Loved by architects and designers for their sculptural looks and aesthetics, mid-century and early 20th century styles remain an ever-popular choice as they fit equally well in period properties as in modern and open-plan spaces.
Some cheap imports over the past decade sometimes gave reproduction furniture a bad name, however, like any marketplace there are “the good, the bad and the ugly” so selecting a good quality reproduction online is often a tricky process. Our buying guide below gives a brief outline of what to ask and look for when choosing your favourite piece:
Frames and Construction
Good quality pieces will be made with solid wood frames or high quality stainless steel. They will adhere to the original design style in terms of construction, ensuring that details such as joints, screws, and frames match up correctly.
Cheaper options often cut corners, for example, by bolting steel pieces together rather than paying the cost of tooling to manufacture a seamless piece, or using cheaper wood in sections, such as arms, of a sofa frame.
Tip: Check the finer details and ask questions on frames and how they are constructed.
When choosing leather, check that the upholstery is full leather throughout. Some cheaper copies will use PU on panels or trim parts like piping.
Type of leather: Semi-aniline leather is fine to go with as a general rule, Italian method is better than Asian leathers and semi-aniline will have a top protective coating to protect from stains and spills so a good all-rounder for family life.
Full aniline is more expensive but it will age more gracefully with the patina and creasing and wear of a premium hide, so check what type of leather it is.
Internal cushioning and filling should adhere to fire standards and regulations and reputable manufacturers and retailers will ensure that this is adhered to.
Tip: Request samples and swatches from the retailer to see the actual colour and feel and ask them what type of leather it is.
Like any furniture, there is a market for cheap and cheerful at one end and high quality at the other end.
Cheaper pieces tend not to care as much about dimensions, sizing and adhering to the original design style. They need to create a piece as cheaply per unit as possible for mass market selling, so hence why you sometimes see lounge chairs that look taller or out of proportion, or chairs that sit at a slightly off angle and so forth.
Tip: Check dimensions and sizing, (allowing a 3cm tolerance which is normal)
You are paying for the labour costs in the build quality and finishing processes along with material costs and the retailers import and storage costs are then added to these with a margin for sale. At the high end, you should receive a piece of furniture that is as close to the original remit as it possibly can be and for such, be prepared to pay for that quality.
Some online sellers, may be located on a different continent and may put delivery and lead times in very small print, so if you want something by a certain date, it is worth speaking with the retailer and checking if they have the physical stock in-house or if there is a lead time, what that might be. Remember, large items do not go via air-freight and so you need to allow for sailing schedules and sea-freight times.
It is normal for bespoke items, certain finishes and colours to be manufactured to order, and generally lead times for delivery on such items should be 2 to 3 months (8-12 weeks) as this allows approximately one month for manufacture and a further four weeks for shipping from the factory.
Tip: Check delivery and lead times directly with the retailer
Some unscrupulous sellers in the past, have extended lead times to months and months providing little communication. It is always preferable to be able to speak with a retailer directly and get answers from them over the phone or via personal contact email, rather than a generic or automated response.
Overall, like any purchase, a combination of good retailing practices, good communication and trust between buyer and seller will often give a less stressful experience than getting a cheap price, no contact and no customer service should an issue arise.
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