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Design Stores

Design Republic

Posted by Ian Milne / Posted on August 24, 2010

Design RepublicDesign Republic is a new furniture shop that opened in the Burroughes Building on Queen West. This welcome addition to the strip sells a wide mix of stools, chairs, sofas, and tables.

Design RepublicAmong the standouts is a collection are reclaimed barnboard tables in various shapes, sizes, colours and finishes. These sturdy tables have solid metal designed bases, and as a bonus, many have adjustable feet. The reasonable prices reflect the quality of work and materials. (Prices vary - two dining room tables I liked were $1,400 and $1,988)

Design RepublicThe ubiquitous Denial, A.K.A. Daniel Bombardier has a virtual monopoly on the vertical spaces in this beautiful room. His art is a heady mashup of retro and graffitti and would enliven any room that needs a design kick. (Prices vary - one, called Mixtape was $1,000.)

Design RepublicMy first encounter with this store was when I was rushing past it, late for a meeting. I spied the perfect trifecta of an Eames chair, a Wegner Wishbone chair, and a Starck Ghost chair through the window and vowed to come back.

However, Like Kevin Kline in "A Fish Called Wanda", I was, "DISAPPOINTED!"

Design RepublicReplicas. Knock-offs. Copies. Fakes. Call them what you will. They are a cheaply made copy of a popular design using cheaper materials. Thinner metals and using plastic instead of the original leather or fiberglass. They are functional and a fraction of the original price, which makes them attractive to those who cannot afford the real thing.

I get that. But does that make it ok? Emphatically, No!

All good artists and designers have had their work copied - it's not cool. When you put time, effort and inspiration into your work - then to have someone come along and make a cheap copy steals money from your pocket. On top of that, when it breaks in six months and people think it was one of yours, that cheapens your brand or name.

Design RepublicThe real Hans Wegner Wishbone chair, designed back in 1949 for Carl Hansen & Sons, is available from Holace Cluny for $999. It's a solid yet lightweight stunner. You can purchase a "replica" of this nearly 60-year old design classic at Republic for $278. Should you? I don't think so - but you may feel differently.

Design RepublicDesign RepublicDesign RepublicDesign RepublicPhotos by Dennis Marciniak



laurie / August 24, 2010 at 10:11 am
nice post. thanks ian!
Nefaj / August 24, 2010 at 10:24 am
I purchased a sofa there 6 month ago and I realize today that the fabric is starting to be very fragile and the pillows are already starting to loose their shape. Now it all makes sense.
Mike / August 24, 2010 at 10:25 am
Can we please put Ian Milne's ridiculous scribblings in the Deadpool?

"..when it breaks in six months and people think it was one of yours, that cheapens your brand or name."

Seriously?! Are they actually passing this stuff off as authentic? "Emphatically", no! Most of the stores along this stretch of Queen (Morba, Urban Barn etc...) peddle the exact same type designer inspired knock-offs and not one of them misrepresent the quality or brands of authentic designer pieces.

Next time you're in one of these stores, you might want to talk to another customer or two. You'll quite likely find that every one of them knows EXACTLY what they're looking at.

Smarten up.
agentsmith / August 24, 2010 at 10:29 am
Maybe if the authentic originals weren't so obscenely overpriced, more people would buy them. A thousand bucks for a single wooden chair, are you fucking kidding me?
The Shakes replying to a comment from Mike / August 24, 2010 at 10:37 am
His statement regarding knock offs cheapening the original brand was clearly made in a much broader and general context, than 4 stores on Queen West. And frankly, as a general statement it seems pretty accurate to me - bottom line knock offs takes some of the luster away from the brand, whether it's Kartell ghost chairs, Coach bags or Rolex watches. I'm not sure why you have such a hate on for the author, but it seems pretty unwarranted to me.
RKMK / August 24, 2010 at 11:52 am
Agree with agentsmith - $1000 for a chair that doesn't even look comfortable enough to sit in? You have to be effing kidding me.

