eames lounge chair

Many mid-century fans loathe replicas, even though there is a tremendous market for them, and many people buy them regularly willingly.

What do we mean when we talk about replicas? We’re talking copies of iconic items made by a variety of retailers. Some of these sellers have consent from the original manufacturers, but the vast majority usually craft and sell replicas on their own, with consequences.

You might be wondering, what about copyright? Who owns those designs? We’ll get to that after we introduce the main subject.

The Eames Lounge chair and ottoman: original or replica?

The Eames Lounge chair and ottoman will serve as an example of the replica market’s current situation. 

We’ll be using the ELC as an example because it’s famous enough to be among the best-selling replicas and iconic enough to be recognized as something other than living room furniture. 

Eames Lounge Chair

Now back to our scheduled programming.

Which one should I buy? How do I tell them apart?

The average Eames Lounge replica sells for between $900 and $1,200. On the other hand, an original Eames Lounge Chair with ottoman will cost around $6,000, maybe less if you purchase second-hand. It’s clear why the replica market hasn’t stopped growing since the early 2000s.

So, in reality, get the one you can afford. With such a big price difference, that’s the first thing you ought to consider.

Material-wise, you can expect to find decent builds, woods, and fabrics for most top-tier replicas, but surely the quality of the original luxury pieces will surpass them.

The stores that sell originals know and expand their worth, and buying from them rarely feels like a regular purchase, but instead like being part of a private club, including exciting benefits that you wouldn’t get at a replica store.

How do I know if an ELC is original? There are many ways to go about this, but first, we want to make clear that not every replica is a knock-offs.

There’s a difference between a $400 “Eames Lounge Chair” with strange cushions and no reclining features and an $1100 Eames Lounge Chair replica that faithfully follows the original design. Can you guess which one is the knock-off?

So in reality, the real question is: how do I tell good replicas from knock-offs?

Choosing the right Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman replica

This is a faithful replica of the Eames Lounge chair with ottoman. In Manhattan home Design, we pay homage to the designers and stay true to this look.

  • The replica’s measurements should match the original Vitra model, which has some differences with the first ELC created. 
  • The chair should also match the original’s functionality: make sure it reclines naturally and has interchangeable cushions.
  • Last but not least, the aesthetic. The chair should have a five-leg base, while the ottoman should have a four-leg base. Silicone shock mounts should secure the chair; low-quality, rubber shock mounts wear out much quicker. 

Keep these details in mind and you’ll be fine.

What about copyright? 

The issue with furniture copyright laws is that they are more obscure than regular copyright laws. Nowadays, governments are still coming down hard on digital piracy, but nobody talks about the provenance of the Eames Lounge chair or other furniture pieces.

Its distribution rights were originally ceded by the Eameses to Herman Miller, Vitra, and other companies that no longer exist. The first two still have distribution rights and are making efforts to stop or slow down the replica market.

Years ago, Herman Miller and Vitra’s designs were protected, recognized, and manufacturing-wise, it would’ve been nearly impossible for anyone to copy them.

However, by the end of the 1990s, those laws had expired. These furniture pieces had become a part of the public domain.

It was only recently that some governments started taking action against replicas by updating their furniture copyright laws. Replica manufacturers stay out of legal trouble by changing the name of the product or explicitly stating that the product is a replica. 

However, we are firm believers that buying furniture replicas is not a bad thing, and we’ve continuously made out point regarding this.
In the meantime, consider your own experience of buying mid-century modern furniture.