Jill Fehrenbacher

COPYCAT OR COINCIDENCE? - 4Korners versus Scrapile

by , 05/14/07

4Korners versus Scrapile, Recycled scrap wood design, 4Korners knocking off Scrapile designs, Brooklyn copycatters, Scrapile Sustainable design

While attending BKLYN Designs this weekend, we were surprised to come across a Brooklyn-based design company creating furniture which bears much more than a passing resemblance to our friends Scrapile. While plenty of designers, including Uhuru and Brave Space, use scrap wood in their designs, Scrapile’s striated bands of different colored wood laminated together is their signature look – and a design process that they originated.


4Korners versus Scrapile, Recycled scrap wood design, 4Korners knocking off Scrapile designs, Brooklyn copycatters, Scrapile Sustainable design

While I personally don’t have a problem with people knocking off famous high-end designers to create more affordable pieces (as long as the copycatters are honest about who they are copying), I definitely do have a problem with a fellow small-scale Brooklyn designer copying another small-scale Brooklyn designer who is has genuinely been producing good, sustainable work for years.

Although they say ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, and its great to see more designers turning to recycling – this still makes me uncomfortable. Since Scrapile is not yet a household name (even though they should be), these 4Korners copycats could potentially convince a lot of people who aren’t aware of Scrapile that they came up with this brilliant idea – potentially taking Scrapile’s business. Luckily for Scrapile, however, I think these 4Korners guys are going to have a really hard time in Brooklyn where everyone already knows and loves Scrapile.

Coincidence or Copycat?

We’d love to know what you think….

coincidence
copycat


+ Scrapile


4Korners – 4Korners@gmail.com

2005 Interview of Scrapile

4Korners versus Scrapile, Recycled scrap wood design, 4Korners knocking off Scrapile designs, Brooklyn copycatters, Scrapile Sustainable design

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26 Comments

  1. cayo honorato June 1, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Considering the dispute, I’d just like to suggest you to see the brazilian design of Mauricio Azeredo, at. http://www.mauricioazeredo.com.br. His work is not only made of scrap wood, but that’s certainly his concern. After all, both scrapile and 4kornes patterns are quite similar to what Azeredo has been researching for 20 years.
    Brazilian goodbyes,

  2. sue May 27, 2007 at 10:30 am

    After reading rebecca’s comments, one has to wonder, does she live under a rock?! All art is up for intpretation. To think 4Korners stole Scrapile designs is ludicrous, to think Scrapile are the only designers who are innovative and gererous is ludicrous. I have known the designer for 4Korners for twenty years, I have always found the work to be innovative, and as for the man, always gererous and forward thinking! Perhaps it is a good idea to get all the facts before one reacts!

  3. Alex Valich May 18, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Dude, this guy played himself hardcore. I mean c’mon. I am the first one to say that no idea is new but thats a blatant ripoff and a lazy one at that. That for me is what is more offensive. The Scrapile collection is great and I have been a big fan and friend of theirs. So to see something like this it bums me out. I always fealt that Brooklyn designers are about originallity, but again here is an example of copy cat nonsense.

  4. Fred Stripe May 17, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Scrapile’s argument supports Scrapile’s belief that 4Korners IS different. Scrapile points out in it’s last sentence ofthe paragraph below that 4Korners DOES NOT share it’s “continuous pattern.” Here is the quote:

    “When you look at Scrapile, you’ll see that every piece we’ve ever made has a pattern that is continuous throughout. You can follow a strip from the bottom of one leg up and all the way across our longest dining table, then watch it waterfall down the other leg. The same is true of every piece we’ve ever made, creating the monolithic effect of being carved out of a piece of stone. This is not true of the 4Korners pieces.”

    Let me breakdown the other points of Scrapile. I will paraphrase their words:
    1) They CANNOT get a patent on gluing strips together (for obvious reasons).
    2) Although the AESTHESTIC is a large part of Scrapile’s identity, Scrapile’s process EVOLVES to better support its original concept to (a) minimize waste and (b) recycle its waste. AESTHETICS means BEAUTY and NOT ORIGINALITY. All the furniture makers should share Scrapile’s (and 4Korner’s) green concepts.
    3) Scrapile suggests (and rightly so) that the issue should rest.

    I hope that Scrapile and 4Korners enjoy the party. Brooklyn has room for two passionate furniture makers.

    Fred

  5. Dave May 17, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    I don’t know either of them and I don’t live in Brooklyn. I think I may have seen Scrapile at ICFF a few years back, but that’s beside the point. I can understand that people like Scrapile. It sounds like they are well respected for good reason, but these simply are not copies.

    There is no way I would confuse these two credenzas. Not even if I was squinting at 100 paces.

