Les Arcs Style Leather Slingback Chair

Welcome to the first of the 2015 highlights. The Mad House takes a break in August – this allows me to recharge my batteries and spend some time looking for new things and hey, we’re three-and-a-half years in and there has been a post every single day of that time, so the blog takes a little break in August.

For those of you who are still in the office and regular readers, I hope this will give you a chance to rediscover some older posts. For others, there may well be things that you missed or that didn’t interest you first time round and suddenly they have become relevant. I find this with old issues of magazines. Things I skated over the first time round suddenly become important when I realise I need a new rug/chair/coffee table.

So welcome to August and I hope you enjoy this post. I love this chair and I think talking about fakes is a worthwhile conversation, feel free to join in below…


Let me start by saying how much I love this chair. It’s a version of a chair chosen by the French designer Charlotte Perriand for the fasionable ski resort of Les Arcs in about 1960. You can buy it from Uniche Interior Furnishings for £150 and it’s definitely on one of my want lists.

Now, on to the next thing. I must follow that up by saying that I am not a fan of the fake. I don’t say this out of any sense of elitism and I do completely understand that some of the original design classics are earbleedingly expensive and therefore we can’t all afford them.

I make an exception for this chair because it’s no longer in production. Therefore, unless you have a spare £1,000 knocking about per chair, yes I said PER CHAIR, and in addition to that you are friends with the dealers and traders and have that ebay snipey button thingy, you can forget about it. They are rare, expensive (did I say that already) and highly sought after.

Added to which, since it’s no longer in production, you have no choice but to buy one that is “in the style of” and, as long as you buy if from a reputable dealer, then in my book – and I know we all have our own particular brand of twisted logic – that’s ok.

Here’s my cautionary tale on the fake Eames chair… read don’t judge, people. At least, allow me my opinion based on the story before you make that judgement. It was an expensive opinion to reach so I’m slightly intransigent on it.

The trouble with fakes, knock-offs, copies, call it what you will, is that they are often very badly made. And if there’s one truism that’s really, er true, it’s this: Buy cheap buy twice. I know this from personal experience as I once bought some fake Eames chairs. Reader (shall we stick an S on that? Can we assume there’s more than one of you?), my dearly beloved husband hadn’t finished unloading them from the car before the screws started falling off.

It was slightly farcical. Picture the scene: he carries in one chair in large box, dumps in kitchen and returns to the car for the next. I take chair out of box and hear something land on the floor. Realise it’s a screw. Panic. Shove in pocket. Smile encouragingly at him when he returns with the next chair. This time the then four-year-old sits in chair and a screw falls off. Cue shoving child off chair, grabbing screw and smiling beatifically at husband.

Two hours later, all six chairs are in place and we are having dinner. I have moved the two rubbish ones to the end where people don’t often sit. I realise this was ridiculous, I wasn’t thinking entirely clearly.

Husband sits down. Screw falls off. I admit what has happened and show him the contents of my pocket. Chairs are examined for ways to repair them. But they are not screwed together, they are glued with fake screws. There is no way of mending them. We wave the superglue about uselessly before conceding defeat. We ring customer service. It is an answerphone in the US. Alarm bells are ringing.

Well to cut a long story short, we did eventually get the money back. But I should also point out that these chairs were not cheap fakes. They were expensive ones. After this we saved and bought the genuine article.

And so I have arrived at my current position. If you can’t afford it then don’t buy a copy. Buy something else. There are so many brilliant designers around doing individual, interesting work that you don’t need a copy. You can buy a (cheaper) original. I’m aware that this may be a controversial post but hey I’d love an Eames lounger. At four thousand quid I ain’t getting one. I’ve made my peace with that.

Which brings me to this chair above. Over the years, it has often been suggested that Perriand designed them but most people now think she just selected them when she was asked to do the chalets of the whole resort. No-one seems to know who actually designed them. Which is possibly why they are no longer in production. Which is why I think it’s ok to have one made by someone else.

What do you think?

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Fake or not, consider trying sitting in them before you buy – they don’t look like comfortable chairs where you can sit for the length of a family dinner without problems. They look nice, but uncomfortable.

    1. I spoke to the company that sells these chairs and they said they have altered the frames specfically to make them more comfortable for longer periods of sitting. I guess you never know until you actually do sit in them but they are intended, and have been designed, to be comfortable.

  2. Hi Kate
    Firstly what an interesting (brave) post this is. This subject is always one that will get people quite ‘spirited’! I have to say I’ve always thought ‘why not buy fakes’ (I have some eames ones too !) as we can’t all afford the real ones and why should we miss out type of argument but I have to say I am now more on your thinking. The quality is often poor (not always) and I am now with you in that acceptance of unless I have a large lottery win some classic desirible pieces will and always will be out of my reach. Accept it. I am moving now towards buying cheaper ‘originals’ or saving for the real thing (currently list is so long I won’t bore you) but then I can hopefully hand these classics down to my kids one day as they will have stood the test of time. One thing I would just say is that my cheap eames have been ok (ish) and my purpose was for them to accommodate ‘young’ kids as there always appears to be loads around our large table ! If gives a ‘styled’ designed and makes me happy but I’m not precious about them so kids are happy. I know they won’t last forever but I’m some instances I still feel reputable ‘fakes’ have a place 🙂

  3. terrific post! wholeheartedly agree, especially because you point out how many truly great original designs are out there to be explored by up and coming talents which really don’t break the bank and may become a classic and worthwhile investment in time. I love meeting young designers and buying their pieces, just as much for their stories and passion for what they are doing as for the actual pieces!

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