The History of the Chesterfield Sofa
Chesterfield sofas are a classic and iconic piece of furniture that have become one of the most popular styles of seating worldwide. The low back, high arms, deep buttoning and luxury leather make the Chesterfield instantly recognisable.
From living rooms to hotel lobbies, you can find Chesterfield sofas everywhere you go in today’s world, but where did they come from, and what led to their rise in popularity? This is everything you need to know about the history of Chesterfield sofas.
Table of Contents
- When were Chesterfield Sofas made?
- The Eras of Chesterfield Sofas
- Sigmund Freud’s use of Chesterfields
- Chesterfield Sofas Today
When were Chesterfield Sofas made?
Cementing its reputation as timeless, the Chesterfield was invented in the mid-1700s in England. It is widely believed that Lord Philip Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield, commissioned a piece of furniture for guests at his home to be seated and specifically asked for it to have a low seat and high back.
This decision was believed to have been made so that Lord Stanhope’s guests could gain great comfort while preventing any creasing on the suits of the gentleman visiting the Earl.
Lord Stanhope was a public speaker known to have an eye for fashion in his day, which contributed to the growth in popularity of the style among the upper class.
The story goes that on his deathbed, Lord Stanhope was visited by his godson. Stanhope requested that his butler ‘give Mr Dayrolles a chair’ shortly before his death. The butler misunderstood this request and, rather than simply providing Mr Dayrolles with a seat, arranged for the Earl’s sofa to be sent to his home.
This led to many in the Earl’s class commissioning their own Chesterfields for their homes.
While many attribute the invention to Lord Stanhope, others believe that the design of the Chesterfield may have taken inspiration from a French design that had gained some popularity during a similar period. Much like a Chesterfield, the design from across the Channel connected the back and the arms to allow for a smooth and comforting shape.
What Era are Chesterfield Sofas from?
With the Chesterfield sofa gaining much acclaim in England, it wouldn’t take long for the style to become commonplace around the world.
The prominence of the British Empire between the late 16th Century and early 18th Century saw more countries introduced to Chesterfields as army officers and colonial administrators looked to add lavish furnishings to their offices.
As British forces left countries such as India, Australia and Canada, the Chesterfield remained and became a staple of furnishing worldwide. Canada, in particular, gained such fondness for the style that, for a time, the word “Chesterfield” was used to describe sofas of any kind.
While the style and design earned the Chesterfield its reputation in the 18th Century, it wouldn’t be until the Victorian era that the sofa would develop its signature comfort.
The early Chesterfields featured tough leather buttoning, horsehair and a lack of a suspension system. This would be rectified with the Victorians incorporating deep-set buttoning and coiled spring suspension to improve comfort.
As the mid-19th Century came around, the Chesterfields were an established favourite in the homes of upper-class Victorians. They quickly made their way into the establishments where the wealthy made themselves comfortable.
Sigmund Freud’s use of Chesterfields
Despite Lord Stanhope being widely credited with the initial invention of the Chesterfield, he is arguably not the name most associated with it.
Sigmund Freud, one of the leading minds behind psychoanalysis, used Chesterfield sofas in his practices for patients. The Austrian believed that comfort allowed his patients to talk more freely and openly, feeling more relaxed and less under pressure.
Freud would ensure that a Chesterfield would be in the offices and waiting rooms of all of his practices, leading to Chesterfields often being referred to as ‘therapy couches’ as more and more therapists followed Freud’s footsteps in using them.
Chesterfield Sofas Today
Despite the Chesterfield being introduced back in the 1700s, the style and design of the sofa have lived long past that and well into the 21st Century.
With the Chesterfield standing the test of time, they have become much more widely available. No longer just a centrepiece for the living rooms of the vastly wealthy in Victorian England, the evolution of the design over the years has made a Chesterfield a great fit for almost any setting.
Chesterfield Sofas have followed the changing fashion trends throughout the years, allowing Chesterfields to be a seamless addition to all rooms. While the low back and high arms remain a staple, leather became an option to select from rather than the material for Chesterfield sofas.
The classic Chesterfield style and design have even moved further from just sofas, as the iconic high arms can be found on armchairs, wing chairs, and even snuggle chairs designed for warm and cosy comfort.
To find the Chesterfield to find your perfect setting, you can view our portfolio to see all the gorgeous areas our Chesterfields have made their home, ranging from classic bespoke sofas to our beautiful Chesterfield patchwork sofas.