Take a Seat

Invite your friends, we’re having a chair party. We now have three.

Stop tweakin’, it’s a fake. I thought it might be real when I saw that shiny chrome glinting from beneath a pile of trash a block away from my apartment. I even pulled it out and turned myself around to bring it back, thereby making me late for work. But upon further inspection and some consultation with the Knoll website, my free Marcel Breuer Cesca chair is a knock-off, I’m roughly 100% sure.

It also has a little problem, in case you couldn’t tell:

I swear, my ass didn’t cause this.

So, given that it’s a knock-off anyway, and the wood has that weird break in the corner joint, and the caning is all sorts of jacked up, and I don’t really need another chair that isn’t part of a glorious dining set (call me old-fashioned, I want those bitches to match), and I’m not even a huge fan of the Breuer chair to begin with, I should probably just put it back where I found it. Right?

But, but, but, but maybe I could just find a place for it. It’s just a chair, after all. And maybe this would be a good risk-free opportunity to try my hand at replacing caning! I watched a youtube video on the topic, and that’s really half the battle. I don’t think it would cost much and it’s a project I could probably complete in front of the TV– always a plus since shit like this convinces me that I’m not wasting time “because I’m working” while taking in the latest episode of Teen Mom or Work of Art (have you seen it? It’s terrible! Therefore, I love it.). So for now it can languish in the corner, lookin’ funky.

Is that the Hoarders theme music I hear? Just in my head? I knew that.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 8.4.10
    mina said:

    I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  2. 8.4.10
    Rebecca said:

    I use that “because I’m working” excuse all the time! I think it is totally valid. AND it gives you a free pass to watch whatever kind of trashy TV you want ;-)

  3. 8.4.10
    Lauren said:

    I’m a total chair-whore, too. I just can’t pass a poor orphaned chair in the street without trying to take it home with me. I once “repaired” a chair I found, only to have it collapse at a party when a 90 lb girl sat on it. Oops.

  4. 8.4.10

    I did the exact same thing last week! Found a chair and a set of milk glass shakers by the dumpster after someone moved out of our building and though the chair wasn’t anything special, or even terribly interesting, I convinced myself that it would be good practice to reupholster it, replacing the seat that someone’s cat had gotten a hold of. My boyfriend talked me out of it and even took it back to the dumpster for me. Some days, I worry that he’s the only thing stopping me from being a hoarder. ;)

  5. 8.4.10

    Just trim the dangling parts, put a folded blanket on the seat, and call it done! And then make sure no visitors sit on it. (Or not…and then blame them for breaking your precious chair and ask them to pay for recaining.)

  6. 8.4.10

    You should tear out all that untrendy tan shit and replace it with some slick black stuff (http://www.hermanmiller.com/Products/Aeron-Chairs). It’d look sweet next to the wood. Smoke on that for a bit.

  7. 8.4.10

    Ooooh keep it. I have full faith that you’ll do something good with it. However, I too probably walk around with the Hoarders theme song playing as background music to my life.

  8. 8.5.10
    jeannette said:


    dryad handicrafts pamphlets are vintage british arts n crafts/socialist instruction booklets with incredibly good instruction on almost everything you can think of. the above link is to the one on caning seats — try to snag it if you can.

    • 8.5.10
      jeannette said:

      here’s a pdf of a dryad pamphlet for recaning a stool.

    • 8.5.10

      Thanks Jeannette!! Luckily the chair isn’t made for that old-style caning that needs to be re-woven (I don’t know if I’d have the patience for that… I say that now but I’d probably try it anyway, ha), so I just need to find a good cheap source for the pre-woven kind that comes on a roll, plus a few other supplies. But I might just order that book, I should probably do more research than 5 minutes on youtube before I start hacking :-).

  9. 8.5.10
    lilyclove said:

    I’m sure you will come up with something awesome ;)
    Not to spoil the party, but did bedbugs ever cross your mind? I’ve seen a few treasures on the curb lately but have sadly walked away because I’m freaked out about those pesky little munchers. I know, I know, I sound like a mother now…

    • 8.5.10

      I know, I’m probably pushing my luck with those little shits. I have a strong policy that no upholstered curb finds can come home with me (can’t say I’ve ever been tempted, but still), but I figure things like this are pretty safe. I actually know very little about bedbugs and where they can live– I tend to avoid information that could potentially call my life choices into question– so I’m not sure how logical that is. But it’s arbitrary rules like this that keep me from losing my mind to paranoia about all the old stuff I live with. I tend to just wipe stuff down and call it a day.

