I have an original Herman Miller piece along with 12 other authentic Eames chairs (LCW/Molded plastic, etc).
I debated on getting a fake for a long time and my wife talked me out of it. I also happen to collect watches and she said to me,"How does it feel to a wear a fake Rolex or Panerai" and it hit me.
Furniture is something you will have a for a very long time (like a wrist watch) and something to you can pass on to your heirs. They cost amortization makes sense once you calculate the long term usage.
The ELO (Eames Lounge and Ottoman) was never cheap.It was $485-500 back in 1956 which meant it cost more than it did in today's dollars.
And to those who rationalize, "Oh well, the designers are long dead, why does it matter" or Herman Miller also makes reproductions.
I can answer to those. Herman Miller has always made the ELO in constant production. It is not a dead product that was resurrected like a George Nelson Modernica lamp.
Herman Miller was company that hired and supported the Eames under George Nelson's direction. All the major Eames hits came under the employ and retainer of Herman Miller. I think the exception may be the early LCW protoypes. But Herman Miller and Eames go hand in hand. When you think of someone like Jonathan Ives, you think Apple. When you think Ray and Charles Eames, you should think Herman Miller.
The only difference between today's ELO and one in 1956 are the inner cushions have been upgraded. Certain wood grains like Brazillian rosewood are no longer available (due to extinction). Otherwise, it is pretty much the same. Also, the ELO has always been made in Michigan USA. Something I am very proud of buying an American made product. I can't answer for the Vitra version.
As for the Eames being long dead and wether this should be in the public domain is flawed. Herman Miller spends a lot of money and contributes a lot to the Eames estate to keep the legacy alive.
They invest in the Eames house, contribute to Eames causes and help foster new designers. If they didn't spend the time and money to keep the Eames name "alive," the product would not be as popular and lust worthy as it is today. They have to keep that legend and mythos in place and consumers are paying for that. They also keep control on the price to protect buyer's investment. ELOs keep their resale pretty well. Buy a $4000 chair from Restoration Hardware and in 4 years, no one is going to buy it. Who designed that and where was it made? But with an ELO from Herman Miller, you know the lineage.
If Herman Miller didn't keep the Eames legacy alive, the Eames piece would be unknown like Paul McCobb, Lane Acclaim, Bent Silberg and other MCM pieces which are only attractive to mid-century type fanatics.
They value of the ELO wouldn't be lustworthy.
So yes, the current price of the ELO does not bother me. The $5K you spend is the price of admission. If you want to be admitted to the club, you gotta pay the ticket price. Pure and simple.