Antique furniture and antique style endure because of the elegance, class, and charm that they add to any home. But authentic antique furniture is often hard to come by, and it’s even harder on your bank account. Not everyone has the luxury of purchasing the genuine article, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a taste of the finer things.
Reproduction furniture is the best choice to get antique style without the antique price tag. It might be tempting to write off antique reproductions as mere knock-offs, but don’t be fooled. Antique reproduction furniture has a rich history of its own that dates back hundreds of years.
Antique reproduction furniture has a number of advantages apart from the price decrease. Manufacturers of reproduction furniture will often have catalogs of their product lines, saving you the effort of trips to auction houses or antique stores.
Reproduction pieces can also be tailored to meet more modern needs. For instance, chair and table heights now have to be higher than in centuries past to cater to the increasing height of the average human. Today’s technology and materials can also increase the longevity of reproduction furniture. Pieces today can be made more resistant to the elements, such as humidity and heat, making your investment last longer.
Genuine antiques are often made using different types of wood because of the costs involved in using pricier, solid woods. Typically, “hidden” areas such as drawer interiors or the back of the piece will be made of more common woods. If the piece is made using only one kind of wood throughout, it’s most likely a reproduction.
Signs of age in wood include splits, shrinkage, and separating at the seams. Check the shape of the furniture. If it’s a round table and it’s still perfectly circular, it’s likely a reproduction. You should also note the color of the wood, as some manufacturers attempt to mimic patina by staining. Raw, unstained wood in “hidden” parts is a good sign that a piece is a true antique.
If the piece has been upholstered using synthetic fibers, there’s a greater chance that it’s a reproduction. Authentic, pre-1920s antiques often used natural materials like horsehair.
Genuine antiques will have signs of wear and age from years of use. Authentic antiques will also often have dirt built up in the corners, maybe some water stains, uneven patina, and feet that are worn out.
Reproductions are intended to appear older than their actual date of production, so it’s not surprising to see signs of wear on these pieces. Signs of age can be manufactured, so you’ll have to determine if the wear and tear comes from years of actual use, or if it’s an artful recreation. Consistent or even signs of age usually indicate that a piece is a reproduction.
Authentic antiques are never completely symmetrical, as these pieces were handmade by craftsmen. Reproduction pieces, on the other hand, will have perfect edges and shapes because due to the modern machinery used in the manufacturing process. Perfect dovetail joints on a piece are most likely machine-cut, and thus, not a true antique.
Uniformity is the badge of reproductions; irregularity is the hallmark of authenticity.