Getting Real About Replica And Lookalike Furniture

Real Estate

Wayfair’s new Greyleigh collection looks just like Restoration Hardware.Wayfair

Whether you’re looking at an Hermes Birkin Bag that “fell off the back of a truck,” Gucci sunglasses sold on the street or a round marble table on a pedestal—we all know nothing is quite like the real thing. But while fake fashion is often sold in seedy back alleys or on questionable websites—replica furniture is sold everywhere. But does that make it okay? More and more often, the answer is surprisingly yes.

Saying “Boo” To Real Ghost Chairs

There’s nothing like a real Ghost Chair—or is there?All Modern

For the most iconic pieces of furniture, price is the reason why they are often copied. Take Kartell’s Louis and Victoria Ghost Chairs for example. Starting at $720 to nearly $900 for a set of two, it’s easy to understand how the price of the orginal can scare even those with reasonable budgets. 

In 2014, interior design influencer Jacqueline Clair wrote a blog post justifying her reasons for buying a “knockoff” Ghost Chair from Amazon. While cost was a factor, it wasn’t the only reason why buying the original would have been unwise. She told me, “I wasn’t ready to make a big commitment/investment purchase in the genuine piece. But I was looking for something stylish that would work well in a small space. So, I decided to try out the replica and see how I liked it. If I had bought the genuine piece, I would worry much more about scratching it and whatnot, so it has been nice having an inexpensive item that I don’t have to worry too much about.”

Furthermore, Clair wasn’t trying to pass the chair off as anything it wasn’t. “It’s a great workhorse in my apartment but not the main focal point, so I don’t feel that it matters,” she explained.

Now four years later, Clair’s life has changed and the next time she buys furniture, she told me that a replica won’t be on her list. “I think furniture can be like art, so I do think that the issue of replicas can be a problem. At this point in my life, I probably wouldn’t buy a replica.”

To Invest Or Not To Invest…

Aurore Martial of Domus Venus is an interior designer in London who specializes in high-end spaces. She told me that nine out of ten times, her clients invest in original pieces for their own homes, but buy replicas for investment properties. She explained, “Replicas are a good way to get the wow effect with designs people often associate with quality and maximize returns. In rental properties, things break and wear faster than in your own home. Tenants come and go, and may not be careful. So, you won’t feel bad if somebody scratched the furniture.”

 It’s Not Always About The Money

Everything here is real, except for the image, which is a rendering.
Table: Knoll
Chairs: Gubi Beetle
Lighting: Lee Broom
Rugs: CC-Tapis
Art: LumasGlukhova Uliana Anatolievna

Sometimes, considering or purchasing a replica has nothing to do with budget, but rather with the limitations of the space itself. There’s no guarantee that the dimensions of an original piece will be ideal. Martial explained, “My clients wanted a Saarinen Tulip table, but the original model was slightly too big. Knoll wouldn’t do a custom size. So, I suggested a company in Italy making it, knowing that they used the same suppliers and that the quality would be comparable, but also because they could do bespoke sizes and designs. They didn’t come cheap either (about half the price of the original) compared to other replicas of bad quality, which are 1/10th [of the cost].” 

Her clients realized that there was no perfect solution to this problem. “[They] didn’t like the idea of a replica, which I can totally understand, and preferred going for the original even if it was a bit bigger than they would have wanted.”

The Lookalikes—Enter Greyleigh

The Billie Canopy Bed.Wayfair

In recent years, Restoration Hardware has stood out among other large furniture retailers for both their distinct styles and jaw-dropping prices. Now Wayfair is looking to beat them at their own game with the launch of a new collection called Greyleigh.

While Wayfair isn’t selling direct reproductions—the lookalike line gets close enough. For example, take a look at Restoration Hardware’s 19th C. French Iron Canopy Bed. The queen-sized frame costs $2095. However, for $100 a year, you can become a member of the store and save 25%. That brings the price down to $1571. Greyleigh’s version, the Billie Queen Canopy Bed (shown above) is in a completely different league at $337.99, membership or no membership. But, the price isn’t the only notable difference between the beds. The Billie lacks a headboard and features gold-tone accent hardware.

The Fromberg Bed.Wayfair

However, another version, the Fromberg Queen Upholstered Canopy Bed does have a fabric headboard. It also features a footboard, which the original doesn’t have. While distinctly different, the less expensive versions are beautiful pieces in their own right. 

But What’s Real Anyway?

Some of Restoration Hardware’s most coveted big-ticket items are their sofas. Greyleigh has those as well, including the ever-popular Chesterfields. But it turns out that Restoration Hardware’s Chesterfields aren’t the real things either.

According to an article on Apartment Therapy, while the exact origins of the Chesterfield sofa are unknown—it is believed they were first designed around the mid 18th century. While most furniture stores offer some version of the Chesterfield including AnthropologiePottery Barn Z Gallerie, and CB2—there isn’t a single designer or brand that can take credit for the look. 

Have We All Been Duped?

It’s easy to call out a copy of a specific piece, but when it comes to a broader look, it’s a free-for-all. So, how does that benefit the consumer? It means everyone can have a high-end look at different price points. But the one thing that can’t be replicated is quality. For example, the Saarinen Tulip table costs thousands of dollars and you can find fakes for hundreds. While the dupes get the idea right, the materials and craftsmanship are incomparable to the original. However, for renters, families with young children or anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to invest in well-made furniture—there are times when style is just more of a priority than any other factor. However, at the same time, a replica isn’t real and when we buy them, we might fool others, but we can’t fool ourselves. 

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