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What Is a Chesterfield Chair?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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A Chesterfield chair is a classic British upholstered seating piece. The name Chesterfield used in reference to furniture is usually only commonly found in the United Kingdom and some parts of Canada. Chesterfield chairs are often sold as part of a set with a matching sofa. They have button tufting which means that a pattern of buttons in the same material decorates the back of the seating. The arms and upper backrest edges of a Chesterfield chair are usually elaborately rolled.

The Chesterfield seating design dates back to the British club chair popular in London men's clubs in the 19th century. Men would go to the clubs to relax in padded chairs and to drink and smoke cigars. A Chesterfield or club chair has a very thick padded seat as well as all-over padding for comfort.

Although many Victorian chairs had arm rests and were upholstered beginning in the 18th century, these were more lightly padded than the Chesterfield style. The heavier padded Chesterfield chairs and sofas began being used in offices and homes late in the 19th century. The look is still featured today in traditional homes and upscale libraries.

The conservative formal style of the Chesterfield chair design doesn't blend well with modern clean-lined decors. The button tufting on the back rests of Chesterfield sofas and chairs gives them a highly detailed look. When used in a formal home or upscale office, Chesterfield furniture pieces can look elegant and sophisticated.

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Although a Chesterfield chair may feature fabric covers, most of these chairs are covered in leather. Traditionally the leather chair covering was dark brown. Although chairs and sofas in the Chesterfield design were once purchased only by wealthy people, today they are considered quite affordable. However, these are not likely to be hand-stitched or crafted from hand-dyed leather.

The legs of a Chesterfield chair are of carved wood. They are wide at the base and taper elegantly down into small, rounded feet. Due to their formal luxurious design, Chesterfield chairs and sofas tend to look best when placed on thick, quality carpeting or area rugs.

Traditionally, club chairs and their matching sofas have low backs. Some Chesterfield chair styles feature high backs and these may have a single or a double seat. All of the different styles of Chesterfield chairs are still completely upholstered and padded. These aren't open armed chairs, but are generally the most padded types of seating one can find in leather or fabric pieces.

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Discuss this Article

popcorn
Post 9

There are a lot of furniture stores these days that are making a big go of modernizing the look of the Chesterfield chair. I recently went into a store and say a gorgeous "Chesterfield" done in white upholstery with silver colored legs.

I suppose that a lot of people wouldn't be a fan of leather, or dark furniture, so they are trying to make the Chesterfield chairs fit in better with more modern decor. I know a traditional Chesterfield set would look really out of place in my home because it is so stark. There are a lot of stainless steel, light wood and glass surfaces around.

manykitties2
Post 8

Whenever I think about Chesterfield chairs my grandparent's living room comes to mind immediately. They have a huge Chesterfield sofa and two Chesterfield chairs which dominate the room. My grandfather is a big fan of the London men's clubs look, and I suppose my grandmother humors him by letting their living room reflect the decor of a time long past.

I actually really like the Chesterfield chairs as I find they are great for curling up in and reading. I am sure they are better suited to lounging with a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other, but for myself I am happy having a comfy spot to relax in.

julies
Post 7

My dad has two leather Chesterfield chairs in his office on either side of his big desk. When I was growing up, I loved curling up on these big chairs.

Anytime I see this style of chair I am reminded of my dad and the time I spent in his office. These chairs had high backs to them so I felt like I could almost hide in one of these chairs and no body would be able to find me.

I have never had any Chesterfield furniture in my house, but someday would love to have a room with two leather Chesterfield chairs and a matching sofa. It would probably be my favorite room in the whole house.

andee
Post 6

I have always loved the elaborate look of Chesterfield chairs. I think a classic, leather Chesterfield chair and sofa would make any room look sophisticated.

I let my husband choose the style of furniture he wanted in the den since he is the one who spends the most time there. That left me with choosing the living room furniture.

Since I have always enjoyed a formal look, this is the style I chose for the living room. I don't think anyone else in the family appreciates it as much as I do.

We don't have a TV in the living room, so maybe that's why nobody else spends much time sitting on that furniture. For me that is the perfect place to relax with a good book or magazine.

MissMuffet
Post 5

@Valencia - here I was thinking I'm the only person around who prefers velvet!

I fell in love with the brand after I realised how comfortable the chairs with the low backs are. But I found the leather Chesterfields to have one problem for me.

I wear shorts a lot and found my legs stuck to the chair! It's quite painful to peel your skin away from the seat! Now my partner has the leather and I have my crushed velvet covered delight.

Valencia
Post 4

@CaithnessCC - That's a really nice story. I like the idea of something being passed down through the family like that.

My grandparents also have a nice Chesterfield armchair, but it isn't made from leather. They ordered it from a specialist company who offer a range of other fabrics.

It may not be as traditional to have your Chesterfields furniture made from velvet, but they say it's a whole lot more comfortable for them.

angelBraids
Post 3

I got a really nice Chesterfield suite from an online auction site. There's no way I could have afforded one new, but finding a used set in the local area made it possible.

As a new business owner I'm always looking for ways to set up my office with classy things, without the crazy outlay some people think is necessary.

My brown leather Chesterfield sofa and armchair look classy and professional, yet they cost the same as a regular set of furniture from the mall store.

CaithnessCC
Post 2

My grandfather had a leather Chesterfield chair, which we jokingly called his throne. It was a sacred seat, and none of us kids were allowed to sit in it.

I suppose that just made it even more appealing, and for years the grandchildren would gather to devise ways to distract him, hoping for a chance to take his place for a moment.

Sadly I can't recall any of us ever succeeding. But he must have known about our (not so) secret plans. When he died he left us a special legacy. The chair was to be lent out to each of us in turn!

All these years later we still haul that thing between houses, careful to not keep it longer than the three months he allowed each of us. My kids anticpate its visit almost as much as they look forward to Santa!

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