And as usual, @BlogTO's definition of "affordable" doesn't mix with my own. Not everyone takes home a minimum of $75K a year, guys.
Nick / August 24, 2010 at 12:05 pm
I walk by this place all the time and am always intrigued by the art, yet never go in. Just out of curiousity, does anyone know if the art in the store is for sale or is it just there to complement the trendy furniture?
Ian / August 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm
They label their knock-off Eames office chair as an Eames office chair. Sorry I won't do business with people who are clearly trying to pass off knock-offs as real.
simuls / August 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm
One of the problems with all of these mid-century modern knock-offs isn't with the knock-offs themselves, but with the originals.

A large part of the aesthetic and philosophy of this type of design had to do with good design being affordable and accessible and since 2000 with the resurgence of this era, places like Design Within Reach (talk about misrepresenting your product!!) charge outrageous amounts for the originals. A Barcelona chair at DWR is $4888 whereas I can get 90% of that chair at UpCountry for $650 or 85% less. Furthermore, the actual cost of manufacturing those 2 pieces is less than $60 (I've got friends in high and low places:).

I'm not saying I agree with stealing intellectual property, I'm vehemently against it actually, but what I think we're witnessing here is the same thing that did in the Recording Industry. For too long we overpaid and then finally when we could get back at them, we did.

I'd argue the opposite of Ian and say that it's the top end retailers that have sown the seeds of their own problem and by extension, are responsible for the cheapening of the brand.
simuls / August 24, 2010 at 12:44 pm
I meant to say "the actual cost differential of manufacturing those 2 pieces is less than $60."
infernalmachine / August 24, 2010 at 08:55 pm
agree with simuls 100%. mid century design was always intended to be affordable to the masses. i think $250 for a chair is actually pretty expensive, but if it's made of wood and will last a while and is pretty too boot then yes i'll buy it. $900? go f$#& yourself, hollace cluny.

besides, unless i'm mistaken not only were all chairs made in england in the late 1800s "victorian" chairs, where one designer/craftsman would just copy every other designer/craftsman, but also knockoffs tend to be discernibly different.

chinese designer / August 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm
re: knockoff furniture
you can't copyright or patent a design or a look of chair. so there is nothing illegal about selling a cheaper chair that has the same design as an expensive chair.
Frankly replying to a comment from The Shakes / August 25, 2010 at 02:11 am
Coach bag knock-offs are probably better than the originals. I'll give you the other comparisons, but Coach sure ain't what it used to be.
Annette / August 30, 2010 at 02:54 pm
As a counter opinion to those voiced, I bought a sectional from there 5 months ago and I've been pleased with the value. It looks great, the fabric and frame are holding up well (it is used all the time and I have 2 kids), and the delivery was excellent.
Craig / August 30, 2010 at 09:49 pm
Design Republic, is my store, and I'm a little disappointed to read so much emphasis on the reproductions (my guess is the make up less than 10% of our overall offering). When I discover original/salable product at accessible pricing, rest assured it will be part of our offering.
Bob replying to a comment from Mike / August 31, 2010 at 08:23 am
Exactly right, Mike. And Ian, have a good look around next time. TONS of stuff there is not reproductions as you seem to imply - there are many originals and from what I can tell they are great quality. The people are really good - talk to Luca sometime about design if you want to meet a really quality individual - and so far my stuff from there has given me nothing but joy. Don't rant and rave about things beyond your ken.
HelloJ replying to a comment from Nick / August 31, 2010 at 08:50 am
The art is for sale. I met the artist this summer at Design Republic as he made an in-store appearance. Cool guy, really down to earth.

We got a message from Craig (owner) and he's having a 20% off everything sale today. It's a customer appreciation gesture.

