If you’ve ever bought a knockoff designer purse or sunglasses in an alley on Canal Street in New York City, you know it’s not quite the same thing. But while fake fashion is often sold in seedy back alleys or on questionable websites—replica furniture is sold everywhere. Does that make it okay? More and more often, the answer is surprisingly yes.
Forbes magazine reports that for the most iconic pieces of furniture, price is the reason why they are often ripped off or copied. Take Kartell’s Louis and Victoria and 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 original 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. “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,” she told Forbes. “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.”
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.
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.
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 Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Z Gallerie, and CB2—there isn’t a single designer or brand that can take credit for the look.
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.