One of the most hip sofa styles appearing these days in all types of decor from modern to industrial to traditional is the Chesterfield. The richly detailed diamond tufted upholstery and rolled arms are it's most distinguishing features.
While the exact origin is a little ambiguous, I found that many sources credit the Earl of Chesterfield who commissioned a cabinet maker to design an elegant yet masculine piece. The Chesterfield was in demand for most of the early 19th century, and became symbolic of British aristocracy and wealth.
"This icon of the furniture world is widely thought to have been commissioned by, and consequently named in honor of, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, in the 18th century. Aside from being a much-admired politician and writer, the suave Earl was a known trendsetter. When the Earl requested a cabinetmaker to construct a piece of furniture that would allow a gentleman to sit upright in the utmost of comfort, thus was the inception of the Chesterfield sofa with its characteristic deep buttoned upholstery, rolled arms, equal back and arm height and nail head trim. There has never been any solid confirmation of this noble beginning. However, this namesake is certainly appropriate."
I have long loved this iconic style (and have blogged about it here and here), so when I spotted a vintage Chesterfield sofa that originally belonged to Clark Gable (seriously!) at an estate sale this summer, I nabbed it! It was transformed from the bottom up...
I have been collecting images for years and my file of inspirational photos featuring Chesterfields is pretty thick. Here are some of my favorites in a variety of decor styles.
cote de texas
above two photos - nest
There are many Chesterfield options available out there these days. Before you commit to purchasing one, it's important to know that this sofa style is not of the sink-into-fluffyness-take-a-nap-on-me sort! As the quote above refers, it was designed "for a gentleman to sit upright in the utmost of comfort". My husband, who is 6'1" loves it for that reason. He prefers them to overly stuffed sofas in rooms that are used more for socializing, so you don't sink way down and have a harder time getting back up, especially if you're tall. I recommend lots of down filled pillows to both soften the look, but also to add something soft to lean against.
I've found in my own married life as well as working with couples on interiors, that most of the time with couples, women choose based on what they connect with emotionally, whereas men are more about practicality. In the case of the Chesterfield, I think it satisfies both.
I noticed that Restoration Hardware is now offering their Chesterfield in linen. As much as I am a fan of RH as well as of linen, I don't think it's a good choice for this type of upholstery.
I took this photo at our local RH. The slouchy wrinkled linen just looks kind of sloppy and worn out to me. I prefer tougher fabric that can be pulled taut like leather, velvet or heavy weight wool. RH offers those options as well.
With mixed emotions I must part with my handsome Chesterfield. The sad part is that, try as we may, we just don't have room in our house at this time. But the good news is that it's available to grace someone else's lovely home! It measures 88" long and is upholstered in charcoal velvet. The estate sale owner told me that it (as well as a few other pieces I purchased) came from Clark Gable's Aptos mansion that he shared with Carole Lombard. Apparently the estate seller's father - a prominent San Francisco physician, had purchased the home partly furnished from Gable in the 60's. There were only a few remaining pieces left at the estate sale. Please do email me if you are interested or would like more info!