Affordable Design

What’s the saying? “Quality will be remembered long after the price is forgotten.” We still have two pieces of furniture we bought because they were cheap and we needed something. They will be gone this year, leaving nothing but stuff I’ve designed, stuff from other local guys or high quality manufacturers, and a few vintage/antique pieces. Took about 15 years to get there.

I’m in love with Scandinavian furniture at the moment, it’s pricey to get where I live but if you ever had an opportunity to get your hands on a swedish design called Skandium, I tell you if God made furniture… it is BEAUTIFUL

All about the second-hand. Craigslist is hit or miss, but find a vintage or antique shop with a well-curated collection, develop a relationship with the owners, and they will keep an eye out and call you when they find something you will like. Junk stores are a ton of fun and architectural salvage shopping is a great Saturday, but garage sales can be a waste of time. Estate sales, however, are much nicer and you can find some real gems.

The IKEA PS line is interesting. Don’t know how the quality is in reality though.

I am also in the same situation, I don’t have a lot of products in my room because I am waiting until I have a bigger budget.

So I thought I’d give this thread a bit of a bump (6 months isn’t too bad) after picking up a couple of knock-offs after relocating back to the UK and realising all my worldly possessions apart from clothes could fit in to a large Home Depot box. It’s time I started buying my own furniture, that wasn’t from IKEA.

Although I do agree with Richard that there is a lot of stuff that can’t be knocked off like an Eames Lounge chair there is plenty that is passable. Sometimes it just isn’t worth paying full retail or waiting around for that perfect item to pop-up from some ebayer that doesn’t know what they are selling.

Recently I ordered a knock off/reproduction Arne Jacobsen ‘AJ’ Lamp and an Eames DSW chair. Here in the UK the Conran store sells the chair for £329 and the lamp for £547. A total of £876 on two pieces of furniture. I paid £60 for the lamp and £30 for the chair, both brand new and realistically saved myself £786.

Now I admit, the chair has a few minor details that are a little off. Mainly the hardware and the wooden legs are a bit pink, however the lamp is spot on and to be honest only myself and other very design conscious people might be able to spot that they are knock offs. Most of my friends wouldn’t notice and will probably think I splashed out a lot of money.

Anyway, the point I’m getting at is I am very pleased with these two items, they didn’t break the bank, they aren’t IKEA and they look fantastic. Some knock offs do the job when you know exactly what designer item you are looking for.

You didn’t save £786. You spent £90 on items that may have temporary utility, but aren’t worth anything to anyone but you or the scrapyard and will likely not last.



The chair I 100% agree with but given that I am of the “instant gratification” generation I’m pleased with the purchase and will fully get my £30 out of it. The alternative was an IKEA chair as this was an item I needed there and then, not something I could shop around for even though I do intend going forward to try and find those gems.

The lamp however you genuinely cannot tell the difference and to be honest I don’t think I could justify the expense for a desk lamp of this nature. I’m sure it will last for a number of years as well, just as long as the electrics don’t fry out but I am sure the ‘guts’ are no different than a legitimate version and probably safer than an old original. Again, it was something I knew that would look great but isn’t hitting my wallet.

Maybe saying it was a saving was wrong, but to the point of the original post and to the many young designers/people such as myself there are ways to get that ‘look’ without a) breaking the bank b) trying to strike lucky on eBay/a market/side of the road. To your point as well they do mean something to me and in all honesty I didn’t buy them as a monetary investment, more an investment in myself/my eyes.

With Replicas, Homages, Reproduction, Knockoff, Fakes. Whatever you want to call them.

The most important thing is how does it make you feel. If you’re buying them to impress your friends, to pass them off as real, or as an investment. You’re gonna have a bad time. It’ll never be 100% the same and it will annoy you or make you paranoid.

But if you buy them for yourself, because you want to own that design aesthetic. Then you’ll be happy and thats what really matters.
Most of the world doesn’t care, what clothes you have, what watch you wear, what furniture you have, what car you drive. When you get on the highway your just another car.

This is actually true with just about everything we buy/consume.