PAB / August 31, 2010 at 09:56 am
I design and make stuff that goes in Craigs store. It's terribly hard today to not make something that isn't a knock off but that said there is more than one category in the world, right!. The store has variety, go see.
monzee / August 31, 2010 at 10:59 am
I framed some of my photography for that store and it is definitely not 'knock-offs'. It's too bad that lazy commentary tends to lump everything into one stereotypical statement.

ps - we have kids over all the time and cats and dogs on all our furniture and I am thankful for a sofa that costs only 800 to replace, as it needs to be replaced every few years.
Al / September 21, 2010 at 09:12 am
What a great store - really happy to see this kind of place in Toronto
SE / December 6, 2010 at 03:47 pm
They have a coffee bar in there now - the LIT coffee bar people. And some really great throw cushions - really unusual - and a pass through to an adjoining shop that sells shoes and jewelry and clothes and accessories. The building is really great, too.
teb Interiors / December 7, 2010 at 07:29 am
And they are about to get a whole whack more or VERY Original, unique and unusual throw cushions starting this Thursday.
Matthew / January 11, 2011 at 11:54 am
Great space-furniture is total junk, they did not even look up when wife and I came in to browse-
We bought down the street at PAvillion
Joe / January 11, 2011 at 09:28 pm
I'm guessing by Matthew's comments he's a bitter Pavillion employee..
JK / January 11, 2011 at 11:12 pm
I was disappointed that there was no plastic covering on the sofas to preserve the fabric when guestss sit on it. Kidding aside I'm a fan of the store and I saw many pieces that were made locally and I think that deserved mention in this write up.
Joan / January 11, 2011 at 11:54 pm
I am an interior designer that purchases a lot of stuff from this store. I have mainly young professional clients that want the designer look, but can't afford, or refuse to pay the prices at stores like Design Within Reach. I receive excellent service from this store and have never had a client complain about the quality of the product. Everyone should have the option to either buy the original or the copy. Isn't that a democratic society when we all have choices? I say thank you Craig for bringing affordable design to the masses. Without stores like yours most people would just be able to look at these designs in magazines and never get the chance to own them. If people didn't want to buy copies then they wouldn't be manufactured. Obviously there is a demand for this type of product. Why is Toronto so full of haters? To each his own!!
Dagmara / January 14, 2011 at 02:23 pm
I own several pieces of furniture bought from Craig and I've always received an amazing service. He's honest about the product and great to deal with. The complainers should just go to DWR - that's where you get to see your snobby friends.
L&J / January 17, 2011 at 07:25 pm
We have now had the team at DR create a table and a particular style dining room chair to our specifications. They were a joy to work with. It is refreshing to find a shop in Toronto that is NOT filled with vapid looking staff who are too annoyed to serve you and wouldn't dream of flexing a finger to find out if there are other options available. Craig and Luca have been accountable, accessible, available, flexible and dare I say it,.....affordable which quite frankly, is rare in this city. If I were I designer and was working on a clients home this would be the first place I would go.
Janelle replying to a comment from Ian / March 5, 2011 at 05:48 pm
I agree entirely with this. It should not be labeled Eames if its not a legitimate Eames chair. Its misleading. If someone wants to pay less for a knock off, so be it. But let them do it knowingly.
lucresialinton / March 17, 2011 at 03:12 pm
Definitely will check it out. Love the pictures.
Daniel replying to a comment from Nick / March 19, 2011 at 04:36 pm
Hey Nick,I was just cruising the net and seen your post, yeah all the art is for sale.
Also check out
Mr. Eames / August 23, 2011 at 07:46 pm
There is huge difference in quality between fake and authentic but difference in price isn't big in long term.
Sam replying to a comment from Mr. Eames / September 3, 2011 at 04:24 pm
Mr Eames - that can be true but isn't always the case. I've been a sales rep for "authentic" furniture and in many cases they're no better (sometimes made in the same factories as the "fakes"!). Remember that in many cases now Herman Miller and Vitra and others like them hold the license to sell these but don't make them. Instead, they buy them from other manufacturers. I'm not defending the knock offs but understand the reason they exist. If the licensed suppliers and retailers weren't so greedy and charged such outrageous prices then the market for fakes wouldn't exist. Sometimes they are worth the difference but lots of times they aren't.
Jessie / December 19, 2011 at 02:19 pm
I like this store a lot, but I shop at Equilibrium on Dundas street. They beat this stores price everytime.
mia / January 12, 2012 at 05:34 pm
I find this store very over priced. And the staff is very unhelpful. There are many other furniture stores on queen with friendly staff and more competitive prices
Jill / January 18, 2012 at 05:51 pm
I bought my first grown-up couch from this store and I loved it at first sit. The back cushions are a bit more floppy than I'd like, but overall, I'm very happy I bought it. I've seen a similar design at more expensive furniture designer's website, but I don't really care if it's a knock-off/borrowed design or not.

