Designed for the Royal SAS Hotel in Copenhagen, Arne Jacobsen's 1958 Egg chair is perhaps the most sensuous and organic modern interpretation of the classic wing chair. To his upholstered foam and fiberglass, the Danish architect added functionality and comfort: a tilting mechanism and 360-degree swivel base.
Small wonder that the chair produced for more than 50 years by manufacturer Fritz Hansen has been so widely copied. In addition to the usual Internet knockoffs, Restoration Hardware has jumped on the Jacobsen bandwagon. It has reproduced the Egg chair as the 1950s Copenhagen chair and also has launched the Devon, a variation of the Swan chair, another Jacobsen design for the Royal SAS (now the Radisson Blu Royal).
One of the chairs below is the original Jacobsen Egg chair with a starting price of about $6,000. The others are copycats selling for one-fourth to one-fifth of that price, available from Restoration Hardware and the website Infurn. How do you tell the difference? What are you getting for your money? Keep reading ...
Restoration Hardware's 1950s Copenhagen chair, above center, is slightly taller at 45 inches and comes in eight pale shades of cotton, linen and velvet, from $1,345 to $1,625. Look closely and you will see that the chair, below left, has double tuck-and-roll seams with puckered fabric, whereas the two Jacobsen Egg chairs pictured below right have taut fabric and a clean, uniform, top-stitched single seam. Restoration Hardware's Copenhagen chair also comes in distressed leather for $1,695 to $1,995. No matching ottomans are available.
The Infurn website explains that factory-direct sales of its furniture helps cash-conscious consumers avoid the high licensing fees and marketing costs associated with designer originals. It doesn't mention whether the company pays royalties to designers' estates.
In scale, Infurn's "Egg chair inspired by Arne Jacobson,"right, is nearly identical to the Jacobsen original. It sells for $1,199.95 in fabric and $1,579.95 to $1,799.95 for leather. Ottomans are $349.95 to $529.95. The website advertises a five-year guarantee, which is not the norm for knockoffs.
In an even more brazen move, Infurn has also produced a version of Fritz Hansen's 50th anniversary limited edition of Jacobsen's chair, nicknamed the Golden Egg and shown at the top of this post. It has a solid bronze base and is upholstered with a suede back and a smooth leather interior. Only 999 went on sale worldwide in February 2008, price upon request. Infurn's version is $2,099.95, but the upholstery is not the premium hides found on the Fritz Hansen edition, and the base is not bronze.
-- David A. Keeps