October 28, 2023

The Chesterfield Sofa: Reimagining a Design Classic

Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design Category: magazine

The Chesterfield Sofa: Reimagining a Design Classic

Some furniture types transcend the confines of time to become classics. Among these, the Chesterfield sofa stands as a timeless piece, maintaining its allure in the face of ever-changing design sensibilities. Its roots can be traced back to 18th century England, but whereas the exact origin story of the Chesterfield remains shrouded in mystery, what is unmistakably clear is the sofa's endurance in interior design and its steadfast association with luxury, comfort, and classic aesthetics. Through its journey from the stately drawing rooms of British aristocracy to the avant-garde lofts of today's design-forward urban dwellers, the Chesterfield has continued to captivate with its distinctive features—deep button tufting, low back and rolled arms, and luxurious leather or velvet upholstery. Throughout the centuries, designers have borrowed from the Chesterfield archetype—reinterpreting its original form or detailing and merging it with their own creative vision to produce new designs rooted equally in tradition and innovation. We delve into the manifold versions of the Chesterfield found today that breathe new life into this beloved design classic, ensuring the evolution of this archetype into the future.

Chester sofa designed by Renzo Frau in 1912 © Poltrona Frau

Chester armchair / Poltrona Frau

Closely tied to the classic Edwardian model it draws inspiration from, the Chester sofa and armchair designed by Renzo Frau in 1912 has become one of Poltrona Frau’s most iconic designs. Characterised by its luxurious leather upholstery and intricate detailing like the armrest pleats and the famous capitonné quilting carried out entirely by hand, Poltrona Frau’s rendition of the iconic sofa is a definitive celebration of tradition and craftsmanship.

2023 version of the Chester armchair by Ozwald Boateng x Poltrona Frau © Poltrona Frau

The original 1912 design has already been through an update with the Chester One collection, and this year for London Design Week 2023, the Italian manufacturer joined forces with British-Ghanaian fashion designer Ozwald Boateng to breathe new life into the Chester and Vanity Fair families. Paying homage to his African roots, Boateng customised the pieces with his hand-embossed Tribal pattern, resulting in a highly textured effect further emphasised by the vibrant colours he chose for the collections to “express the joy and energy of African culture”. The collaboration masterfully intertwines two cultural traditions into a unique collection with a powerful visual identity.

Husk sofa designed by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia ©B&B Italia

Husk sofa / B&B Italia

With the Husk sofa, designer Patricia Urquiola reconsiders not only the classic Chesterfield design, but also the traditional construction process of a sofa by giving the softer, flexible parts structural qualities. The sofa’s generous volume is made lighter by elevating it off the ground. In the end, Husk feels both elegant and informal — the streamlined form and softness of the cushioning provides maximum comfort for contemporary living, while the capitonné quilting characteristic of traditional Chester sofas give it an air of refinement.

Chester Moon designed by Paola Navone for Baxter © Baxter

Chester Moon / Baxter

Designed by Paola Navone, the Chester Moon sofa emphasises the complexity of the classic sofa's realisation. In simplifying the silhouette by merging the individual elements into a monolithic volume and highlighting craftsmanship through the intricate capitonnée quilting, it offers a subtle contemporary twist, while retaining the luxurious, handcrafted feel associated with the classic sofa.

New Classic designed by Fabio Novembre for Natuzzi ©Natuzzi

New Classic / Natuzzi

New Classic was the product of Fabio Novembre’s first collaboration with the Italian furniture brand—a modular sofa that draws inspiration from the Chester as a manifestation of Novembre’s idea of classicity. By reducing the Chester design to its essential form, the classic design is given a contemporary feel. Its expressiveness lies in the padded cylindrical back and arms, which are further accentuated through the contrasting upholstery options.

Chester collection designed by Lex Pott for Puik ©Puik

Chester sofa / Puik

Another design that reinvents the Chesterfield by bypassing the details and capturing the essence of the iconic silhouette, is the Chester sofa produced by Puik. A simple seat meets an oversized tubular back and arms in Lex Pott's transformation of the classic sofa into a contemporary, even playful, sculptural piece. By brightly colouring the minimal elements of the sofa, Pott further emphasises the essential shape of the pieces in his characteristic raw style. Simultaneously, he expands the functional possibilities of the classic sofa type by introducing modular variants, creating a modular Chester collection.

Chester chair designed by Kåre Frandsen for +Halle ©+Halle

Chester chair / +Halle

Kåre Frandsen aimed to lighten the stout expression of the classic Chesterfield armchair with his Chester chair, while retaining the promised comfort of the original design with a wide and inviting seat planted firmly on an elegant wooden base. By introducing multiple upholstery options along with details such as contrast stitching, and contrasting colours on the buttons, the design is further elevated, with a thoroughly contemporary feel.

October 28, 2023 Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design Category: magazine
All Articles



Your Full Name

Company Name

Contact purpose

Thank you for your message! We will read it and come back to you very soon!

You have discovered feature for registered users only!