What Is a Chesterfield Sofa
It’s one of the most iconic pieces of furniture in the world, and a British classic found in offices, home and the lobby of hotels on every continent. The Chesterfield stands out with its leather, deep buttoned design and high arms. Although the style originated in the old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs and stately homes, it’s now a firm design classic which will never really go out of style. The Chesterfield has a long and distinguished past which explains just why it’s the UK’s most desirable seating choice.
A Brief History of the Chesterfield
The first recorded use of the term “Chesterfield” to describe the leather sofa dates from the 19th century, but the origin of the term goes even further back. The story goes that the sofa was commissioned by Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield who died in 1773. The Earl is said to have wanted somewhere to sit in comfort without getting his expensive suits creased. There’s no real proof that this story is fact, but it certainly has a ring of truth about it as the Earl of Chesterfield was somewhat of a 18th century trendsetter. After the death of the Earl in 1773, his prototype Chesterfield was passed to his godson Solomon, who had previously admired the piece on a visit to Derbyshire. Solomon’s friends and wealthy acquaintances took a liking to this new type of sofa, and had their own versions of the piece made. The Chesterfield soon became a staple of the British upper-class home.
Victorians and Chesterfields
The Chesterfield sofa really came into its own in the Victorian era. Until the Victorian age, furniture design was all about style over substance, with little attention paid to how comfortable a sofa actually was. Early Chesterfield sofas were stuffed with horsehair and did not have the springs used to make modern sofas. The leather was tough and the buttons hard, and both of those factors combined to make a less than comfortable seating experience.
However, this all changed in 1828 when the patent for coil springs for sofas and seats was filed. The deeper buttoning which we associate with Chesterfields is also a Victorian invention, and by 1850s the design of the Chesterfield was refined to perfection. Leather was the most common material used to make a Chesterfield, but the Victorians were also fond of sofas covered in luxury velvet.
The Victorian era was also the time of the British Empire, with colonial explorers taking their precious Chesterfield sofas to India, Australia, Canada and all far-flung places around the globe. By the time the British Empire started to decline after the First World War, the Chesterfield was firmly established as a favourite around the world.
The Chesterfield is most definitely a design classic, and one which is still a favourite in glossy magazines into the 21st century. The Chesterfield has associations with quality, luxury and that quintessential British style. If you’re looking for an investment sofa which will stand the test of time and changes in fashion, then a Chesterfield ticks all the boxes. Traditional leather is probably the most popular choice, but there are more modern options too, such as antiqued leather, wool or velvet. Chesterfields don’t have to be huge pieces of furniture which dominate the room either, with many smaller options available for more restricted space. Or what about a corner Chesterfield style sofa, keeping more of the floorspace free? Another good option is a Chesterfield style chair instead of a full suite – perfect for an office or games room for that classic gentleman’s club look.