Chesterfield sofas - a buyer's guide
Everything you need to know about this timeless classic
Was there ever a piece of furniture more suited to uncertain times than the reassuringly solid and instantly recognisable Chesterfield sofa? Long associated with English country houses, hotels and private clubs, these days it can be spotted around the world in stylish restaurants and bars and, of course, in family homes. If you’re thinking of buying a Chesterfield, the Raft range offers a style and size for every setting.
What is a Chesterfield sofa?
Deeply buttoned upholstery and high, curved arms, set at the same height as the back, are what give the Chesterfield sofa its distinctive style. Early Chesterfields tended to have low seats, which could make getting up from them – and down – something of a challenge. Modern Chesterfield styles, however, are designed as much for comfort as style. And although Chesterfields were traditionally made of leather, today’s versions are also available in a range of fabric upholstery.
Chesterfield – what’s in a name?
It’s generally agreed that this unique style seating first appeared in the home of Lord Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773), so its history dates back for almost 300 years, although the term ‘Chesterfield’ was used to describe any type of couch in the UK until the early 1900s. Since then, however, it has been applied only to the traditional button-back style, a style that has never gone out of fashion – middle class Victorians loved their Chesterfield sofas, as did many young homemakers in the 1960s, who were busy rediscovering the joy of antiques, which, at that time, could often be picked up for a song.
Today’s Chesterfield sofas – traditional design with a modern accent
Here at Raft, we’ve taken the essential elements of traditional design and brought them up to date with a dash of modern styling, to ensure that our 21st century Chesterfield sofas will look good anywhere. Our sofas are hand built and come in different finishes – leather and fabric – and a range of sizes, while some of our Chesterfield styles are also available as matching armchairs.
Which Chesterfield sofa is right for you?
Let’s start with the Burlington, which is nothing if not versatile. Whether you’re looking for a sofa that's perfect for relaxing with friends and a glass of wine in the evening or a comfortable sofa for all the family, you can’t go wrong. The Burlington is available as a two or three-seater sofa and has a matching armchair – all with a choice of leather or fabric upholstery.
If you want to combine style with durability, we think you’ll love the Ellis – its craftsmanship, featuring hand-finished antique studs and deep, hand-sewn buttons on its back, arms and seat, stands out. The Ellis’s individually cross-tied sprung seat, and high back and arms, ensure that it will keep you sitting comfortably – and rather regally - for years ahead. Like the Burlington, the Ellis is available as a two or three-seater sofa and as an armchair.
The Embassy is a perfect illustration of Raft’s love of adding a contemporary flourish to a traditional design. Hand-made in London, its outward curving roll-top arms and subtle buttoning ensure that it won’t look out of place in any type of interior setting. And, as it’s available in every size from two to four-seat jumbo, not to mention a matching armchair, it’s as perfect for party lovers and serious home entertaining as it is for family life.
The Lancaster sofa is another example of Raft’s ‘traditional with a modern twist’ approach, with no detail overlooked. But, with its solid hardwood frame and serpentine spring system, it’s as notable for its strength as it is for its style. Its features include deep buttoning on the back and sides and studding that runs not only around the front of the arms but across the front rail too – a statement Chesterfield that will also cope with the rough and tumble of family life. The Lancaster is handmade to order, in any of our fabrics or leathers; the sofa is available in sizes up to a four-seater and the range includes a matching armchair.
The Rosendale invites you to simply sit back and relax, stopping on the way to admire its very fine features, which include beautifully scrolled arms, pleating details, deep-buttoning on the back and lowered back rest and arms. Like the Embassy, the Rosendale is hand built in Raft’s London workshop and beneath its stylish exterior is a solid hardwood frame, glued and dowelled for extra strength. If you want a Chesterfield sofa that works well in a home with a busy family lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with the Rosendale, which comes as a two, three or four-seater.
The Raft Stanford sofa really is in a class of its own – a traditional Chesterfield, but with so many fine extra features. It boasts delicately carved feet, sumptuous deep buttoning on the back and front rail, and lowered arms that are perfect if you prefer a relaxed but upright sit. Like all Raft sofas, the Stanford is handmade by skilled workers in England. It’s upholstered in individually cut hides, or a choice of fabrics, and has the same strong hardwood frame as the Rosendale, to give you many years of stylish and comfortable relaxation. The Stanford sofa is available as a two-seater up to a four-seater and as an armchair.
And, finally, who doesn’t love a chaise longue? Even better when it’s combined with a Chesterfield – perfect for a sitting room or as day seating for the stateliest of bedrooms. The redoubtable Mrs Patrick Campbell had her own particular view of the chaise longue, having swapped its ‘hurly-burly’ for ‘the deep, deep peace of the double bed’. . . But we don’t think you’ll ever tire of the Astoria, with its studded scrolled arms and Chesterfield buttoning and in a choice of sizes from two to four-seater. It’s traditional, classical and elegant, a thing of beauty but built with Raft’s underlying craft expertise to give it long-lasting strength. Mrs PC and her guests would no doubt have found that suitably reassuring.
Take a look at the full range of Raft’s Chesterfield sofas – handmade for life.