The History of the Chesterfield Sofa


A short history of the famous and distinguished Chesterfield sofa design.

Inventor Earl?

Alongside the iconic modernistic furniture designs of Corbusier, the Chesterfield ranks top in the all time furniture design stakes. In fact, it is probably safe to say that the Chesterfield is the most famous sofa design in the world.  This classic design has been around in various forms for over 300 years so it wins the award for longevity too! Theories abound as to the origins of the Chesterfield design, with most historians pointing the finger at the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Phillip Stanhope. This classy chap had an eye for the finer things in life and beautiful furniture was his thing. Unfortunately, aside from a few apocryphal stories, little more is known of the connection of the great man with this iconic piece of furniture.

history of the chesterfield sofa

 Cambridge 3 Seater Sofa by SofaSofa 

Having been around for some considerable time, it is no surprise that the Chesterfield has gone through a few minor style adjustments over the years. Our modern day interpretation of this classic is no doubt completely removed from its late 17th Century origins and it is actually only in the last 150 years that we can see any meaningful similarities. Today, when we think of a Chesterfield design we more often than not conjure up images of deep buttoned traditional leather scroll arm sofas.  However, by definition, any sofa with arms and backs of equal height can be classified as a chesterfield design. In fact, the majority sofas were called chesterfields back in the day regardless of material, buttoning or legs.

Modern day Chesterfields

Considering its age, the Chesterfield is a very versatile design. Once the preserve of stuffy Gentlemen’s Clubs and libraries, (not to mention the odd public house!) this classic design has had a bit of a resurgence of late. Whilst the classic formal deep buttoned antique leather variety is still King, the chesterfield is attracting a very different customer when upholstered in both vintage leathers and bright coloured plush velvets. Distressed leathers giving a retro look and sumptuous velvets are the latest fashion in Chesterfield design, broadening the appeal of this surprisingly versatile classic.

belvedere chesterfield

 Belvedere 3 Seater Sofa by SofaSofa 

Comfort fit for a King

Fibre and feather cushions have also transformed the traditional firm seated Chesterfield into something altogether more accommodating.  Despite the chesterfield’s firm exterior, it is a sofa that can also be surprisingly comfortable. Add a couple of squishy cushions, a sheepskin throw or two and you’ll really be in your element. Not only that, but because chesterfields are quite posh looking, you can recline just like royalty (country home or palace entirely optional).

And therein lies the real beauty of the Chesterfield; a  grand stylish piece of upholstery fit for the Earl himself, but also a very homely and surprisingly comfortable sofa.


Posted in Interior Design, Leather Sofas, Sofas on 21st Jul 2014


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