Rooms, Round-ups

West Elm: Mirrors!

March 20, 2007

Yeah! New items posted on the West Elm website today (lots of green!), but I’m especially fond of this faux bois mirror ($249) because it’s large and in charge, but not intimidating or over the top. Doesn’t it look stunning in this room?

West Elm: Mirrors!I also have a crush on their new round leather mirror ($149), it looks so much like the one I’ve had a crush on for ages from BDDW, only without the leather hanger (which is easy enough to add to the West Elm version).

Even though I like seeing affordable options for those that cannot afford the high end designs, who doesn’t like a deal, I sometimes wonder what all of this really means in a big picture kind of way. I shop sometimes at West Elm, and often see items that seem to be inspired by a more expensive designer item. Meg over at Designer’s Library notices to, and actually spoke to this point on her blog not to long ago, click here to read her thoughts.

West Elm: Mirrors!West Elm
West Elm: Mirrors!BDDW

West Elm: Mirrors!Perhaps this just means that imitation is flattery? Fu (or Foo) dogs are popping up all over, created by various companies, as are Zebra rugs, Chinese ceramic stools, wire chairs… Could it simply be that a single, great design is launched into the world and becomes such a must-have item that it gets recreated in many versions (even nearly duplicated one to one), making it into what becomes a timeless classic?

What do you think? I wonder what the designers, the BDDW’s in the world, think about this. Are they flattered? Does this actually generate more interest, and business, in the end?

(images from west elm and bddw)


  • Reply susan March 20, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    I’ll tell you what I think, I have actually thought about this subject quite a bit. You have thought provoking posts!! There is one major, well known, craftsperson, who everyone knows, and I will not mention his(or)/her name, where I first saw the products,when they first emerged into the marketplace and said, “wow, those are from this country/this period!” The crafts person has continued to bring new products into his/her company which are very very close to the originals.

    So, me, if it’s a corporation, it’s pure business, they’re all souless anyway! If it’s another designer making small changes to previous important/popular items, and declaring them his/her own, then I think that illustrates a lack of creativity and something I do not respect. It actually makes me crazy. Just my opinion! It’s a great topic for discussion.

  • Reply temug March 20, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    I am a stationery designer and had someone knock off my designs and when I told them I knew about it, they immediately stopped doing it.

    I don’t understand why a person would even do this in the first place. It’s one thing to be moved by work, it’s another to copycat it one to one. I think it shows the person is a completely lost screw-up that is in the business for the wrong reason. MONEY MONEY MONEY and POWER and then, to be someone big and special before daddy and the world.

    Many bring their parent/child issues into adulthood. They will do anything to become someone, make their parents proud, impress friends, that they will knock-off, lie, our steal, to advance themselves.

    I dealt with so much of these types. Now I can see them a mile away.

    I’d use my real name as I usually do, but because I mentioned that whole design issue I had, I don’t want to open up any further issues.

  • Reply temug March 20, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I forgot this point to, that it clearly makes the person look like a loser when others see they are clearly taking ideas from someone else and calling them their own. I thought so little of this stationery company when I approached them and they didn’t even reply to my email, they just removed the design without explanation. Pricks.

  • Reply becky March 20, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    This happens everywhere, especially fashion, and at every price point. For instance, I ordered some shoes from Target online that arrived yesterday (Isaac Mizrahi, whose Nanuck of the North theme gets copied by Gaultier or some other designer, I forget exactly who, in “Unzipped”). I then realized I had the $400 Dior version in my closet from last year and forgot I had them. They look almost exactly the same, but the Tarje version was about $30!

    It’s one thing to knock off, it’s another story to counterfeit. There is a big difference. Don’t even get me started on fake bags!

    I remember Meg’s post and found it very interesting. What annoys me about West Elm is that their prices do not reflect quality a lot of the time – the squares daybed cracks under the pressure of one body. It’s cheaply made and the materials suck – same w/ P.B., actually. I think they are totally overrated, but hey, I still enjoy shopping there!!! It’s great that they bring good (b/c it’s knocked off) design to the masses. it’s another thing to flat-out steal from artists/designers. I think West Elm stays on the right side of that line, technically. They kind of dance along it.

    Wouldn’t it be so much better if they enlisted their own designers to do a line for them like Target does with Thomas O’Brien et. al.? They have started to sell prints from SCAD students at the W.E. here in Atlanta, which is cool and more on the right track.

  • Reply Anonymous March 20, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    I think affordable “interpreteations” of other designs are what these kind of stores are about- why they exist. If there weren’t stores like this we would all be complaining that stylish furniture isn’t affordable. I do think it is good to do some research/ be an informed shopper though. It’s nice to know a bit of history behind the “style” (aka what “inspired” the design/ where it was knocked off from) in order to appreciate it and one day when one’s budget allows, to purchase the “real thing”. Or maybe on the other hand, find out where it was inspired from and decide whether you can afford the “real thing” and support the original designer. Sometimes the ‘real thing’ is not a lot more than the knock off. Stores like this make it ‘easy’ to just pick and choose and voila! a room is made! I think research is a good thing to do to discover new designers and support new talent.

  • Reply Anonymous March 21, 2007 at 12:23 am

    If West Elm altered it in some way, i.e. the glaze, the shape etc, is this still stealing? It’s hard to come up with a totally original idea, something that no other person in the world has ever created or thought or put into the market. That’s why we pay premium for these kinds of products. I’ve often wondered about this issue myself. I often learn how to make things for myself by copying initially. The end product always ends up looking somewhat different. So am I doing something unethical when I do this?

  • Reply meg March 22, 2007 at 7:37 am

    Truly it is hard to be completely original in this day and age. And there’s nothing wrong with making a DIY reproduction of something for yourself. By all means, if you can’t buy it–make it yourself. But if you reproduce it en masse and sell it, then you could be heading into copyright infringement land.

    West Elm has gotten better–the inspiration isn’t so literal anymore. (They once had botanical etched artwork that looked exactly like Beth Weintraub’s work. She probably sent them a cease and desist because they totally modified them soon after releasing them.) On the Emigre-inspired vases, West Elm’s do seem to be different enough from the original. My point was that I find their creative process comical.

    As for the Foo dogs & Chinese stools (and anything that’s really, really old), the originals were made a several centuries ago so they’re well within the public domain and I believe anyone can make reproductions of them. Even West Elm, if they wanted to.

    In the case of BBDW, they aren’t the first to create a round mirror–so anyone like West Elm can make a round mirror. (Duly noted that both are made with leather.) But what makes BBDW mirror original (and far more beautiful) is the hanging mechanism for their mirror. Now if West Elm emulated it..that would be different story.

  • Reply Mark Cutler March 24, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I am a designer and struggle every day, trying to educate my clients etc about value and knock-offs. I think that places like West Elm etc have a place in the market, there are a lot of people who cannot afford the genuine article, but what something that creates the feel of the original. As long as they realise that a $200 table is not going to wear or last as well as a $2000 table I think there is aplace for it. When large companies start to cannibalise designs by small struggling people i think thats not cool though, I think these larger places have a responsibilty to foster new talent as much as bringing established people to the masses.
    what a thoughtful post!

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