5 Telltale Signs of Knockoff Designer Furniture
There's a distinct difference between an item that's “inspired by” a designer piece (think: IKEA’s DOCKSTA table and the Saarinen Dining Table), and a copycat that's being advertised (and priced!) as an original. If you're scouring flea markets and vintage stores for a classic, well-known item, there are some telltale signs to help you evaluate whether or not it's legit. Keep scrolling to find out how to spot a knockoff and score the real deal instead.
If a piece you are considering is being advertised as an original, take some time to look closely at how the legs, arms, seat, or feet are attached to the frame. Usually good quality pieces will have hidden hardware not obviously seen, so if your piece has exposed screws and bolts, it’s probably not the real thing.
High-quality designer furniture, both vintage and new, features superior craftsmanship and quality materials, which is why it lasts a lifetime. If a price is shockingly low compared to similar items listed on other sites or in other stores, be cautious. While this is certainly possible if you're dealing with someone selling a one-off piece on a site like eBay or Craigslist, it's probably too good to be true if the seller happens to be more experienced.
An item advertised as vintage or antique should show signs of age no matter how many times it may have been restored, or how carefully the previous owner cared for it. Sure, sofas can be reupholstered, woods refinished, and metals replated, but a truly vintage piece will show some sort of patina and oxidation on the undersides, or on the hidden hardware. When considering a piece that has been recently restored, examine it from all angles to confirm it isn’t a new knockoff being priced as a restored original.
Aside from the craftsmanship and the uniqueness of the design itself, a huge part of what goes into pricing a designer piece is the quality of material being used. After researching the characteristics of the piece you’re considering, take a close look at the finishes. Is the seat woven with a synthetic fiber rather than a rattan? Does the wood have a shiny varnished finish when all of the originals are described as oil-rubbed? Should the table base be fiberglass but the one you’re looking at is plastic? Having an idea of what the original is made of and examining the item in question with this in mind will help you make an educated evaluation.
When considering a new item, pay close attention to the different shapes and angles of the piece, even down to little details like sofa feet and the height of a chair’s arm. If the leg should be tapered, but you’re seeing a straight line, or if the arms should feel low, but they’re a normal height, it’s likely a knockoff that wasn’t carefully studied. Also, research specific construction methods if you can find information on the originals. If you know a chair’s wood grain should run vertically, but you’re looking at one that has a horizontal pattern, it’s likely a fake.
Shop some of our favorite vintage pieces below and then tell us: what’s your advice for spotting designer knock-offs? Share in the comments!