Will people really think they're getting a real Eames chair at less than 30% of the cost? Come on. If you even know what an Eames chair looks like, you also know what the real thing costs. Ergo, you'll know the knock-off ain't the real McCoy. What a ridiculous rant.

Also, knock-offs in the wider context do not cheapen the brand. Brand owners cheapen the brand when they get greedy for the consumer market. When a brand tries to get stores into every suburban shopping mall across North America, it can't complain that it's lost its cachet. And you really think people who buy knock-off Rolexes think Rolexes are crap when their fakes fall apart? You think people will stop buying Rolexes because tourists are buying fakes in Hong Kong for $40?

Someone has a consumer-level understanding of what a brand is and how it works.
Hate It / January 24, 2012 at 11:51 pm
Terrible service. I was told the ETA on the bar stools I ordered was 1-2 weeks and 2 weeks later, I called them to find out status. They didn't know and had to check with the manufacturer, so had to wait 2 days for them to call me back. 3 days later, they called and told me the supplier they usually order from is on back order for 1 MONTH!! Isn't this something they should've told me about when I placed the order? OR even told me prior to ME calling THEM after 2 weeks?! I waited for 2+ weeks for nothing and then decided to get a refund. I wasn't even offered an apology or any sort of compensation.
I will never buy anything from them again.
Damien / March 4, 2012 at 10:53 pm
RE: Knockoffs and intellectual property rights.

Furniture is not protected by Canadian copyright/protection laws. To the law a chair is a chair.
Connie / March 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm
Just go to Equilibrium, Jessie - your so right.
Jean / April 15, 2012 at 08:17 am
So jesse orders chairs, the store's supplier has no stock, so he/she thinks they're intitled to compensation WTF?? Ever bought a condo in this town, try getting compensation when the developer delivers 3 years later than promised ..
Bob / May 9, 2012 at 09:09 am
This is a great store. Not sure who had problems with the staff but I found them super helpful. Stuff arrived on time and had no issues with the whole process.
Bob replying to a comment from mia / May 9, 2012 at 09:11 am
are you kidding??? Name one. I found these guys to be by far the best on the street
416 / May 29, 2012 at 09:58 am
place is perfect for unique furniture
as far as "knockoffs" go if you want a roche bobois couch go to the store and pay 10 to 20k for one we can all afford it. or better yet suite 22 in markham has bar stool made in italy for 500 to 2000 each
go pick some up
clothes and watches that are knock offs is one thing i dont agree with but furniture is something i can let slide cmon people get real
unless everyone here makes a cool mil a year
i dont
Cathy / March 23, 2013 at 09:24 am
This place is fantastic. The pictures on this post seem to be ancient as they have mostly stuff they make. My partner and I bought a beautiful solid walnut table from Mike who was really really nice and patient as we decided what we wanted. The table was in stock so we got it right away. We shopped around alot and the prices here beat everyone else plus it's local not made in China or India or wherever. We're going back for our chairs and probably a sofa too.
Craig / December 9, 2013 at 02:58 pm
The snobby attitude these guys have make you think that they're NOT selling cheap, slave labour knock offs of mid-range designer furniture.

Alexandra / February 16, 2014 at 07:32 pm
Having recently bought a new house, my fiancé and I have been to nearly every furniture store in Toronto. Design Republic is one of the best in the city. Their unique, industrial like products (many are made locally), great location, excellent staff (we worked with Sarah and she was exceptional), and competitive prices made our experience one of the best so far. We got great discounts on the floor models which were in 10/10 condition. We ordered our pieces on Sunday, and by Wednesday they had them in stock. Many other stores in the city make you wait months! I highly recommend Design Republic to anyone with expensive taste, but shopping on a budget.

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