Reproduction Furniture or the Real Thing: Antique Furniture or Copies?

November 7, 2017 Posted by kyu7

Should you purchase reproduction furniture or the real thing? Is it better to buy antique furniture for your home or copies? The word ‘copy’ might be unfair to cabinetmakers skilled in hand-crafting reproductions since many are better made than the originals, but that is fundamentally what they are.

In using the term ‘better made’ there is no intention to suggest that the reproductions are better than the originals. Certainly not in the sense that a copy of the Mona Lisa could ever be better painted than Leonardo Da Vinci’s original.

However, it is possible for a reproduction Louis XIV sofa to be stronger than the original due to advances in construction techniques. That is itself is admitting that it would not then be a perfect copy, if there ever could be such a thing.

However, this discussion is not about the relative merits of originals and reproductions or copies, but about which would be the better for your home. The original or the copy. While it would be great to be able to afford to buy the originals of such fine furniture, in many respects it would not be suitable for the modern home.

How Are Antiques Defined?

First, what is the definition of an ‘antique?’ In 1930, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act defined it as being any item produced prior to 1830. In 1966, the U.S. Customs Office changed this to be any item over 100 years old (for some reason excluding carpets and rugs!) In 1993, this was further amended to include objects that have been amended or restored with modern parts where these do not exceed 50% and where the intrinsic character of the object has not been changed.

Given this, then any item made prior to 1913 can be regarded as antique. It is not these items with which we are concerned but furniture of recognized antiquity. Examples include the French Louis and Imperial periods, the UK Georgian periods and earlier, and American colonial furniture.

Drawbacks of Original Antiques

A main drawback of original antiques is their great age and value. Would you really want a genuine piece by a great English master of the late 18th century Georgian period to be sitting in your home? A cabinet by the great Thomas Chippendale sold at Christies, London England, in 2008 for £2.4 million (around $3.8 million.)

That’s one drawback. The insurance and your reluctance to permit anybody to use it! Thomas Sheraton pieces of around the same era are built with the hallmark Sheraton slender legs that might snap in an instant if leaned upon today. In fact, that’s another major drawback of using genuine antique furniture of value in your home.

Benefits of Reproduction Furniture

One benefit of reproduction furniture is obvious. You can furnish your home with pieces that are practically exact copies of the originals at a very low price. Southwood Furniture is America’s principal and most respect manufacturer of reproduction antique furniture. This company can provide you with reproductions of pieces from the major British and European furniture eras, and also from the American Colonial era.

This company is mentioned principally because it is the only furniture manufacturer in the world that has received permission to reproduce the furniture contained in the 36 homes that comprise the Historic New England Museum. It does so beautifully, and you can have any of these pieces reproduced to display and use in your own home.

Herein lays the major benefit of reproduction furniture. You get to use these designs without the drawbacks associated with age and wear. The original upholstery is reproduced as far as it is possible to do so, and the woodworking skills are awesome. The turned legs and stretchers are as near to perfect as you will get, and the hand carving is of the highest quality.

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