    The small tables uses scrap wood. Construction and joinery are different. Scrap is used differently.
    Varying widths, Scrapile’s continuous strips are not present.

    Bart thanks for addressing this and being gracious about it.

    Best of luck to Scrapile and 4Korners.

  6. nana May 16, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    While it may seem that 4korners is a new design group in brooklyn, that fact is not true.
    4k has been doing custom designed furniture and cabinets for at least seven years.
    I in fact have had the original prototype for his tea bench in my place of business for the past 6.
    The particular bench I have was made partially from “reclaimed/recylced” materials as well.
    While scrappile may use the variegated wood as their signature, if you check out http://www.4kny.com you will see that the use of the wood in that variation is only a small part of the collection.
    Having seen 4k’s furnture in person (not a cropped version in a photo) I can tell you the proportions are not the same.
    I also personally feel that we are comparing oranges to apricots, while the color may be similar the aesthetic or taste is not the same.
    While the use of mixed materials in scrapiles work is interesting it is more rustic looking.
    The 4korners pieces incorporating this technique have a more polished look and in person have a more seemless appearance as if the wood just naturally came that way.

  7. dug May 16, 2007 at 11:36 am

    moom is right. it’s an unfortunate turfwar getting started in what should be a happy community. scrapile did a fantastic job appropriating a technique and a look that has been around for ages. i saw tables done the same way in similar proportions long before scrapile. they are good designers and craftspeople. they had great PR. inhabitat and the other ny design blogs all pour on the praise which is largely deserved, but sometimes (as now) a little over the top. they have made a name and a business for themselves through it. that shouldn’t stop others from tapping into the same influences and history.

  8. Bart May 16, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I was out of town this past weekend and missed the actual event. So, I have not seen the pieces in person, but anyway…

    Is Scrapile the first outfit to glue pieces of scrap wood together? No (apparently it’s common practice in Bali).

    Has 4Korners been in our studio? Yes.

    Do we have a patent on glueing wood scraps together? No, nor can we get one, nor would we want one. We encourage, in fact we challenge, every designer/craftsman to find creative ways in which to make use of their own waste. If you can achieve zero-waste, God bless.

    Regarding Scrapile…although the aesthetic is a large part of our identity, the true essence of Scrapile lies in the process which continues to evolve to better support the original concept: to remove as much material as possible from the waste stream and drop it back into the market, replacing virgin forest products. In that respect, aesthetic is simply a vehicle for the overall mission.

    When Carlos and I started Scrapile four years ago, we set out to solve a two-part problem. How do we process the waste we were producing from our projects? Could we develop a repeatable process to scale up and absorb other peoples’ waste as well?

    When you look at Scrapile, you’ll see that every piece we’ve ever made has a pattern that is continuous throughout. You can follow a strip from the bottom of one leg up and all the way across our longest dining table, then watch it waterfall down the other leg. The same is true of every piece we’ve ever made, creating the monolithic effect of being carved out of a piece of stone. This is not true of the 4Korners pieces.

    Our mission from day one has been to be as environmentally effective as possible. Like anything else, this can be measured in many different ways. In the case of Scrapile, the obvious is in tons of waste converted. Less obvious maybe is in the way in which our work has influenced the way other designers think about material use.

    Do I think 4Korners shot a little too close to Scrapile in our own backyard? Probably so, but far be it from me to tell someone not to re-use their own waste.

    They say immitation is the greatest form of flattery, but what I find most flattering is the fact that so many of our supporters were looking out for us this weekend. That in itself speaks to the effectiveness of the project. Scrapile has always been a labor of love, and to me that is the sweetest validation.

    A heartfelt thanks to the extended Scrapile family for having our backs in our absence. Now, I think it’s time to put this issue to bed and get ready for design week.

    Bart

    P.S. I hope everyone (including 4Korners) will make it out to the Haute Green party Friday 7-9pm to support innovative green design from around the globe.

  9. Moom May 16, 2007 at 5:44 am

    Frankly, this sounds more like a bit of local scandal than a bit of design copying. Let me get this straight: to me, it looks like Scrapile were recognised among the Brooklyn cognoscenti for this laminated technique, which has been around for ages but which they managed to make into a signature feature. Good for them. Now 4Korners has decided to use the same technique to produce furniture aimed at a similar market. For one thing, if they started off with the same approach (making nice furniture out of scrap wood, which probably comes in certain predictable sizes), there are relatively few other techniques available to them, so it’s not overly surprising that they chose to do it this way. It’s perhaps a little bit crass of them to put their products head-to-head with Scrapile so quickly, and I’d suggest rather unwise – there’s only a limited market for this stuff, so both designers are likely to suffer as a result of such close offerings.

