by Mr Noded
Furnish.co.uk guides you through the moral maze of reproductions and fakes.
Taste matures, changes and can’t help but be swayed in some small part by the whims of fashion. I used to be of the mind that if it wasn’t already a classic, it wasn’t worth the bother; and that went for books as much as designed objects or designer furniture. I suppose it suggests that I wasn’t confident in my own opinion, and I didn’t trust my taste. Coupled with that, I wouldn’t touch a reproduction or a reissue; I wanted the real thing. Even if I couldn’t afford it. I’d just have to pass.
A trip to Prague the centre of Czech cubism in the early 20th century – changed my mind. I fell in love with a monochrome, prismatic pot Cubist designer Pavel Janek in 1911. It was a design icon and had been reissued to sell in the museum shop. There was absolutely no chance of getting my hands on the real thing, seducing me from behind the glass, in a no doubt heavily alarmed display cabinet. What to do? Back in the museum shop for the fiftieth time, I deferred to a much older, much wiser, and more design-savvy friend, asking him, ‘Is it stupid to buy a reproduction?’ How he laughed. It was the most expensive, ostensibly ‘new’, object I had ever bought. A double-edged sword of guilt plunged into my racing heart. It was completely out of character, but I’ve never regretted it. Every time I look at that pot, I fall a little more in love. In the words of Cat Stevens via Rod Stewart, ‘first love is the deepest’. Its forever changed my thinking on reissued design classics (not swooning over the diminutive crooner; my affair with Pavel Janek).
The pot palaver was out of character both because of the price and because of my apparently design-snobbish tendencies. While I’ve never been one for swinging logo-emblazoned handbags, I’ve always had a weakness for the subtle detailing and quietly confident quality of designer furniture. Yesterday, much more in keeping with my thrifty nature, I was first out of the trap when a 1963 Galt doll’s house was advertised on Freecycle. (If youre not on Freecycle: sign up, sign up, sign up. People give away some amazing stuff). This doll’s house won an Observer design award in 1969, and it’s still in production, and still winning awards, to this day. I felt a twinge at ‘still in production’; in some circumstances, rampant reissuing can devalue the original. But this is generally the case when the item in question has become very fashionable all of a sudden. People get wind of these things, and before you know it, there’s a rash of repros and copies on the market. I’d never sell the doll’s house, so it really doesn’t matter. It’s a restoration project and a labour of love. You’ll soon be able to follow my progress on Furnish.co.uk. Still, designer furniture like Charles & Ray Eames’ iconic lounge chair and ottoman, or Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair will always hold their value, and the patina of age and use will always have human appeal. A reissue (not a copy) of a design classic is just as attractive. Good design is timeless. And thats the very reason these things are still in production or being reissued today.
Standing outside the local auction, leaning on a formica-topped table with industrial, compass-like legs I’d ‘won’, I saw someone at the junk shop opposite grabbing a child’s version of Ernest Race’s celebrated Rocker, designed in 1948 and exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I’ve just paid a stupid price for an old school desk complete with chewing gum on the underbelly, and he’s probably buying that for a tenner. But I looked again at my rash purchase, consoled myself with those wonderful tapered steel legs, and remembered that Race Furniture is reissuing a selection of the pipe-toting designer’s iconic pieces this year. I live in hope, that someday I might be able to afford one.
So the upshot of this ramble through the thorny issue of reproductions, is: throw caution to the wind, trust your taste, and you can’t stray far from the path to personal style. I still wouldn’t go with a fake though. You’ll regret it the morning after. To me, and to the market, they’ll always be faux pas.
Catherine Gregg is the feature writer for Furnish.co.uk, a leading supplier of designer furniture.