The real deal

Serial numbers, type of material and workmanship are among the tell-tale signs of genuine furniture. Here is what to look for

These days, many young home owners buy furnishings from e-commerce sites and online marketplaces.

But while these sites offer furniture at low cost, many items are actually copies of designer furniture.

How then do home owners differentiate between a knock-off and the real McCoy?

Paying attention to furniture descriptions is the first step. Look out for terms such as "genuine" and "original" - such furniture pieces are produced by the design firms or licensed manufacturers.

The term "inspired" informs potential buyers that an item is a modification of an original design. Some who are selling copies will tell you their wares are "replicas" and "reproductions".

The trouble is sellers may not be truthful or provide descriptions at all.

As a guide, here are features of some designer furniture icons to help you identify a genuine article before you shell out good money for it.


  • PROS AND CONS OF BUYING GENUINE FURNITURE AND REPRODUCTIONS

  • Pros of buying genuine furniture
    • You are paying for quality.

    • The value of furniture items may increase over time.

    • They come in dimensions that are ergonomic and aimed at providing comfort.

    • You are supporting the time, effort and creativity of designers.

    Cons of buying genuine furniture
    • High price

    Pros of buying reproductions
    • At a fraction of the cost of originals, such furniture items make achieving the high-end look affordable.

    • Reproductions are often easier to source than the original pieces. Cons of buying reproductions

    •Due to the materials used and the production process, the quality varies widely.

    •While they may resemble the original, they may not be ergonomically built.

    •The lower cost of mass-produced replicas leads to sustainability issues, with furniture being discarded faster as trends come and go.

EGG CHAIR BY FRITZ HANSEN (FROM $10,880) AVAILABLE AT W. ATELIER

Danish designer Arne Jacobsen's 1958 design is considered the designer's signature piece. To this day, it is still being produced by Fritz Hansen.

First designed for the Radisson SAS Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark, it is one of the most widely copied designs.

On the aluminium base is a logo with a unique serial number engraving that corresponds with the number printed on the production label. If you can pinch the fabric, it is not an authentic Egg Chair.

Other features include:

• There should be no puckering, folds and wrinkles in the seams along the curved edges.

• The aluminium foot goes through a special polishing and grinding to achieve its unique finish.

• The original is stitched in a wave pattern. A fabric logo tag is added during the hand-stitching of the upholstery.

LC4 CHAISE LONGUE BY CASSINA ($10,550) AVAILABLE AT SPACE FURNITURE

The LC4 chaise longue was designed in 1928 by Swiss-French designer Le Corbusier and French designer Charlotte Perriand - during a period of collaboration with Corbusier's cousin, Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret. The objective was to apply form and function to relaxation.

The chaise longue comes with an adjustable polished trivalent chrome plated (CR3) steel frame. The "Cassina I Maestri" logotype includes the signatures of the designers and a production number identical to that on the "Identity Card" given with purchase.

Other features include:

• The headrest is in black leather or in the same colour as the seat mat.

• Only full-grain leather without any visible defect is used. The leather is durable, soft and rich in colour.

• Seams of the tubular frame are very smooth and polished, with no noticeable welding marks.

• It has a black enamel steel base.

• There is a Cassina signature on the metal structure.

MODEL A CHAIR BY TOLIX ($199) AVAILABLE AT P5

French pioneer of galvanisation Xavier Pauchard's heavily copied chair is loved for its industrial look. First designed in 1934, the chair arrived at its final design, which made it stackable, in 1956.

It is meant for both indoor and outdoor use. The seat holes, a key feature, are for keeping the chair dry outdoors. A Tolix stamp is found at the side of the seat.

Though it may appear simple, the chair requires about 100 manual operations to produce.

Other features include:

• The seat has a slight indent. Many replicas tend to be entirely flat from one edge to the other.

• It is made of galvanised steel. The original piece weighs more than replicas, due to the higher density of galvanised steel used.

EAMES DSW CHAIR BY HERMAN MILLER (FROM $989) AVAILABLE AT XTRA

Conceptualised by American designers Charles and Ray Eames, the design was born in 1950 in response to the need for furniture in the post-war period. Herman Miller and Vitra are the two manufacturers of Eames products.

The wooden dowel base comes in four options: ebony, natural maple, white ash and walnut. The underside of the chair has a Herman Miller label.

Other features include:

• Originally made with fibreglass, the DSW is now made with polypropylene. Replicas are typically made with ABS plastic. The polypropylene seats have a chalkier colour, compared with the brighter hues of the plastic replicas.

• The wooden legs have black screws to match the black frames. For replicas, chrome screws are a giveaway.

SAARINEN TABLE BY KNOLL ($15,340 FOR DINING TABLE, $2,190 FOR SIDE TABLE) AVAILABLE AT PROOF LIVING

Part of the Pedestal collection, this design by Finnish-American architect and designer Eero Saarinen was made in 1957.

