The Chesterfield sofa is an iconic sofa. This is the type of sofa which one would expect to see in a dark drawing room. Rumored to have been developed in the later half of the 18th century, there is no direct origin of this piece. Yet, it has lasted through generations, becoming a symbol of style and class, wrapped in leather and tufted to perfection. Sifting through the lore, the history of the Chesterfield sofa is a tale as rich as the deign itself.
The 4th Earl of Chesterfield was born Philip Dormer Stanhope in London, 1694. He could be considered the Emily Post of his time. Concerned with manners and decorum, as developed from the French, the Earl of Chesterfield is most notably tied to his “Letters to His Son” and “Letters to His Grandson” all about how a man should hold himself. As a statesman, his biggest claim to fame is his involvement in the British deciding to adopt the Gregorian calendar.
Having worked as an ambassador to Holland, Lord Lieutenant to Ireland and Secretary of State, it is assured that this is a man who was high class, surrounded by some very important people. As a man of decorum, it can be understood that he would like to entertain in a formal manner. It has been rumored that the Earl of Chesterfield commissioned a local craftsman to create a specific sofa so that when men, dressed well, would come to visit, they could sit on the sofa without their jackets or pants getting rumpled.
The Original Chesterfield
The sofa came about in the late 1600’s. In Paris, a place where Stanhope spent much of his time, sofas looked like tufted benches with a back which flowed into the arms. The sofa which was created for the Earl of Chesterfield was a leather, tufted sofa with high back, arms at equal height to the back, finished with nailhead trim. Describe that same sofa to a designer today and they will think that you have just requested a Chesterfield. Though there is no black and white document which states, yes, this is the history of the Chesterfield sofa, this is the agreed upon origin.
What makes a Chesterfield is the consistent and classic design. Much like good manners, good design never goes out of style. The key design elements to a Chesterfield include:
• Deep Button Tufting
• Nailhead Trim
• Rolled Arms
• Arms Equal in Height to the Back
The beauty of this sofa is that no matter if the interior is horsehair, as was common in the time of the Earl of Chesterfield, down or a poly blend filling, the tufting keeps everything in place. The characteristic detail is at once ostentatious, beautiful and efficient. This is a sofa which has obviously had a lot of work put into it and shows that one must have style and social standing to purchase one.
From the 1600’s to Today
As the years have gone by, the sofa has retained it’s appeal. As seen in the Queen’s parlor, classic drawing rooms and the office of Sigmond Freud, the sofa is now popping up everywhere. No matter the history of the Chesterfield sofa, it is building a bright future which can be tracked on Pinterest, in design studios and through the pages of magazines thanks to the timeless design.
If you wanted your own Chesterfield sofa, one is within your grasp. At the Chesterfield Sofa Company, we have ones which are traditional and more relaxed. Which Chesterfield will take it’s place in the history of your home?