    Why have Scrapile decided not to show this year?

    In any case, for those in the know, Scrapile will always be ‘the original and best’ – and 4Korners will have done their own reputation no favours if they become known for plagiarism.

    More generally, my experience is that there are no new ideas in design. Someone somewhere has always done everything before, and someone will do it again after you’ve gone, so you’ve just got to ride the wave for as long as you can. Scrapile seem to have had a good thing going in that they made a very common technique ‘theirs’ for a while, but that was never going to last.

  10. kirsten May 15, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Maybe they are aware of each other?
    I’d love to hear a response from both design groups…!

  11. wesley May 15, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Visually, 4Korners have improved and finetuned the Scrapile’s design,

  12. Richie May 15, 2007 at 8:38 am

    Yes, the pieces are close… but also significantly different. A close examination of the photos used to support this posting shows that the ’4Korners’ table does not use the same alternating interwoven gluing joinery technique between horizontal and vertical wood elements, and it’s wood is joined on its wider, ‘flat’, sides. Futhermore, the ’4Korners’ design does not have a drawer and has bracing towards the bottom. The mere fact that it uses alternating colors of wood and has similar dimensions to a previous design is not enough to claim design infrigement. Is it similar ? Yes… but it is also significantly different as well.

    The same thing goes for the credenza. I’m sure there are many credenzas that have a similar basic design to these two. Why didn’t you show a picture of the ’4Korners’design with it’s credenza drawers open ? Is it because they are doors, not drawers… or that the drawers sre diffrent enough in their sizes from the ‘Scapile’ design that doing so would have weakened your argument ?

    What are the pysical measurements. For example… is one table, or credenza, the same height… width… and depth as the other designs they’re similar too ?

    Did you know that cb2.com now sells a chair design that’s very similar to the famous Eames lmolded fiberglass chairs for $149 ! (see: http://www.westelm.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?partNumber=WE-PRODf476&storeId=17001&langId=-1&catalogId=17002&viewSetCode=E&parentId=WE-SH1FRNOFF&retainNav=true&cmsrc=WE-SH1FRNOFF )

    Is this design theivery ? I suspect not. Ditto for ’4KKorners’.

    Are the ’4Korners’ designs less expensive ?

    I wish both designers well.

    P.S. From what the photos do show… I like the ’4Korners’ credenza better than the ‘Scarpile’one.

  13. jared May 15, 2007 at 2:00 am

    this article is ridiculous…
    design is design… unless the pieces are exactly the same in every way, shape, form, process, name, material…

  14. Nicolas May 15, 2007 at 1:20 am

    I stand by Jill & Christopher here.

    Its easy to get side tracked with the different inputs about lamination and dimension and “in the 80′s”. They are all probably part of a larger discussion around this furniture, copying design or simply being inspired by it.
    For this to happen in such a small demographic is, in my opinion, respectless.

    But you know what they say…what goes around comes around…

    hey, and “David in Bali”, you might want to go back to school and learn some more about design and wood processing,

  15. Hun Boon May 14, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    You can’t copyright the idea, only the expression of the idea.

    Which means you can’t copyright the idea of using laminated scrap wood, but only the actual design. And the designs in this case are completely different.

    After seeing the blatant copying that goes on in China, this is frankly a non-issue by comparison.

  16. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill May 14, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    I think what many of you don’t realize – because you don’t live in Brooklyn – that this isn’t just a matter of similar designs popping up randomly in different places. Scrapile has been showing at BKLYN Designs for years and has lead the environmental design movement in Brooklyn, including speaking at and helping organize the BKLYN Designs show. This was the first year they didn’t show in BKLYN Designs, and what pops up? It would be impossible for this new design group in Brooklyn not to be aware of Scrapile and their designs – especially considering that they sourced their plyboo from Bettencourt Green Building supply.

    That is the issue I am calling into question – not simply the simillarity of the aesthetic or the lamination process.

    -Jill

  17. David in Bali May 14, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    I wouldn’t own either – I find them heavy handed, literal, and ugly. But claiming the random edge glued (not laminated) process their own is the crime, as anyone who’s been through a furniture & woodworking program, much less the typical school shop class, should know. I went through both and even during that level of education there was ittle critical appreciation for the technique – look ma, I glued wood!

  18. marianne May 14, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    while i think the actual design of the first table may be similiar to the ScrapPile version, i really dont think the idea of laminating different coloured strips of scrap wood together is an original idea. i just did it a design for it for a bench in my front hall and this is the first time i have ever heard of scrapile and 4corners. really. its not brain surgery. my favorite quote from the movie Pump up the Volume with Christian Slater is when he says “All the great themes have been used and turned into theme parks” sigh. so true. but whatever instead of pointing the finger and saying copycat copycat like some first year student who got a c+ on their last studio project perhaps we should be happy that 2 companies out there are reusing wood in such a fine manner.

