Barring personal type items and things that are toxic (radioactive red Fiesta), I will almost always choose the vintage version of something over a new one. When it comes to furniture, I’m a design fan and collecting vintage makes my heart soar, though I think many modern companies are coming out with beautiful work too and I’m not above buying their stuff. CB2, I love you! But I not talking new here, just new copies of old designs. Actual real pieces are always better than their copy so in the reproduction “vintage” vs true vintage contest, original wins.
But sometimes, for whatever reason, original is not possible or ideal. In this house, we’ve purchased a few reproduction items: our Modernica Nelson Bubble lamp, our kitchen faux Eames shell chairs, and one of our couches. The lamp was out of sheer cost: I couldn’t find or afford the real thing and it was the one piece that I had wanted bad enough for years that I finally felt ready to unabashedly sell-out for (vintage ones in decent condition are so hard to find…they are made of paper, after all). The kitchen chairs were out of principle: I knew the chairs would be trashed and covered in food by my sweet children. I wouldn’t dare put vintage in there, at this season of our family’s life. (What is more insulting to a furniture designer: to buy a knock-off of their design or let your kids trash an original?) So, although I think the repro is tacky and borderline intellectual and creative thievery, I bought them because they were the cutest new/used option in my price range. (How are they so cheap on amazon??? It’s iffy, and I participated and don’t feel great about it.)
And then there was that time I bought a mid century style couch at JC Penney… (this is probably a bit overdue since it looks like the couch is permanently on clearance). This saga started a long time ago with this adorable vintage couch and chair set, below. The fabric was a super cool vintage metallic frieze that needed replacing. The cushions were springy and saggy. I’m embarrassed to say that I moved TWICE (huge moves too: NC>OH and OH>CA) with them with the intention of reupholstering when we settled into a house we planned to be in for the long haul.
First off, let me tell you how overwhelming it is to choose fabric (let alone even a color) when your options are literally every fabric in existence. I was adrift. I finally sort of settled on some cute nubby stuff, still lost on the color, that was a decent value but not cheap. The fabric alone was going to be in the $500-700 range, and then the actual labor for reupholstering another $2000 minimum. All this, not including new foam, which it desperately needed.This couch is clearly awesome and much cooler than most new couches. But the price and work involved didn’t make sense for a piece in our family room that would see heavy use by youngins’. It didn’t seem like the right move. Especially when I compared it with “good enough” new repro style couches. So I sadly sold it. (Weirdest story: This was purchased very late at night by a furniture dealer from Japan who intended to ship it across the ocean in a container because mid century pieces, especially the American vernacular, are in high demand there. Where is it now???I know it’s pretty random to buy a couch online from JC Penney, but that is where I ended up. I was online checking out Jonathan Adler’s JCP stuff and Darrin links kept popping up. I was totally surprised, impressed and quickly SOLD. The color was very close to what I already had in mind. The price was unbeatable. I bought during a sale and got both for $1200…I know!!!
I loved that there was a matching chair. That made choosing this over the vintage matched set a little easier. I know matching furniture isn’t very popular these days, but I love a matching chair and couch! It’s such a classic mid century design element. Here’s the lowdown on Darrin…
Color: I wouldn’t say it’s graphite as there is a definite blue tint to it in person. It is very dark and hard to photograph, but this is pretty close, as is the above.Fabric: Pretty cute. Not nubby = bummer. But has some texture with variation in the weaving = good. Here’s a hugely blown out example so you can see the detail.Size: This is large and in charge. Especially the chair, which is nearly a two seater. Legs: They’re OK. Color is good, standard walnut. But their bulkiness reads contemporary repro, not true vintage. I’m planning on replacing them with vintage trim tapers.Comfort: Probably not the most comfortable couch in the world, but far better than any vintage couch I’ve ever owned! The back cushions are down, which is a bit squishy/floppy for my tastes. Does it off-gas? YES. I always wonder about this, does anyone else? We had to air it out for a few days in our den with the door open and then it was fine. Definitely made in China, definitely not organic cotton, definitely treated with fire-retardant and probably some stain guard. I hate all that stuff but struggled to find new upholstery fabric free of it. Also, the vintage set needed new foam anyways and would have been an off-gaser itself.
Would I recommend it? For the sale price, enthusiastically YES! For retail, no because there are better options out there. If you are in the market for a new repro style couch, A Beautiful Mess just did a thorough roundup of mid century looking couches that is really good. Definitely check it out before you buy! And, I’ll mention that I would have purchased a couch from Thrive if I hadn’t stumbled upon the JCP. I’ve seen Thrive’s furniture in person and it is all gorgeous and extremely comfortable, and there is often deeply discounted furniture if you are able to visit their actual store! Thanks for reading everybody!