The guy upstairs was getting evicted. All of his stuff was on the curb, waiting for a ride.

I spied a Bertoia diamond chair. Offered $5 so he would not have to move it.

I struck it lucky on the side of the road. Still have it today. But with a cheapo cushion. I don’t care the cushion is only of temporary utility and only worth something to me or the scrapyard. $300 for a yard of fabric, a couple square feet on polyurethane foam and 15 minutes of third world labor has no value for me.

This is pretty much the reason why I bumped this thread and posted about my recent purchases. The truth of the matter is I’m just not in the financial situation to afford the real McCoy, yet I love the aesthetic/design so to me they are of value. If I do get a compliment about them from a friend then I’d gladly admit they were knockoffs, but their authenticity doesn’t detract from how they visually add to how I’d like my home to be decorated.

Also, I’ve been pretty nomadic so far in life and it currently doesn’t make sense to me to invest too much in to ‘possessions’. I’ve moved across the world and back once, will more than likely be moving again so a £30 replica Eames chair isn’t going to kill me to let go, just as long as it serves its purpose whilst I have it.

Anyway, it would be great to hear more stories of people finding gems. Unfortunately in the UK the only place I could think to actively look for things would be in some of the London street markets, but those guys will be clued up on the value of items so doubt I could pick up something great for less than £5…

I can fully understand you, Sketchgrad.
Possesion simply doesn’t fit my lifestyle. Right now I am constantly switching Countries/Continents… I am not even sure if I will be here next year. I mostly rent furnished appartements and I am glad for every piece of IKEA that is in those places because usually they serve their purpose without offending me too much aesthetically. I used to put a few fake designer pieces into my places. Especially where they were extremely simple to buy (In China they obviously give a shit and sell you very high grade fakes for small money). And I left that stuff behind without batting an eye. I got far more interesting things in my life going on than worrying about my desk lamp… I mean seriously: there is simply no other option for me. No financially sane option. And no, I don’t consider it sane to eat “noodles for a month” to be able to afford a chair or something… especially if I cannot be sure if I can take it with me next time I move. And finding a designer piece on a flee market is usually a “once in a lifetime”-thing that makes a good story. But is not really a productive method to buy interior.

It has nothing to do with missing appreciation. I love products. I love thinking about them, I love creating them and I also love to have them around me. I just don’t have any particular interest in ownership. And with every year I grow older it seems more and more ridiculous to me. I don’t want to own a car. And I am very sure having an Eames lounge chair in my living room is actually having a rather minimal effect on my life quality (I am not saying that it wouldn’t be really nice) :wink:

The opposite is the case: I feel as a designer it is much easier for me to see behind the symbolic value of a product. I know how a brand is constructed. I know how things are loaded with meaning. And I know that everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time. Please, let us stop to pretend the expensive original bought from vitra/Herman Miller/whatnot is indestructible. Sure, 95% of the existing fakes and copies are utter shit, but there are always a few really REALLY well made fakes that are nearly indistinguishable even for the trained designer’s eye. And a lot of them probably last as long. Let us not pretend it is HARD to fake an Eames plastic chair or an Eiermann table that is just as good as the real deal if you really want to. Is it morally watertight to buy that stuff? Absolutely not. But you should realize that owning and buying really expensive designer ware is a hobby that mostly lives through its symbolic value of things, and very rarely can be justified by “hard facts” (there are a few exceptions of course) . And it is not necessary to project that hobby onto other people… even if they are designers.

One Day I’ll probably settle down and also start buying the real, expensive stuff (I assume/hope by then I also will have enough cash to do so without living on ramen for a month)… OR I will postpone it to the point of time when the hypothetical kids are just a few years older :mrgreen:

You should have bought an IKEA chair- at least they put the designer’s name on the box and pay them for their work (and enforce minimal labor and environmental standards). Whatever bottom feeder Chinese factory made the junk you bought didn’t do any of those things. It’s head shakingly sad when even professional designers can’t see the results of purchasing behavior like this.

