The Chesterfield

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

A look at the name & heritage of this famed setee.

Once a status symbol of the elite, now a great addition to a modern home, buisness or gentleman's lounge.

This classic design sofa is the epitome of luxury and an emblem of British heritage & style

with its hand-crafted design. Recognised for its low back and same height scroll arms,

hand tacked studding and deep buttoned back,

it has a distiguished characteristic that has even graced the palaces of royalty.

The Chesterfield sofa is one of the most recognisable pieces of furniture in the world

remaining as iconic today as it was hundreds of years ago. So where did it begin, what's the story behind this legend

that makes it the definition of timeless?

Lord Philip Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773)
Lord Philip Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773)

A noble beginning

There has not been any solid confirmation. However, It is said that the style was originally commissioned

by Lord Philip Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773). From whom the sofa got its name.

Widely known as a trendsetter of his time, Lord Stanhope was a noted writer,

displaying strong morals and manners, an admired politician,

patron and one of Britain’s wealthy aristocratic class. The Chesterfield sofa is certainly a refined and mannerly example

of seating so the story does fit.

Apparently the original desire for the seat was for a gentleman to be able to sit comfortably,

upright without wrinkling his clothes. The Earl employed a local craftsman

to construct a piece of furniture that would allow this.

Early Chesterfields were filled with horsehair and used tufting to keep it in place. They did not have a suspension system then so the seats would have been a lot more rigid to sit on. Also, the buttoning on was made of tougher leather, thus when combined with the lack of springs,

would have dug into anyone who sat on them for too long. One theory suggests that this design was an invention of the Earl’s,

to discouraged unwanted visitors from sitting and waiting too long for an audience.

It is said that on his deathbed, Lord Stanhope called in his butler and told him to “give Mr. Dayrolles a chair”. The butler assumed this meant that the proto-Chesterfield should be passed on to the Earl’s godson, Solomon Dayrolles,

who had arrived to pay a final visit to his godfather. An admirer of the piece himself, he had it transported to his home

and displayed for his visitors, who after leaving had their own versions made.

This is how the Chesterfield found its way into the homes of the British upper class.

The hallmark deep-set buttoning, wasn’t added until the comfort-minded Victorian era

when the chair became a key peice in living rooms. Sofa suspension coiled springs

didn’t receive a patent until nine years before Queen Victoria ascended the throne(1828)

When these two features were introduced, the comfort of the sofa increased,

making a huge leap towards the cosy pieces we are used to now.

As it became more popular so did the trend of having sofas upholstered

in luxurious velvet or leather to match the grand décor that surrounded them.

These two materials are still both favoured now

as they are associated with the classic Chesterfield look.

A Growing Empire

Britain began to expand around the globe between the late 16th and early 18th centuries,

forming what we know as the British Empire. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries,

the Empire reached its peak, Wherever the British went, they brought along their favourite furniture,

including the Chesterfield. Becoming associated with luxury and quality the world over,

it continued to grow in popularity and be featured in many locations where a touch of class was desired.

As fashions have changed, the Chesterfield sofa has been adapted through a whole variety of designs. But the classic look still remains versatile. Keeping it's timeless style and distinguished look. With the ability to work in almost any space.

Here at Sofarooms our team of expert craftspeople, produce made to measure, bespoke to you, quality sofas,

chairs, sofa beds, corner sofas, footstools and more. All of our pieces are built by hand in our Devon workshop.

If you are interested in owning a Chesterfeild that blends elegance & class

with comfort and sophistication. We can help you design one bespoke to your home.

With hundreds of upholstery and size options to choose from.

The result is furniture that is worthy of the grand heritage described.