  10. 8.6.10
    Angie said:

    I don’t think bugs are a problem if you can see (and thus disinfect) all regions of the item, and there is nothing hidded under padding or upholstery.

    I’ve even reupholstered those little office chairs before that do have a bit of upholstery — just reupholstered right over them — and I am still living.

    More the point, Work of Art does suck. I especially hated the “Shocking” episode. And I won’t reveal who went home last night in case you DVRed it, but it was WRONG!! Out of the bottom, who stayed was SO WRONG.

  11. 8.6.10
    ChairQuestion said:

    I found a Breuer Cesca chair (this same style) at a garage sale for $10 (the guy had no idea what it was, whether it be real or a knock off). I am just wondering what clues you found to know that it was a knock-off.

    The one I found looks to be in pretty good condition, and the only markings are on the bottom – a few letters and “Made in Italy.”

    Curious how to tell the difference, as there was no “original” and Knoll has been making these for years.

    • 8.6.10

      Mine also says “Made in Italy” on it. The Knoll website says that each chair comes with Breuer’s signature and a KnollStudio logo stamped into the bottom, although I suppose that probably hasn’t always been the case. What really tipped me off was comparing the proportions of my chair with pictures of the originals– the front of the seat on mine extends further out than the seats on the real chairs do. Also, from the condition of the metal on the frame, the chair doesn’t seem very old, but the extent of the wear/breakage on the wood frame just doesn’t seem consistent with the kind of quality an authentic one would have. I also think the color of the wood/caning is a little off, but it’s hard to say since I’m comparing to pictures.

    • 8.6.10
      ChairQuestion said:

      Yeah, you are right. Found a great article on Cesca knock-offs: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/07/garden/the-many-lives-of-a-very-common-chair.html Interesting that the design was never patented, so really what makes it “original” is being produced by a company affiliated with Breuer – and these tend to have more attention to detail in design.

      Reasons my Cesca is not a Gavina/Knoll:
      1. Seat extends out
      2. Tubing flattens and bends – mandrel not used
      3. Tubing bends in where bolts are drilled (by machine – no mandrel again)
      4. Machine caned

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’ll have more discerning eyes in the future.

  12. 8.6.10

    Don’t be mad at me, but I walked away from two original Marcel Breuer chairs for…..maybe you should sit down? For $40 each. In Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    My parents told me I was a fool to let them go. I had no idea.

    This was the place: http://maps.google.com/places/us/mi/grand-rapids/29th-st-se/2701/-29th-street-antiques?gl=us

  13. 8.7.10

    I swear to you, I used to own this chair. It was in my family’s house in Pennsylvania. It was broken in the exact same way. It’s eerie.

  14. 8.8.10

    @chairquestion: Thanks for the article, so much good information! Geeking out over furniture, ahh good times. Knock-offs can be really hard to distinguish, especially when– like you– you see it at a garage sale or on the street and don’t have the luxury of putting the research in before buying. But if you like the chair, that’s all that matters anyway– real or fake!

  15. 8.9.10

    Oh what an awesome find! So i’ts a knock-off, who cares. Love those finds. We just found the cutest
    3-legged orange chair that looks a lil’ like the Eames fiberglass chairs, ..Now we just have to alter it to add those tapered legs.

  16. 8.12.10
    oranges said:

    I don’t know how I stumbled upon your site, but I love it! I went back and read your old posts and love your ideas and your writing. Eagerly awaiting the next post… :)

  17. 8.12.10
    oranges said:

    eww I didn’t know that smiley would look so obnoxious.

  18. 8.13.10
    Becky said:

    Awesome! I appreciate this chair, even if it’s a knock-off and has a hole in the seat. Good luck on re-caning. I’d probably screw it up, but I’m sure you’ll do fine. Let us know how it goes.

  19. 8.16.10
    Vickie said:

    Nice find!

    I was wondering what were the main characteristics that made you think it is a knock-off?

    The reason why i’m asking is that I founded a similar one on CL, and i’m wondering if it’s also a knock-off.

  20. 8.16.10
    Vickie said:

    Oh I missed the link and the answer in the comments – that pretty much answer my question. Sorry & thanks!