Well, to be fair, they usually DO put the designer’s name on the boxes :mrgreen: They just don’t pay them for it… I believe at this point Arne Jacobsen and Eames don’t really care anymore, though :wink:

Working conditions/enviromental impact with a fake product are as good/bad as with any random white label manufacturer. Whoever is free from sin may cast the first stone :slight_smile:

Au contraire mon frere.

Let’s not blow this out of proportion over two pieces of furniture. To put the record straight I would never feel comfortable buying knocks offs of furniture that was always intended to be premium such as a Lounge Chair, Barcelona Chair or even an Eames Group chair for that matter. I know the quality of those would be completely sub standard and I’d know just how off looking they would be, something that would bug me immensely.

But the Eames plastic/fiberglass chair range I just can’t get on board with paying £300+ per chair. Maybe that price for a complete set of four, but not individually.

They were designed with this quote in mind: “Getting the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least”. They were never designed to be sold for their current price, as even stated in this thread a lot of these pieces were designed to outfit schools very cheaply.

As for the manufacturing methods that is a different story and just because I get paid to be a designer my ethics most of the time don’t reflect what my disposable income is. At the end of the day I’m still a consumer with a paycheck that only goes so far. Also, IKEA has been in hot water plenty of times in it’s history over its manufacturing methods and use of forced labour, so have plenty of other brands we all pay top dollar for.

  1. Buying a knock off doesn’t benefit the designer. Period. Would you like your designs knocked off?
  2. Price point or materials have nothing to do with if it should be ok to knock it off.
  3. Original prices have nothing to do with it. Value accrued is value for a reason.
  4. Knock offs have utility value, but nothing more.
  5. Knock offs are rarely the same quality. Something in the supply chain has to give be it labor costs or material costs. It’s naive to think herman miller is just making x times profit on the same thing with the same labor values and materials.

Buy what you want. I’m only saying that both long and short term that buying quality and original far outweighs the minimal short term benefits of buying cheap or knockoff.

Sure, we all can’t afford what we want, but I believe better to buy the best you can than a sub par version of that you cannot.



Price is determined by what the market will bear.

Brand has value.

My knock-off cushion may be a “lesser” quality than the original but it is irrelevant as both will last my lifetime of use.

Just remembered this discussion from 2008 > Ever “found” valuable vintage furniture?

I blundered into two Knoll Eero Saarinen “Tulip” Ashtrays at a yard sale earlier in the year. I got them both for $25 and sold them on eBay to a gentleman in Manilla for $1,000 … I feel so, dirty.

Arne Jacobson, Charles and Ray Eames are all dead, so they no longer collect royalties. Moreover, in the US or Canada a design patent is valid only 20 years (max). All of these ideas are now in the public domain and can be made and sold by anyone. I think it’s wonderful that these great designs are now widely available.

Having said that, I wouldn’t order anything online. I want to feel the material and flip things over to make sure the piece is built properly. If it has a reputable factory behind it, I would be more tempted.

Having said that, I have almost only Ikea furniture and my Herman-Miller office chair.

That was my thinking when I purchased those pieces that got this thread going again. Although the design is great and is sort after, I just couldn’t swallow the price tag that came with them given how easy it is to obtain something that looks exactly the same for far less.

To add to that though, I recently purchased a legit “Trash” by Jasper Morrison which was £40 and although still pricey for a desk trashcan I’m ok with it as I know not many people will have one and the designer is still alive, creating great work.

I’m also looking in to a few other pieces that I’m ok with paying full retail for such as the M.Lamp by David Irwin and the Tab Lamp by Barber Osgerby. There is also a really nice set by Naoto Fukasawa for Muji of a toaster, blender, kettle and rice cooker (won’t get that) that I am also looking at. They’re all nicely designed objects, which still have a bit of uniqueness about them, where as I know plenty of homes that will have Eames chairs, essentially making the room look like an expensive version of an IKEA catalogue.

Heres the Naoto Fukasawa Muji set. Which by the way as stated before in this thread, Muji has some really fantastic everyday items that are all nicely designed:
MujiNaoto fukasawa.jpg