stackable, in 1956. Available at P5.

 

The authentic Model A chair has these features:

  • Made of galvanised steel. The original piece weighs more than the replicas due to the higher density galvanised steel used.
  • The chair is meant for both indoor and outdoor use. The seat holes, a key feature, are for keeping the chair dry outdoors.
  • A Tolix stamp is found at the side of the seat.
  • Though it may appear simple, the chair requires about 100 manual operations to produce.
  • The seat has a slight indent. Many replicas tend to be entirely flat from one edge to the other.

 

EAMES DSW CHAIR by Herman Miller 

Replicas of the DSW chair are ubiquitous. Conceptualised by the Eames, the design was born in 1950 in response to the urgency of furniture required in the post-war period. Herman Miller and Vitra are the two manufacturers of Eames products. Available at Xtra.

 

The authentic Eames DSW Chair has these features:

  • Originally made with fibreglass, the DSW is now made with polypropylene. Replicas are typically made with ABS plastic.
  • The polypropylene seats have a chalkier colour compared to the brighter hues of the plastic replicas.
  • The wooden legs come with black screws to match the black frames. Chrome screws are a giveaway of replicas.
  • The wooden dowel base comes in four options: ebony, natural maple, white ash and walnut
  • The underside of the chair has a Herman Miller label.

 

LC2 ARMCHAIR by Cassina 

Also designed in 1928, the LC2 armchair is a much-copied design that can be seen in many waiting areas in commercial spaces today. Available at Space Furniture.

 

The authentic LC2 armchair has these features:

  • The metallic structure presents rounded curves due to a special welding technique. The copies tend to appear angular.
  • Seams of the tubular frame are smooth and polished, with no obvious welding marks.
  • The seat consists of a foam core cushion wrapped in padding for structure and comfort.
  • On the metal structure, look for the “Cassina I Maestri” logotype. This includes the signatures of the designers and a production number identical to that on the “Identity Card”.

 

WISHBONE CHAIR by Carl Hansen & Son 

Inspired by Ming chairs, Hans Wegner designed it in 1949. It has been in continuous production since 1950. There are many copies of this chair out there. Identifying the real thing is perhaps made difficult with the chair available in 97 materials and colours today. Available at P5.

 

The authentic Wishbone chair (seen in this home) has these features:

  • Spot a Carl Hansen & Son label with Made in Denmark on the underside, at the back of newer chairs.
  • On older versions, you might find a sticker label or just a Carl Hansen & Son stamp. The newer labels have Wegner’s signature and a serial number.
  • Look closely at the seat. The original is handwoven from over 100 metres of durable paper cord, and not nylon or other synthetic materials.
  • The weaving is tight and uniform, at close to 90-degree angles with the left a mirror image of the right.
  • The curved top rail is made from one solid piece of steam-bent timber.  
  • Made of Danish timbers such as oak, ash and walnut. The wooden frame has a smooth and even finish with no knots in the wood.

 

PANTON CHAIR by Vitra 

The world’s first moulded plastic chair, entirely out of plastic in one single piece. Designed in 1960 and produced by Vitra from the beginning, the Panton chair is named after its Danish designer Verner Panton. Available at Vitra.

 

The authentic Panton chair has these features:

  • The back of the chair has an embossed Verner Panton signature.
  • A Vitra logo can be found at the bottom with a circular production information.
  • On the copies, there are likely to have ribs in the plastic chair.
  • When placed upside down on the floor, the original is strong enough to withstand weight when you stand on it.
  • Available in two models: Panton Chair Classic (in rigid polyurethane foam with a glossy finish) and Panton Chair (in polypropylene with a matte finish).
  • The Panton Chair is currently available in six colours: basic dark, white, ice grey, tangerine, classic red and chartreuse.

 

MODEL 45 CHAIR by House of Finn Juhl 

Designed by Danish architect and designer Finn Juhl in 1945, the piece was one of the first to break free of tradition by freeing the upholstered areas from the wooden frame. This classic shape has inspired many furniture designs since. Available at Danish Design Co 

 

The authentic Model 45 chair has these features:

  • A metal emblem marks every product from House of Finn Juhl. 
  • Finn Juhl’s furniture pieces are made by craftsmen from Denmark and Japan for quality
  • The chair presents flawless joinery.
  • Note the dimensions of the chair: 66.5cm width, 73cm depth and 88cm height. The seat height should be 42cm.
  • The chair is made of solid teak, oak or walnut only and never other woods like maple and ash.

 

Written by Rossara Jamil for Home & Decor, April 2019.

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