  19. betty May 14, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    btw, your poll should have a third option, one that represents the fact that design is NEVER coincidental, and they obviously didn’t COPYCAT because the details are so different.

  20. betty May 14, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    i think you people are really splitting hairs on this. the process has not been copyrighted. the designs are similar, but not exactly the same. the details are completely different.

    scrapile cannot claim to have invented the coffee table or the lamp stand. in fact, designs similar to those shown here have actually been around for decades (maybe not the exact dimensions and details, but close enough). if you like one over the other, buy the one you like don’t buy the one you don’t.

    scrapile should take this as a compliment of sorts, and since their stuff is higher quality and more attractive (in my opinion) they should be just fine.

  21. Bob Ellenberg May 14, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I must chime in with the rest. If it is unique enough, you are allowed to patent or copyright it. If it is not (or you don’t take the initiative to patent or copyright it), copies are fair and legal. If you think it is in poor taste, you don’t have to patronize the business. But if there are no legal infringements, I wouldn’t publicly criticize them. What about all the auto lines that copy other popular cars, house desings, etc.? Even if it is copyrighted it has to be just about an exact copy to not break the law. The people who sell fake Rolex watches are only guilty of putting the name Rolex on them–making them look like them otherwise is probably fair game.

  22. kirsten May 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    I agree with the last post. Gluing together scrap wood to make an object is a very old technique. These guys did not “found and originate” this process.

    I made a cutting board in shop class in the early 80′s out of scrap wood. Everyone in the class wound up making a very similar looking cutting board because we were all pulling from the same pile of wood.

    Although their furniture looks similar, they are not outright copies! I think Scrapile’s pieces are superior in craftsmanship and design and anyone who looks at them will know they are made by different companies.

    I hope that 4Korners will grow from this experience and start designing truly original, forward thinking pieces. Recycling is a wonderful process and they should not be completely discouraged from continuing to improve their line.

  23. christopher May 14, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    is this not every designers nightmare? as a non corporate designer, there are so many opportunities for non mass produced designs to get ripped off by the larger multi million dollar firms or even worse by international firms.

    while the guys over at scrapile did not invent the process of lamination, it is the core of their process, not just some surface treatment. it IS their green story, it IS their brand. it would be more understandable if something like this happened simultaneously overseas, but this kind of brand infringement right in scrapiles backyard?????

    not cool…

    not to mention the fact that bart and carlos are such good friends to the brooklyn furniture industry.

    thank you jill, great peice by peice comparrison.
    and thanks to bart and carlos for bringing us honest and beautiful furniture from the scraps of our industry.

  24. lindsey May 14, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    unfortunately, i happen to agree with sean. scrapile didn’t invent this technique, they’re just popular (in brooklyn, i guess?) for doing a good job of it. nor do they have a copyright on it. i was in a design studio in school doing the same laminated scrap technique for tables back in spring 2002, and i reckon whoever had the idea for us to do it in our studio got their idea from a magazine where someone else was doing it too. it’s been around.

    the most generous thing any design writer can do is to mention this as stockpile’s trademark look, with plenty of links to their work, while giving 4korners a fair shake and not immediately bawling “THIEF!”

  25. sean May 14, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    I love Scrapile’s stuff, but the did not invent the concept of reusing scrap wood in the way that they do. It has been used for longer than they have been around.

    I agree that the 4Korners stuff does look similar, but then again- what doesn’t? ALL design is based off of OTHER design, Not that I support stealing, but sometimes designs are similar b/c they are inspired by the same thing, and sometimes they look similar b/c one copies the other. It is hard to tell what happened here.

    I happen to like the 4Korners one above more.

  26. Rebecca May 14, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    I heard from multiple witnesses who attended Brooklyn Designs last weekend, that there were indeed some pieces which looked strikingly similar to Scrapile’s. I thought to myself, how similar could they be? Looking at these pictures, I too am baffled that someone would have the audacity to claim these designs as their own. Even the proportions are the same!

    Having worked with Bart and Carlos for a few years now, I am always taken back by their hard work, commitment to design and to environmental issues, and ability to give so much back to thier community. One could argue that the genisis of the sustainable furniture trend in Brooklyn, came from Bart and Carlos’s work, and from Bettencourt Green Building Supply, Bart’s other company.

    Designers in general don’t deserve to have their concepts stolen; especially designers who are as innovative and generous as the Scrapile team.

    Shame on you 4Korners.

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