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18th Century Aristocracy To Big Brother – Why Chesterfield Still Rules
The leather Chesterfield sofa exudes style. It’s practically a British institution, and has been re-discovered in recent times, thanks to popular culture.
Find out about the history of this timeless settee and why it’s now cooler than ever to own one.
18th century aristocracy to Big Brother – why Chesterfield still rules
It is a symbol of classic elegance, taste and distinction. It is a quintessentially British icon that reminds us of when Britain was once Great. It remains a timeless statement of erudition and enduring style. Not only that, it’s extremely comfortable to park your bum on!
It is, of course, the leather Chesterfield sofa. Few can argue that the Chesterfield is ‘just a settee’ when it has been around for so long that it has virtually embedded itself in public consciousness.
This instantly-recognisable leather suite usually features a low back, deep buttoned arms and back, complemented by a double-buttoned front border. Scroll-fronted arms are often attractively embellished with lines of individual stud nails.
View Chesterfield settees
Origins of the Chesterfield leather suite
The origins of the Chesterfield sofa are unclear, but it is believed the first incarnation of this leather suite appeared in the 18th century. Philip Dormer Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, had a renowned cabinet-maker design him an item of furniture to allow a gentleman to sit comfortably and maintain a proper posture.
The Chesterfield gained popularity during the Victorian period and has since then been found adorning rooms in mansions, stately homes, libraries and government buildings. However, it would be wrong to purely associate this particular leather settee with elitism and imperialism.
The Chesterfield sofa has just as much ensconced itself in popular culture whilst still remaining a symbol of luxury and classic style. The appearance of the Chesterfield settee in 2007’s Celebrity Big Brother has perhaps led to a further resurgence in popularity. Despite the fact that the show itself could be argued to be somewhat far away from what one would normally associate with this settee – taste and sophistication.
A versatile settee
That aside, what cannot be denied is that the Chesterfield is just as unmistakeably ‘now’ as it ever was – wherever you are in the world. Top LA interior designer, Peter Dunham believes the key to the settee’s lasting popularity is its versatility:
"It's the only sofa that fits from completely traditional English clubby to modern, depending on what you cover it in. Worn leather looks sumptuous in libraries. For a modern look, cover it in white or some crazy red."
However, perhaps the deciding factor in the Chesterfield’s enduring lifespan is not just how great it looks. The most important thing for a settee is that it is both comfortable and practical. It fulfils the simple purpose of a settee that the Earl of Chesterfield requested all that time ago.
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