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There's no doubting the Chesterfield sofa's esteemed position as a design icon of furniture history. From the swanky recording studios of the West End to the stuffy library of a Gentleman's Club, the Chesterfield is a fixture that has proved its adaptability and timelessness. Yet, despite its much loved status, no-one is quite clear on how this great emblem of British style originated. It is thought that Lord Phillip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, commissioned the first leather Chesterfield settee in the late 17th Century in an attempt for gentlemen to be able to sit up straight and not crease their clothing.
So what characteristics belong to the Chesterfield? The classic example is styled in leather with deep button tufting, nail-head trim and a low seat base but apparently a proper Chesterfield should be a sofa with the arms and back at the same height.
Today's furniture designers have relished giving the classic Chesterfield a makeover with various fabrics and style adjustments, and no sofa collection seems complete without a modern reinterpretation. Though neatly tailored in appearance, cushions and a sheepskin throw can imbue the design with a more relaxed cosy appeal.
Just unveiled is Loaf's new Bagsie sofa (opens in new tab) (from £1745), a deep buttoned Chesterfield with slightly lower arm rests than is the convention. Charlie Marshall, the Founder of Loaf explains, "Here at Loaf we're fans of sofas that are big enough to lounge around on, that look good and most importantly are super-comfy. Our Bagsie is slightly deeper than most Chesterfield sofas with a more relaxed upholstery style. It's our laid-back take on the traditional design and hands down our best seller."
Swoon Edition gets on the Chesterfield band wagon with its first offering, the Winston Three-Seater (opens in new tab), (from £1099). The detailing includes exaggerated scrolled arms, feather-filled cushions and brass stud trim. Instead of traditional castor feet, the design models a more contemporary looking brass cuff.
Rume's Smithfield (opens in new tab) (from £3,384 plus 15m of fabric) is the company's most extravagant Chesterfield offering and differs from other models by running the buttoning into the seat pad itself. Shown here in ravishing orange cotton velvet, this model has big arms, deep buttons, bright nickel studs and can take up to a week being fitted out in the upholstery shop.
Next up Sofa.com's Amelia (opens in new tab), (from £2000 for a two seater) a modern simplification of the classic Chesterfield. The designer has maintained the original shape whilst dispensing with button or stud details. Amelia has been created to cocoon the sitter in style with a fixed high back and rounded arms.
For those looking for a regal touch, Delcor's Chesterfield (opens in new tab) (from £1976) stays true to its roots. A very firm sofa, its springs move independently for an enveloping experience. The company has no less than 10,000 different fabric options for a truly personal upholstery choice.
Finally Sofa Workshop's Grande Dame (opens in new tab) (from £1989 for a two seater) shown here in house brushed cotton fuchsia is another example true to the original and can be ordered without buttons or with seat cushions instead of a sprung seat, so entirely tailored to the owner's needs.
Loaf's Charlie Marshall adds some sage advice to those seeking the perfect sofa, "My tip is that customers should check that the sofa has a solid beech
frame that is held together with screws and dowels - not glued and stapled chipboard versions which won't last very long. And feather-filled cushions are the comfiest we've found."
Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.
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