Coming to Terms with a Knockoff: Original vs. Reproduction Furniture Design

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My friend Britt recently agonized over choosing between the sofa of her dreams, which was beyond her budget, and a sofa that she liked well enough that also had the benefit of being affordable. She asked for my advice.

Having just gone through a redesign where I splurged on some pieces and went budget on others, I had some thoughts on the subject. I had been struggling with picking the perfect table for my small dining space. I found two chairs that I fell in love with and spent way more money than I could really afford, but after taking the plunge I had no regrets. I love them. When I met a friend for drinks right after buying them, I couldn’t wait to get home and ultimately told my friend, “Sorry, I need to go home and look at my chairs.” So to me it was worth it to spend more on something I love and will likely hold on to for a long time.

The table, however, I settled on. I've always admired the Saarinen dining table, but the $2000+ price tag would have set me back more than I was willing to go. Because of this I avoided buying one for a long time, even though I had always wanted a round dining table and the white, I thought, would make my small space look brighter/roomier.

Finally, a friend convinced me to just get a knockoff that was a quarter of the price and fit better into my space. I did it on a whim and was even excited about it, until it showed up. It just wasn’t the table I had envisioned. The fiberglass base was super-shiny and the sleekness of the original was lost. I could have returned it, sure, but rather than take the energy to box it back up and take a hit with restocking and return fees, I decided to keep it. I still cringe when I think about it, but I’ve started to come to terms with it when I look at my space. Overall, it’s not so bad, but I definitely don’t ditch friends to admire it.

I won’t keep this table as long as the chairs. When I find the perfect table for the spot, it will go on Craigslist. But unlike the mid-century desk I sold in its place, for the price that I purchased it for three years ago, I probably won’t get the same return on investment. Hence, I've become a believer in going with the real thing — you’ll likely get most of your money back when you decide to sell it later (if you do). In the meantime, I accept my table for what it is, and I’m moving on.

(Image: Theresa Gonzalez)

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