Some people can sing. Some people can dance. My one worthwhile talent is that I can knock off designer looks for cheap. It’s actually not that hard once you learn the steps. A lot of it boils down to research and a good memory.
Step One: Choose Your Look
Find an image to serve as inspiration that you’d like to duplicate in your space. Let’s say you need a home office area in a corner of your room and you also need storage space for all of your books. For this little demonstation–we’ll take the image below from a recent Bang and Olufsen ad. This designer look cost about $15,000 to produce.
Step Two: Analyze
This is where you need to study the image and boil it down to its components. In this case–what makes this space interesting is the texture created by all the books and the dark color palette. The very squared-off, rectilinear bookshelves and work table are balanced by sinuous chairs, a sculptural lamp, a few pieces of curvy pottery, and some ornately framed artwork. A piece of geometric art acts as a focal point.
Step Three: Research
Now things get tricky. If you’re not familiar with the names of different furniture pieces (or their designers)–this will take you a little longer. The secret here is that for every high-end designer piece on the market–there is a factory in Asia cranking out reproductions, and these repros are available to you for a lot less money via the internet, a big box store, or even just some guy with a poorly lit shop in low rent part of town. It will take a little digging though.
I’ll soon be posting a weekly series on this site that I call Designer Index. The purpose of these will be to familiarize you with major designers and their most important designs. Once you have a little familiarity–you’ll be able to look at a vignette like this and know for example that the black curvy chair next to the desk is a Wishbone Chair and it was designed by Hans Wegner. Knowing that tidbit of design history will allow you to directly google “wishbone chair” and quickly find what you want instead of spending hours searching for “wooden curvy chair” (which will eventually work too; it just takes a lot longer).
With our preliminary research out of the way–we know that we’ll be shopping for these key items:
- a Parsons Table
- a Wisbone Chair
- an Elmwood Ming Chair
- a Snoopy Lamp
- black bookcases
- geometric art
Step Four: Shop
Because this is my one true talent–I’m setting a time limit to bargain shop for this. I’m going to knock off this entire look during my lunch break. I know. It seems a little showy but come on–this is my one true talent! You wouldn’t go to see Lady Gaga perform and expect her to just dial it in. Would you? This is about showmanship! (Note to self: find more butch examples.)
Anyhoo–here is what I found.
First off, I’m going to give you an explanation of how much the key items in the designer look cost:
Parsons Table–let’s say (low-end) this cost $1169 like this one from Ethan Allen. More realistically–this was probably about $2000.
Wisbone Chair—DWR will sell you the real thing for $855.
Elmwood Ming Chair–You’d have to scour some antique stores and auctions for the real deal but I did find this pair online for $3250. So, let’s just say $1625 each.
Snoopy Lamp-Moss sells this bad boy by Castigioni for $924
Black Bookcases– These are hard to source via online search but we can conservatively price these at $1500 each or 2 for $3000.
Geometric Art– We’ll say that this original painting and its elaborate frame job (along with the other pieces lining the floor) would come in at $5,000 altogether
Ceramics/Pottery-They haven’t scrimped anywhere else. So let’s budget a solid $1600 for the accessories on the desk and atop the bookcases.
Now, let’s see how much I can save by searching for reproductions of the same items during my lunch hour:
Parsons Table– this sleek table is available for $400 from West Elm.
Wisbone Chair-there are a ton of places that sell these for around $200. I found this one for $190 from Walmart. Who knew?
Elmwood Ming Chair– Pearl River Mart is my go to for all things Asian-inspired. I found the chair for $495 there. I image (given a little leg work beyond just an internet search) you could probably find one of these cheaper than this at a smaller brick and mortar import/export shop.
Snoopy Lamp- When I ran down the block to pick up my sandwich–I happened to spy this guy in the window of Sit Down New York for $300. You could always substitute another sculptural black and white lamp for cheaper but since I found the exact lamp for less than half of the original–I included it.
Black Bookcases- Since the books are really the stars of this scene, the bookcases just need to fade into the background. Thus, I uas just looking for something mid-height and black. Two Expedit shelves from IKEA at $90 each ($180 total) will do just fine.
Geometric Art-There are so many options to choose from here. This is where I got caught for time and just pulled a few options. My favorite print out of the bunch is $18 on etsy. I would, however, contact the artist to see if she would produce a larger scale print for me. Etsy people are usually pretty accommodating. My tack here would be to track down ornate frames at thrift shops for cheap and then find art in a size appropriate for them. Otherwise–framing is really expensive. I’d set an art budge of $200 including the frames.
Ceramics/Pottery– These can range widely in price. I recommend hitting the streets here as you can find great deals on interesting shaped ceramics at thrift shops. Stores like TJ Maxx and Big Lots are also great resources for shapely, inexpensive pottery. However, if you want to buy from the online shops–these could be anywhere from $15 and up. I like the range of reasonably priced white and black vases awailable at CB2. Let’s assume an accessories budget here of $200.
KNOCK-OFF LOOK TOTAL = $1965 after just one hour of searching. That’s a 76% saving! This could get a lot cheaper with a few substitutions, more thorough research, and some shopping at brick and mortar resources in addition to more extensive internet searching. A lot of big box stores will match lower prices if you print out a better deal online (then you can save on shipping costs too!).