What to look for when buying reproduction furniture online?

When shopping for quality mid-century pieces to add to your collection, key considerations are: craftmanship, materials and authenticity. After these three criteria are reviewed and met, the final consideration is pricing. In this next section, we will outline important details about each criteria to help buyers make an informed decision.

Craftsmanship: With the onslaught of discounted furniture from China and other countries, it is pertinent to look for tell-tale signs of shortcuts made in the manufacturing process. Some examples include poor stitching in upholstery, scratches on wood or metal surfaces, overall unevenness and loose parts. While there are many instances of
poor craftsmanship, there are also many examples of high quality mass-market consumer items being manufactured in China by manufacturers who pay careful attention to the finer details. If one is looking for furniture pieces to last a generation, craftsmanship is a crucial part of longevity and cannot be overlooked.

Materials: Various grades of materials are used in the upholstered sections of mid-century modern (MCM) furniture. Lower grade materials include polyurethane (PU) or bonded leather. Although these materials are not common in mid century pieces, they may be used by big box retailers such as Wal-Mart or Ikea. Higher-grade materials are top-grain leather and aniline leather. Top-grain leather is more durable and widely available in the furniture industry, whereas aniline leather has a smoother finish (no top-grain) and generally feels softer. Depending on the amount of leather used in each piece of furniture, aniline leather will typically result in an additional 5-10% more cost. However, this does not mean that aniline leather always costs more than top-grain leather. Many licensed manufacturers like Knoll (www.knoll.com) produce high quality furniture using Spinneybeck top-grain leather or corrected-grain leather for its long-term durability. When shopping for furniture online, we recommend requesting leather or fabric swatch samples for a better idea of how the finished color will look and feel.

Authenticity: Authenticity refers to the resemblance of reproduction furniture to the original design. In the case of MCM reproductions, the original design may be more than half a century old, and then been passed down through licensed and generic reproductions. Licensed reproductions typically adhere strictly to the original design specifications and manufacturing techniques, although some refinements may have been introduced over the years. A popular example is the Barcelona Chair.


Originally produced in 1929, the chair was constructed using a frame that was bolted together. In 1950, the design was modified to a seamless stainless steel frame, which was unannounced to fans of midcentury modern. A high quality generic reproduction should have the same product dimensions, styling and finishing details as the original or licensed version. In addition to overall dimensions, product dimensions also include the thickness of seat cushions and other components such as arm rests and head rests. Styling consists of the general design quality of the item and whether or not it appears and feels like the original design. Finishing details are the features that are visible upon closer inspection, such as the type of bolts or other fasteners used to finish the item. It’s also important to examine the underside of an item and whether or not it has been finished carefully. There are many established and reputable online sellers of midcentury modern reproductions including: inmod.com, infurn.com, eternitymodern.com, allmodern.com, hivemodern.com and dwr.com!

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