The collection, which also includes the iconic Tulip chairs, was conceptualised to remove what Saarinen referred to as a "slum of legs".

The classic marble table top features 1.9cm Arabescato marble with a bevelled edge.

The marble table top has a transparent polyester coating in either a satin or polished finish.

An attached plaque with Saarinen's signature or a Knoll logo is found on the underside of the table.

Other features include:

• The base is in one solid piece without any seam. The base is also made of heavy moulded cast aluminium, painted in white or black.

• While the table top comes in marble, wood or laminate, the base is made only from cast aluminium.

EAMES LOUNGE AND OTTOMAN BY HERMAN MILLER (FROM $9,209) AVAILABLE AT XTRA

Designed in 1956 by Charles and Ray Eames, this piece made a splash due to the smooth curves of moulded plywood that were never seen before in furniture design.

The original measures about 80cm from the floor to the top of the headrest. The seat's width and length are the same at 83cm each. There are no exposed screws in the three moulded plywood shells.

Other features include:

• The wood grain on the veneer of each shell matches that on the others and runs in the same direction because the shells are cut from a single log.

• An authentic Eames lounge chair does not recline. The chair is set at a permanent 15-degree angle.

• The base of the chair should have five legs and for the ottoman, four legs, all positioned at a slight angle.

MODEL 45 CHAIR BY HOUSE OF FINN JUHL ($18,245)

AVAILABLE AT DANISH DESIGN CO Designed by Danish architect and designer Finn Juhl in 1945, the piece was one of the first to break free of tradition by freeing the upholstered areas from the wooden frame. This classic shape has inspired many furniture designs since then.

A metal emblem marks every product from House of Finn Juhl. Finn Juhl's furniture pieces are made by craftsmen from Denmark and Japan for quality.

The dimensions of the chair are 66.5cm in width, 73cm in depth and 88cm in height. The seat height should be 42cm.

Other features include:

• The chair is made only of solid teak, oak or walnut and never other woods such as maple or ash.

• The chair has flawless joinery.

WISHBONE CHAIR BY CARL HANSEN & SON ($1,476) AVAILABLE AT P5 STUDIO

Inspired by Ming chairs, this seat was designed by Danish designer Hans Wegner in 1949. It has been in continuous production since 1950 and there are many copies in the market.

Identifying the real thing is perhaps made more difficult with the chair available in 97 materials and colours today. There is a Carl Hansen & Son label with the words "made in Denmark" on the underside, or at the back, of newer chairs. On older versions, you might find a sticker label or a Carl Hansen & Son stamp. The newer labels have Wegner's signature and a serial number instead.

The weaving is tight and uniform, at close to 90-degree angles, with the left a mirror image of the right.

Other features include:

• The curved top rail is made from one solid piece of steam-bent timber.

• The chair is made of Danish timbers such as oak, ash or walnut. The wooden frame has a smooth and even finish, with no knots in the wood.

• Look closely at the seat. The original is handwoven from more than 100m of durable paper cord, and not nylon or other synthetic materials.

PANTON CHAIR ($495) AVAILABLE AT VITRA

The world's first moulded plastic chair, it is entirely made out of one single piece of plastic.

Designed in 1960 and produced by Vitra from the beginning, the Panton chair is named after its Danish designer, Verner Panton.

A Vitra logo can be found on the underside, along with production information. On copies, there are likely to be ribs in the plastic chair.

When placed upside-down on the floor, the original is strong enough to withstand weight when you stand on it.

Other features include:

• The Panton Chair is currently available in six colours - basic dark, white, ice grey, tangerine, classic red and chartreuse - and in two models - Panton Chair Classic (in rigid polyurethane foam with a glossy finish) and Panton Chair (in polypropylene with a matt finish).

• The back of the chair has an embossed Verner Panton signature.

LC2 ARMCHAIR BY CASSINA (FROM $12,415) AVAILABLE AT SPACE FURNITURE

Designed in 1928, the LC2 armchair is a much-copied look that can be seen in many lobbies in commercial spaces today.

The seams of the tubular frame are smooth and polished, with no obvious welding marks. On the metal structure, look for the "Cassina I Maestri" logotype. This includes the signatures of the designers and a production number identical to that on the equivalent of an authenticity card.

Other features include:

• The metallic structure presents rounded curves due to a special welding technique. The copies tend to appear angular.

• The seat consists of a foam core cushion wrapped in padding for structure and comfort.

• This article first appeared in the April issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines.

• Get the August and latest issue of Home & Decor now at all newsstands or download the digital edition of Home & Decor from the App Store, Magzter or Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes at www.homeanddecor.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'The real deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe