Vintage Furniture – Real or Fake? Corbusier’s Grand Confort LC Series

Interest in vintage furniture is at an all time high with shows and auctions commanding top-dollar for your grandmother’s tired old Danish modern dining set. Scores of national chain retailers such as Design Within Reach, Modernica and Room & Board offer good replicas of many pieces, or contemporary licensed “originals”. But when buying vintage – whether from a dealer or an individual – how do you know you’re getting an authentic piece? A trained eye knows how to spot the details.  

Le Corbusier LC2 chair

Le Corbusier LC2 chair

There are too many designers and styles to deal with in a single post, so today I’ll deal with Le Corbusier’s LC-series chairs – the ever-popular cube-like chrome and black leather LC2 and LC3 “Grand Confort” chairs.  Originally designed in 1928, these pieces have stood the test of time and feel as contemporary today as the day they were first concieved.
 
 
The chair comes in two sizes, the more iconic Grand Confort petit modele measuring 30″ wide by 27.5″ deep and 26.4″ tall; and the Grand Confort grand modele with the longer, lower, sleeker profile of 39″ wide by 28.7″ deep and 24.4″ tall.  Both are accompanied by two and three-seat sofas that share the proportions of the chairs.  Note: the chairs are often referred to as the “Petite Confort” and the “Grand Confort” but this is innacurate – both are “Grand Confort” with one being petite and the other grand, kinda like the cup sizes at Starbucks.  
They may seem ubiquitous because they seem to be available everywhere at every price point. And that’s because anyone can make a chair that looks like a Corbusier as long as they vary it just enough to not infringe on the trademark. They can vary the dimensions, throwing the proportions off. Or the termination of the legs may be different. The welds will almost always be visible and rough. And if it’s vintage and shows any rust, it’s most certainly not the real thing as they never, ever rust.

 

If you’re buying new, there’s only one source for an original – Cassina. They’ve held the exclusive worldwide rights since 1964, granted by the Fondation Le Corbusier.  Cassina has their own stores in select cities and sell through other retailers everywhere. So if you want the real thing, just ask if it’s made by Cassina and check the tag and paperwork that comes with it. But if you’re buying vintage, know what to look for and never take the dealer’s word for it – it’s amazing how often they’re wrong.

 

 

 

Here are my rules for buying a vintage Corbusier LC series chair:

 

Rule 1: If it’s cheap, it’s fake. An authentic LC2 or LC3 Grand Confort chair starts at $3,200 new and prices range from $2,000 and up for good vintage pieces. If you think you’re getting a bargain for much less than that, the joke’s on you.

 

 

Rule 2: Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s real. There are a lot of good fakes – some are even better-made than the real thing – but they are not going to retain their value like the real thing. And ignorant (or ambitious) sellers can ask outrageous prices.

 

 

Rule 3: Know where to find the serial number. On Le Corbusier’s LC2 and LC3 chairs, feel under the upper-most chrome bar on the left arm of the chair. Authentic chairs have a serial number etched into the chrome – you can feel the bumps with your fingers. On some vintage pieces, the placement of the serial number may vary – sometimes it’s behind the backrest or on the right arm bar – but most years it was on the left side.

 

 

From the Cassina website: “According to the designer’s heirs “all pieces of furniture which do not bear the logotype Cassina, the signature of Le Corbusier and the production number are counterfeits”. All authentic Le Corbusier furniture is indelibly marked with the indicia shown below.”

 

A great side-by-side analysis of the real thing vs. a knock-off can be seen here.

 

 

If you can’t afford the real thing but want a good fake, look at the weld seams and the legs. The legs should end cleanly with a chrome end-piece – not with a rubber cap and not with tapered ends.

 

 

Learn about how to tell a real Eames Lounge Chair 670 and Ottoman 671 here. And in future postings, I will write about Mies van der Rohe’s “Barcelona” chair and ottoman, Noguchi’s coffee table, Arne Jacobsen’s “Egg” and “Swan” chairs, and other iconic – and often imitated pieces.

 

 

Read about recent sale prices at auction here.  And don’t miss the smart way to buy quality furniture whether your buying for yourself or staging a house for sale here.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements