King George V started the Chesterfield chair celebrity trend in the 1870’s, while Baywatch legend David Hasselhoff took it into the 2000’s when he made it the centre-piece of his LA home. It fuelled our desire for gossip in the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house, looked right at home in the opulent settings of Channel 4’s reality series Made in Chelsea and even outshone stars such as Orlando Bloom and Marc Warren in adverts for Boss and Virgin Media.
A fashion icon, the Chesterfield chair is a classic, synonymous with English design, Royalty and the whiskey drinking, cigar smoking businessmen that adorned Gentlemen’s clubs of another era. Yet despite its place as an icon of the design world, the origins of the Chesterfield are relatively unknown.
In England, it is believed that the chair is named after, the fourth earl of Chesterfield, who died in 1773. Though unconfirmed, the Earl is credited with commissioning the first Chesterfield Chair through his desire to be a trendsetter and a need to sit comfortably without wrinkling his garments.
Across the Atlantic, it has a transcended its origins, just as the hoover is on this side of the water and has become a turn of phrase for a sofa or settee. It’s described by the Oxford dictionary, as “a sofa with padded arms and back of the same height and curved outwards at the top”. The name now a mere nod to the earl and his dreams.
While its style has stood the test of time and can sit comfortably in any modern home, the production of Chesterfield chairs still follows traditional craft methods.
Regardless of location, the design techniques are the same. From checking the material for imperfections to hand-cutting each piece of leather, from the oft forgotten art-form of sewing to the upholstery masters that create the classic deep buttoned finish, the quality of craftsmanship associated with each piece offers their final owner something more than comfort, it offers status.
The Chesterfield, unlike for example Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair has no designer name associated with it, nor like the Kartell Ghost chair by Philip Starck does it have a sole manufacturer to carry it, however despite all that the Chesterfield is a majestic, timeless piece of furniture that deserves to be mentioned as a classic vintage piece.