Chesterfield sofas with leather pleats, tufted wells, wide scrolled arms, rolled backs, buttoning and brass tacks
have been a symbol of high quality craftsmanship since the late 1700’s/early 1800’s.
Rumours suggest that Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, commissioned a bespoke leather hand-tufted
and buttoned sofa to be made, and this is where the name Chesterfield came from. This hasn’t been proven but makes a plausible story for those who want to believe it.
What is certain is that Chesterfields became very fashionable during Queen Victoria’s reign. The Victorians were renowned for building pieces with guaranteed longevity and in those days, the Chesterfield frames were made of mahogany and other hardwoods. The arms, backs and seats were coil sprung. Horse hair, along with layers of hessian, were used for the padding to ensure firmness and the upholstery was tediously tapped into place with nails… there was no such thing as a staple gun during the Victorian age!
A Chesterfield has always been considered to be a very prestigious sofa which was built to last. They became popular with Gentleman’s clubs and Military offices but by the 60’s and 70’s, industrial developments and improvements meant that the manufacturing became faster and therefore cheaper… no longer were they purely for the wealthy!
Nowadays, foam is preferred to horse hair not only as it is more comfortable but it is also more affordable. Having said that, the more expensive high density foam should only be used.
The term Chesterfield is a STYLE of sofa, not a brand and as such there were and still are numerous manufacturers making Chesterfields so it can be difficult to distinguish between a real and a fake Leather Chesterfield. Below are a few tips to help you through the Chesterfield maze:
1. How does the sofa feel to the touch?
If it feels cold and smooth it is most likely fake. Fake leather is also known as pleather, faux leather, leatherette, permeable leather.
Real leather should feel soft and pliable… as in genuine leather, nubuck, suede.
2. How does the sofa smell?
Real leather has a distinctive scent to it, which fake leather cannot replicate so give it ‘the sniff test’.
3. Does the sofa have a repetitive grain pattern?
If the grain is identifiable as a repetitive pattern, it is man-made. Real leather has a natural grain to it and also has natural inconsistencies.
4. Are there any visible seams in the sofa?
Ideally, a Chesterfield sofa should be upholstered in a single leather hide, pleated at the diamond, not stitched as seams are likely to split after years of use.
5. Does the sofa have bun feet or casters?
An authentic leather Chesterfield should have ‘bun’ shaped feet, typically made of hardwood mahogany but these are sometimes replaced by casters at a later date making the sofa easier to move around.
At the end of the day, a Chesterfield sofa should be comfortable whilst also being supportive, making it as easy to stand up from as it is to sit down on. Genuine old Chesterfields have a welcoming look & feel to them and it is for this reason that Vintage Chesterfield sofas are highly sought after… not only for the home but also as informal seating in coffee houses, cafes, restaurants, bars plus office meeting rooms and business reception rooms.
The natural rustic qualities of Chesterfields fit perfectly amongst contemporary, utilitarian and industrial pieces… creating living and working spaces of complementary contrast.
When searching online for a ‘Vintage Chesterfield’, be aware that the search will not deliver totally accurate listings as many businesses who sell new Chesterfields cheat the system by including words such as vintage, antique, aged in their descriptions:
ie: vintage style … antique range … aged effect
Also, how can a business offer a choice of sizes, styles, colours & a 6 week lead-time claim to stock Vintage Chesterfields? At uniquevintageindustrial.com we offer genuine quality vintage Chesterfields… roll back sofas, roll back (club) chairs plus high back (wingback) chairs in our ever changing collection of seating.
Quality, authenticity and comfort…. for you and your dog!!